Maritime: Avoiding yacht satellite internet quality issues

Written by
Matthew Bingham
Having a high quality internet connection is essential, learn how physical structures and weather can impact performance.
Tablet of contents

A quality satellite connection is vital for staying connected on board. Whether you wish to use the internet to reply to an important email or connect with friends and family, having a high quality satellite connection will make yacht trips a breeze and will help avoid connectivity problems in the long run. As we know, technology has its limitations and sometimes even with the best of services, there can be certain factors that can affect the quality of the satellite connection on board. Making yourself aware of limitations in satellite connectivity can help ensure that you are always prepared for downtime and are able to make the most of your satellite connection.

Bad weather conditions

Satellite internet connections make use of microwave radio frequencies that are travelling in straight lines. These frequencies cannot pass through solid objects in their path. Adverse weather conditions affect the air that is between the satellite and the dish and moisture in the atmosphere can affect and weaken the signal.

Light rain usually does not impact the internet connection but if the dish is not correctly aligned to the satellite, it will make the signal too weak to withstand the fade. On the other hand, heavy rain can cause the satellite signal to be completely blocked. In this case, it is important to be on top of the weather forecast to predict annual outage times. You should also make sure that the dish is aligned to a peak signal.

Snow piling up on a satellite dish can also cause the signal to be blocked. Even when the weather isn’t too bad, condensation and ice can block the signals. Strong winds can bend a satellite dish and cause disruption in the signal. Towers that support the satellite dish can also sway with the wind and cause temporary outages. Severe storms are able to instantly rip a satellite dish off its mount and the physical damage will prevent any chances of connectivity. Therefore, it is important to invest in reputable internet service providers that can offer heated satellite dishes that are able to melt the ice and therefore, prolong the internet service. It is also worth investing in top notch satellite dish manufacturers that use reinforced mounting hardware that help withstand strong winds.

Physical disruption

As mentioned earlier, anything that gets in between the VSAT dish and the satellite can obliterate the satellite signal. In the case of shore-side connections, cables can easily be prone to damages and are a pain to replace. Investing in good cables will always be worthwhile as physical damage tends to weaken the cables over time.

For there to be minimum interference of signal and to prevent the signal from being blocked, it is important that the antenna is positioned effectively. The right positioning is crucial to achieving a quality signal.  The antenna should be installed at a good height ensuring that it has a clear view of the sky. However, it is also important the antenna does not get shadowed or blocked by the mast, radar and other surrounding equipment.

Unfavourable locations

Different environmental factors have an impact on the signal strength. Amongst these factors, location can often have the most significant impact on the measured signal strength. Signal strength is strongly correlated with different locations. The quality of the signal tends to vary in different locations. While it may be stronger at one particular location, the same signal may drastically weaken at a different location. In order to ensure that the vessel has a reliable satellite connection, it is important to consider a reputable VSAT satellite communication service that can offer a reliable connection in regards to the locations that you intend to travel.

Mobile data and bandwidth

When using mobile data to connect to the internet, it is important that you ensure that the signal is good and the APN settings are properly configured. Always check with your mobile data service providers to ensure that you can make the most of the mobile data package being offered. The ability to control bandwidth can also keep a check on the quality of signal being provided to all those on board. Controlled access of bandwidth will reduce weakened signals and will ensure everyone can benefit from a good connection. Choose a provider that offers short contract lengths and enough data to cover your requirements.