Tech Tips
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How to Get Mobile Service Offshore - Gigsky

January 10, 2023
Alexis Miller

Accessing the Internet at sea has long been prohibitively expensive, but the availability of new connectivity options promises to solve the problem for good. In this blog post, we’ll explore why Internet service has been difficult for those working offshore in previous years, and how the advent of eSIM technology is changing the narrative. 

The Problem of Offshore Internet Connectivity

While land-bound industries have long enjoyed fast and reliable Internet connectivity, mariners and other offshore workers have struggled to access reliable Internet connections. How far offshore do cell phones work? Cell phones quickly lose reception as vessels travel beyond the range of land-based cellular arrays. This occurs anywhere from 10 to 20 miles. Satellite Internet connectivity has long been the only option for boats, oil rigs, and other offshore locations. But it is slow and extremely expensive.


For years, these limitations had stifled innovation in sectors like oil and gas, and shipping, while other industries soared ahead. In isolated environments like oil rigs and ocean-going tankers, the lack of reliable connectivity puts a significant strain on workers wanting to keep in touch with loved ones back home. To that end, what little bandwidth is available has generally been restricted to using critical applications.

This has left many workers wondering how to get service off shore that’s reliable and affordable. 

The Challenges with Satellite Internet

The main benefit of satellite Internet is that it’s highly reliable and available anywhere in the world where there’s a line of sight to the sky. But that’s where the advantages stop. The main limitation of satellite Internet is its expense. 

Moreover, current broadband satellites are in geostationary orbit 22,236 miles above the surface. Since the signal has to complete a 44,472-mile round trip, the latency rates are so high that they can make real-time communication problematic.

While companies like Starlink and OneWeb are gradually rolling out low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband satellites, they’re not widely commercially available. Although orbiting at an altitude of only 340 miles overcomes the latency issues of geostationary satellites, they’re still expensive and have some inherent reliability problems. 

Most notably, satellites in LEO only stay within range of an antenna for a short time, before communications must be handed over to another satellite. By contrast, geostationary satellites remain in precisely the same position relative to the land, which means fewer satellites are needed to provide continuous global connectivity.

How Far Offshore Do Cell Phones Work?

Venturing offshore can significantly challenge the availability of regular cellular service for a number of reasons. Primarily, cellular networks rely on land-based cell towers to transmit signals. These towers have a limited range, which typically extends no more than 10 to 15 miles offshore. Beyond this point, the strength of the cellular signal weakens drastically until it becomes unavailable, rendering standard mobile services ineffective.

Furthermore, the very nature of the sea's vast open spaces means there are no structures on which to mount cell towers that could provide coverage. Even if additional towers were built closer to the shore, their signals would not reach far into the ocean due to the curvature of the Earth, among other technical limitations. This geographic and infrastructural limitation makes it impractical and unfeasible economically to extend traditional cellular coverage far beyond coastal areas.

This is where the advantages of eSIM technology and Internet offshore providers come into play. They offer specialized solutions that bypass the limitations of conventional cellular networks, ensuring that individuals and businesses can stay connected regardless of their distance from the shore.

How to Get Service Off Shore

Cellular options offshore have long been highly restrictive and prohibitively costly for everyday use. “How far offshore do cell phones work?” is a common query. If you’ve ever tried to get Internet on a boat at sea, you might have received a warning from your service provider of the enormous roaming costs. 

Depending on the cellular network, using mobile data offshore can quickly rack up bills of thousands of dollars just for a few gigabytes of data. Coming home to a bill like that creates a financial and emotional strain.  

Inversely, it may not be available at all, leaving you stranded without any kind of connection. 

Fortunately, for people like offshore workers, mariners, and leisure boaters, there’s a far better option thanks largely to eSIM technology. 

What is eSIM technology?

eSIM stands for “embedded SIM.” It’s a SIM card that’s integrated into the device itself and cannot be removed. An eSIM solution allows the device to seamlessly switch between network operators to ensure you’re autilizing the service you want to use.

eSIM technology makes it possible to activate another cellular plan – different from one’s home network – and utilize it for the duration of their trip or the validity of the eSIM. When the trip is over, a few simple clicks will reconnect one to their home network. Fast. Simple. Easy. 

Furthermore, because plans are managed through the GigSky app, there’s only one bill to manage. This means there are no surprise fees or hidden costs when purchasing and using a plan. With the latest eSIM-enabled smartphones, getting offshore Internet coverage is simply a tap away.

The Importance of Staying Connected Offshore

Now that you know what eSIM technology is, you may wonder why it's so important to stay connected while offshore. Here are a few key reasons:

  1. Safety & Emergency Communication: When you're out at sea, staying connected is not just a matter of convenience, it's also a matter of safety. In case of an emergency, having access to reliable Internet can be a lifesaver, allowing you to communicate with the Coast Guard, request assistance, or stay updated on weather conditions and alerts.
  2. Work & Business: For many professionals, staying connected is essential for maintaining productivity and keeping up with work-related tasks, even when they're offshore. With a reliable offshore Internet connection, you can attend virtual meetings, respond to emails, and access critical business applications from anywhere in the world.
  3. Staying in Touch with Loved Ones: Being away from family and friends for extended periods can be challenging, but with the Internet at sea, you can stay connected with your loved ones no matter where you are. From video calls and instant messaging to social media and email, you can keep in touch with the people who matter most, even when you're miles away from home.

Offshore Internet Options: GigSky and Tampnet

When it comes to how to get service off shore, there are several options available, but two of the most reliable and convenient providers are GigSky and Tampnet.

GigSky eSIM Plans

GigSky is a leading provider of global connectivity solutions, offering eSIM plans that are specifically designed for offshore Internet access. With GigSky, you can enjoy commitment-free data plans that allow you to connect to the Internet while exploring the North Sea or the Gulf of Mexico.

GigSky has partnered with Tampnet, the #1 offshore network provider, to bring you reliable and convenient data plans that are tailored to your needs. Whether you need a short-term plan or a longer-term solution for an extended voyage, you no longer need to wonder how far offshore do cell phones work.

Tampnet Offshore Network

Tampnet is a leading provider of high-capacity, low-latency connectivity solutions for the offshore industry. With a network that spans the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, Tampnet is dedicated to providing reliable and fast internet access to offshore installations, vessels, and remote locations.

As the #1 offshore network provider, Tampnet is constantly expanding and investing in new infrastructure to ensure its customers have access to the latest technology and the most reliable connectivity solutions. Whether you're an oil and gas company, a maritime operator, or an individual user, Tampnet has the expertise and the infrastructure to keep you connected, no matter where you are.

‍Making the Choice

Though Internet connectivity has, for years, been limited, expensive or flat-out unavailable to those working offshore, eSIMs are here to change the game. Now expense and connectivity don’t have to be limitations to working and staying connected while away from mainland. 

GigSky provides dependable offshore connectivity to oil rigs, fishermen, seafarers, and cruise liners at a fraction of the price of satellite Internet. eSIMs are availanle for offshore locations in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea. Plans range in size – from 1GB to 35GB – and price, providing convenience and flexibility. No hidden fees and no surprise costs. It’s easy to top-up on data, should one run out. More data is just a few clicks away in the GigSky app. 

Find your plan today and stay connected during your next job! Download the GigSky app today on the App Store or Google Play.