Recommended Internet Systems & Cellular Plans

Below are some of the current systems / hardware / plans I recommend. These are constantly changing, so check back often.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://seabits.com/recommended-systems-plans/

I have had the Peplink Max BR1 and the Cradlepoint IBR900. The Peplink was not very reliable for my on my boat, with an external antenna on a 70’ mast, with or without a cellular booster, so I tried the Cradlepoint IBR900. It worked ok, but, as others have noted, you lose most functionality if you do not pay Cradlepoint $180 a year for a license. I then bought an Inhand IR300 (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B096XRZZ7J/ref=pe_386300_440135490_TE_item?th=1) for $168 on Amazon. It works great, has dual-SIM capability, and has no licensing charges. Inhand does have cloud-based management available, but I am keeping management strictly local. I can even send it an SMS to have it send me its current status and IP address (and even limit which phone numbers can ask it for status). It also supports Ethernet WAN, so I can have it automatically use a wired (Comcast XFinity) connection when at my berth at the marina. I am currently mainly using a T-Mobile LTE SIM, but also have an AT&T SIM at present. Both work, although I may try a Verizon SIM in place of the AT&T SIM for lower cost.

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Thanks for posting this information, Steve. It helped sway my decision to move from Mikrotik to Peplink. I’m curious, however, how you were able to set up combining the bandwidth of 2 sims with the Pepwave MAX Transit Cat 18. In my Pepwave admin set up, I have selected both sims (sim a is AT&T and sim b is T-Mobile) in the cellular settings with no preference set, but in my dashboard connection status, I see that only one sim is in use at a time.

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Hi @glenlowe,

The MAX Transit CAT18 is a single modem or cellular connection device. While it has two SIM slots so you can switch back and forth, you can use them both at the same time.

The MAX Transit DUO, or some of the other bigger routers like the MBX line have multiple cellular modems and can have them connected simultaneously. Those get quite a bit more expensive, though, and are usually for folks who need 24x7 connectivity no matter what.

This is OT but any recommendations for Canadian cell plans for Pepwave gear? Leaving Shilshole for BC and looking for prepaid / postpaid data plan instead of roaming on Verizon and T Mobile.

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The best solution I’ve used, and recommended to others, is Google Fi. It uses the T-Mobile network in the US mostly, and roams on several Canadian providers. I’ve used the Unlimited Plus plan which was just upgraded to 50GB of data a month, and that includes roaming too which is much higher than just about anything out there.

Just be careful about how many months you use it consecutively. I’ve heard of them canceling plans due to terms of service if you roam constantly. You also will be throttled or slowed down after the 50GB data amount, and that can be a red flag as well if you use all of your roaming data constantly.

I have a T-Mobile SIM that came with a ‘Franklin’ hotspot device that I got at one of their stores. Does anyone know if I can use this sim in the equipment cited in this article and discussion, for example Nighthawk or Pepwave?

Also, any updates for 2022?
thanks!

Most all of T-Mobile’s plans aren’t locked to a device, so it could work on another device. The only challenge will be related to the plan itself that you bought the device with. Most of their hotspot plans aren’t device specific either, which means it should work. An easy way to test is to try it in another device and see if things still work.

thanks Steve. Is the Nighthawk still your recommendation for an entry level, sub-$500 solution for cell internet via one sim or marina wifi when available?

The Nighthawk is still my recommendation for a hotspot device with a single SIM. It won’t work with local marina WiFi, however. You’d need a Peplink or other similar router with WiFi as WAN if you wanted to do that.

double thanks, Steve. I did not realize that about the local marina wifi. I looked at Peplink Max BR Mini and see that you can purchase an upgrade to unlock the WiFi as WAN capability (great). However, I got confused re: the different category modems avaialble. Can you please point me to something that explains these? (I do not need to be on the bleeding edge . . .)

Generally speaking you want to go for the newest category or most inclusive set of categories possible if you intend on using the device for as long as possible. For the BR1 Mini, I would get the newest device that has CAT7 support. This includes support for Band 71 with T-Mobile which is important for longer distance connections, like on a boat. The cheaper ones with slightly older bands are only $50-100 cheaper - not really worth that if they are that far behind tech wise.

