Swift

Wifi Booster

Connectivity has been a recent hot topic aboard Independence as both of us have started picking up some online work and our goal of becoming "digital nomads". This is the third post in a series we will do about our preparations to stay connected for work.

Wifi booster
While we are dreaming up the perfect solution, it would be nice to connect to Wifi networks farther way. The big time this is helpful is in mooring fields…you are paying for access to the wifi and have the password, but it is just too slow because you're too far away. This would’ve been helpful more times than I can count. Sometimes (not often, but sometimes!) you are anchored near enough to a bar, restaurant or coffee shop that you could get on their network if you could buy the password from them. Usually, this costs just as much as a cup of coffee and you get a free cup of coffee. I’m always up for free coffee.

The number one way to accomplish this is with the Ubiquiti Bullet. This unit is used on nearly all of the commercial marine wifi solutions. I ordered all of the following components from Data Alliance, but many of the parts are available on Amazon.

The Bullet is a simple radio device. One end screws into your choice of antenna, the other end has an ethernet port that brings in power to the Bullet and connects to your computer. The Bullet is far more powerful than your computer’s wifi card and you can mount a pretty big antenna.

There are actually four different models of Bullet for sale, which makes the choice harder than it needs to be and it was difficult to figure out what was what. The M2 is for 2.4ghz networks (nearly all the networks you will ever find) while the M5 also connects to 5ghz networks, which are becoming more common. The “HP” models are white plastic while the “Titanium” ones are aluminum. All are “weather-proof”, but I think the aluminum “Titanium” models may be better if you are going to hang it outside permanently without an enclosure. The Titanium models also come with a 24-volt power supply, while the HP models do not. For reference, we choose the BulletM2-HP.
Ubiquiti BULLET-M2-HP Outdoor 802.11 B/G/N M2HP

These devices are Power over Ethernet POE devices and can accept any voltage from 8 - 24 volts. Since we’re on a boat, it would be great if we could use 12 volts. This is one of the main reasons I didn’t go for the Titanium model; I wanted 12 volts. I picked up a POE injector which accepts any voltage, and a power plug to wire into the ship’s 12-volt system. 
Alfa APOE02-WM1, Passive PoE Adapter

For the antenna, I choose an inexpensive 2.4ghz, 8dbi omnidirectional wifi antenna. It’s nothing fancy and not very expensive. The antenna has an N-male plug which mates to the Bullet’s N-female plug.
Altelix 2.4 GHz 8dBi WiFi Omni Antenna N Male Connector (Outdoor Omnidirectional)

When I first got the Bullet, I plugged it in and had a lot of trouble setting it up. The Bullet itself is so widely used for so many applications that it is difficult to get all the settings just right. I finally found this tutorial on the Ubiquiti website that shows exactly how to do it for our use:


Once I had the Bullet working on my computer and connected to the best wifi network (in my case, the marina’s), I plugged to Bullet into the Travel Router to share the boosted internet signal to everyone on board. I thought this was going to be a nightmare. To my surprise, it just worked. Now we can leave the Bullet connected to the marina (or whatever wifi is strongest), and we can make all changes and settings to the Bullet through the travel router. Amazing! 



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