Accessing the internet at sea has long been prohibitively expensive, but the availability of new connectivity options promises to solve the problem for good.
While land-bound industries have long enjoyed fast and reliable internet connectivity in most regions for years, mariners and other offshore workers have struggled to keep up. Cell phones quickly lose reception as vessels travel beyond the range of land-based cellular arrays, which is typically around 10 to 15 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 soar on ahead. In isolated environments like oil rigs and ocean-going tankers, the lack of reliable connectivity can put 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 the use of critical applications.
The challenges with satellite internet
The main benefit of satellite internet is that it is 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 that it is extremely expensive. 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 low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband satellites are gradually being rolled out by companies like Starlink and OneWeb, they are still not widely commercially available. Although orbiting at an altitude of only 340 miles overcomes the latency issues of geostationary satellites, they are 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 can cellular networks provide offshore connectivity?
Cellular options offshore have long been highly restrictive and prohibitively costly for everyday use. 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. Using mobile data offshore can quickly rack up bills of thousands of dollars just for a few gigabytes of data, depending on the cellular network you’re using.
Fortunately, for people like offshore workers, mariners, and leisure boaters, there’s a far better option thanks largely to eSIM technology. An eSIM is an embedded SIM card that’s integrated into the device itself and can store network profiles for practically any number of networks. An eSIM solution allows the device to seamlessly switch between network operators to ensure you’re always getting the best option.
eSIM providers like GigSky have partnerships with hundreds of network operators around the world to provide short-term data plans. For example, you can purchase an offshore data plan in the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea and get uninterrupted offshore connectivity with partner operator Tampnet. Furthermore, because you only have to use the GigSky app, you only have one bill to manage, and you always know exactly how much you’re spending. With the latest eSIM-enabled smartphones, getting offshore internet coverage is simply a tap away.
GigSky provides dependable offshore connectivity to oil rigs, fishermen, seafarers, and cruise liners at a fraction of the price of satellite internet. Download the GigSky app today on the App Store or Google Play.