Hi Steve - from your latest blog post it sounds like you’ve been spending some time this summer in Canada. Do you have any new recommendations for cellular data plans for folks splitting time between US and Canadian waters in the Salish Sea?

Roaming in Canada using a US carrier has always been hit or miss, but this last year it got worse than it has been the last few years. All of the providers have reduced the amount of roaming data you can use across just about all of their existing plans.

Google Fi and/or T-Mobile seem to be the best choice right now for roaming if you’re looking for a new plan, but there have been wildly different reports from users. I’ve been using both T-Mobile and Google Fi with good results, but some folks have reported very poor performance or being cut off early in their data amounts.

Generally speaking, and it seems like a lot of people have forgot about roaming (maybe because of not being in Canada during the pandemic), roaming is always a crap shoot, and usually only usable for emergencies. That hasn’t changed - if I were only able to use cellular in Canada, I would use it just for basic browsing and access, and would have to rely on local WiFi for any sort of streaming or remote work.

Thanks Steve. I am looking to set up a Starlink + Peplink system to enable boat-bound work (esp Zoom), currently leaning towards MAX BR1 Pro 5G as the router. So looking for a plan that is just gap-filler/failover for Starlink. Our family phones are all on Verizon - we’ll look at Tmobile and Google-Fi.

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The MAX BR1 Pro 5G is a great router to pair with Starlink. I’m in the middle of testing it’s slightly bigger brother, the MAX BR2 Pro 5G, which has dual cellular radios and a bunch more physical ports - might be overkill for what you need though.

With as volatile as Starlink is in terms of use cases, mounting, and plans, combining cellular with Starlink is a great way to go!

HI Steve, I received my Max BR Mini and it works great. I have two questions:

1 what remote antennas would you recommend to install to get better marina wifi reception? Right now I am just plugging the peplink in on my flybridge but I would like a more permanent solution?

2 I mostly use local Wifi with the peplink, but i have a backup tmobile sim inserted for when I cannot get marina wifi. the issues is that i would like to have my devices treat the Peplink like a metered connection when I am on Tmobile because all of the media onedrive synchronization eats up my mobile data in a heartbeat. Is there any way to do that? Have a second virtual AP that only uses the t mobile, for example?

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The best antenna right now to use is the Peplink Maritime 20G antenna with these RP-SMA Male converters. You could also use the Peplink Mobility 42G Combo antenna if you wanted both WiFi and LTE. The 42G is not as good as the 20G, and it is smaller, but it depends on your space and desires.

Probably the best way to deal with this is to leverage things from my Managing internet usage on your boat article and unfortunately some manual intervention. In particular I would look at QoS and bandwidth control. You could set the non critical devices to have hardly any bandwidth percentages, and the important ones with higher percentages. You need to make sure that your internet connections have correct settings for their upload/download numbers so those percentages work, though.

I do something similar when I’m connected to remote WiFi, and for updates, Dropbox/OneDrive, and the like, I use the metered connection settings in Windows 10/11 to manage it. I also use Low Data Mode in iOS and turn it on and off depending on what I’m connected to.

There are more automated ways of potentially handling this, but it requires some more complex firewall rules along with priorities and such to try to catch the “bad” traffic when using the slower connection. The challenge is that systems like OneDrive and the like can change how their traffic looks as they release new features, and figuring out how to block it or slow it down can change quickly.

Hi Steve –

I love your research and writing! Thank you! We are taking over a 50’ monohull this summer in Europe with plans to take it around the world and we’re trying to figure out a cellular connectivity solution for it. We have a 15’ antenna mast on the transom and are thinking about a Max HD1 Dome Pro, either on that mast or on the first spreader. A few questions:
Do you have any experience or perspective with the Max HD1 Dome Pro?
We’re thinking that a 20’ minimum antenna cable run would defeat the purpose of a separate antenna (like the 20G) on a cheaper router, but would love your thoughts there.
I see that they now offer a mini SIM injector as well as the regular. Would the mini work for us?
Have you heard anything recently about Peplink supporting eSIMs?
Thanks in advance!
Adam