Right install/antenna for coastal US?

Not sure if this is the right place to ask, but I’m looking at a Max Transit CAT18 to provide cell connections via T-Mobile Band 71 LTE in and around the mid-Atlantic US coastal and Chesapeake waters. I have a flybridge area that would lend itself to having an antenna arrangement set up inside of it. This is about 12’ off the surface of the water.

It doesn’t have a good horizontal surface on the top for placing an antenna that would go on, say, a roof of an RV or hardtop.

I have a mast that rises another 9’ but there’s no convenient places ‘nearby’ to install the router, so I’d end up with at least 20’ of cable to use the mast for anything. I could… but I’m not certain my coverage needs would really require it. The cable run areas would also pose some potential bend radius hassles.

So as a starting point I’m looking at using the Transit inside an enclosed area of the flybridge, under fiberglass. If I can get reasonable performance from there… great! Otherwise perhaps a vertical antenna or two could be useful on the outsides of the flybridge.

The location there has ready access to the rest of the Ethernet network onboard. On-board wifi is already being handled by some access points, so I’m unconcerned about using the Transit for that. Though I would be interested in being able to utilize on-shore WiFi as a client in a few situations (home port has decent wifi during the week, but goes to hell on the weekends as everyone else crowds onto it).

Anyone care to point me to better resources to get a handle on moving this forward? I’ve got the install/setup handled.


I have a similar boat. You can’t put antennas behind fiberglass. You will need to find a way to mount antennas or a dome on your mast. I had mounts riveted to my mast for cellular and wifi wan 1x14 antennas. Another option is perhaps finding a way to attach to the side of the fly bridge but you will want to get high up so will need to use an extension pole. I think it will be ugly. I also suggest running at least a second carrier or wifi as wan leveraging speedfusion. We travel on our boat a lot and a single connection can be unstable in many locations but having 2-3 connections with speed fusion helps provide a smooth experience.

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Where are you boating that coverage is that problematic?

I did 3,000 miles about two years ago. Covered a good portion of the Coast of the Usa. Signals dont travel as far as they used to as cell companies switch to shorter-range bands and small cell deployments to patch no/low coverage areas. Also, many towers can be oversubscribed, so if you are subject to de-prioritization after a certain GB that might mean you will end up with no available bandwidth. On the other hand, some locations work well without issues. I’d say we’ve traveled 6,000+ miles in the past 3 years. Our only need is really internet near shore / at marinas / where we anchor. I was very disappointed that in many locations we can’t even get good signal a few miles from shore but interestingly, cell phones some times work (I need to play with the manual band selection more per perhaps).

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Most of our boating ends up being recreational on weekends, often in the Chesapeake, with occasional trips up/down the East coast. It’s not often we’re out of sight of shore, and have only rarely lost cell call coverage. Understanding that cell calling and cell data are often not directly related. Voice calls require nowhere near the bandwidth for a ‘functioning’ conversation. As opposed to a streaming movie service.

I agree with you regarding cell signal distances, coverage, speeds and over-subscription. Cell band selection has always been a consideration, but the means to check it, let alone isolate/lock bands has often been a real chore in most routers. While I know how to use a text terminal and the AT commands and such, that’s not how I usually want to spend my time on the boat. More recent devices/apps that help put a pretty face on it make it a lot less trouble these days.

Wifi at a marina is often useless, especially on weekends/holidays. But thus far we haven’t run into cell congestion being so extreme as to be unusable. Though if it’s a rainy day on a holiday weekend, yeah, everything bogs down. But if that happens we just go home, again since this is mainly just recreational use not live-aboard or long journeys.

Manually messing with bands just is not feasible when in-motion. That is when I seem to have the problems with cell phone having better signal.

We actually find WiFi to be pretty solid most places. Either the marina’s or using a WISP/your home ISP’s outdoor hotspots. Luckily we can tap into a multi-state WISP network from our home ISP. We have been to 3-4 dozen marinas in the past couple years.

Ah, yeah, that would be problematic. We’ve never really been concerned about having data while underway. But that’s only because we’re typically moving at +20kts for an hour or so. If we were displacement speed all day, I could definitely see your concern.

The fun part about marinas is their never-ending randomness. Some are great one year, terrible the next, and vice-versa. And now that chains are buying up many… I wonder how the situation will change. But that’s probably conversation best had on a boating forum instead of here!

To follow up on this, I’ve put a Max BR1 Pro 5G into the boat, and am currently using the supplied ‘paddle’ antennas… and getting good results on both T-Mobile and Verizon. But it’s only been in a few locations on the Chesapeake with expected on-shore cell coverage easily overlapping to adjacent anchorages.