Computers that might be part of an onboard office are often
lower in the hull and connected to other electronics. An
external wi-fi antenna can provide a helpful boost to an
internal computer antenna that’s struggling to find a signal.
check out its suitability, ease of installation, and
performance on board. The 5MileWIFI adapter is a
nicely packaged combination of components designed
to maximize wi-fi performance aboard small vessels.
The package includes a 9dBi vertical external antenna,
25 feet of low-loss cable, and a small aluminum
chassis or box that houses both the wi-fi adapter
and a bidirectional 1-watt power amplifier. Installation
is straightforward and entails mounting the antenna
and connecting the attached antenna cable to the
adapter/amplifier antenna port. Two USB cables
connect to the computer to power the adapter,
and after you’ve installed the supplied drivers, the
setup is complete.
In the marina, the effect of the amplifier was
immediately obvious. What had been a rather weak
signal—one or two bars when using the laptop’s
internal wi-fi adapter—was now up to the maximum
five bars on my computer’s wi-fi power graph. With
the 5Mile WIFI antenna mounted externally and 12
feet above the water, the connection was rock solid.
To see what the maximum possible range was, we
motored in a straight line out to sea.
At 5 nautical miles from the marina, it was still
possible to connect to the access point, and we didn’t
lose the connection entirely for almost another mile.
As the manufacturer states, “your mileage may vary”
due to a variety of factors, including local interference,
the power output of the access point, and obstructions
in the signal path.
This adapter package is certainly not the only one
available for marine use, and you could assemble your
own from components purchased separately. But the
components of the 5MileWIFI adapter represent some
of the best approaches to maximizing wi-fi aboard, and
the product gives every indication that it will live up
to its name.
The manufacturer’s website, 5milewifi.com, provides
more details about the adapter, including videos showing
it “in action.” You’ll also find helpful general information
about wi-fi technology on the site.
New developments may ultimately bring about
significant changes in the world of wi-fi. A new standard
has been defined that will operate over longer distances
and will increase the raw-data rate of a compatible
wi-fi network to 248Mbps with a throughput of about
74Mbps. The new standard, called 802.11n, is slated to
be finalized in March 2009. It is anticipated that devices
communicating with the new protocol will coexist with
current 802.11b/g devices on the 2.4GHz band and also
utilize the 5GHz ISM band.
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