Smartphone tethering

A Guide To Using Your Smartphone To Get Internet On Your Small Yacht

In the current day and age, it is incredibly impossible to disconnect from the rest of the world entirely. We need access to our emails, news, social media and also stream media online. While cruising with your Yacht in the deep sea, Wi-Fi coverage from the harbour becomes weak, insecure, and its availability is inconsistent. Therefore, you should consider purchasing a 3G or 4G sim card and have with you a 3G/4G enabled phone. Since the signal from the central tower is usually weak white at sea, tethering your devices is the only option when you need to connect with the rest of the world or watch a film on YouTube or Netflix.


Tethering is the act of hooking your tablet, or laptop and sharing your mobile data to access the internet using the hooked devices. Tethering can be physical in the form of a USB cable or wireless in through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The benefits of using tethering include the creation of a miniature hotspot for your family during cruising. Quick upload or download of files from emails in areas where internet is not a common thing such as on the sea.

Tethering can be grouped into three categories. In this article, I will differentiate the differences and how to set them.

a. USB Tethering: this involves connecting a USB cable between your phone and your laptop or tablet. This technique is the fastest, and it does not drain your phone’s battery since power is drawn from the laptop’s USB port.

Connection Procedure

Connect the laptop, and your phone using a USB cable and the tethering option will display on your phone. Toggle the USB tethering on, and the computer will automatically make internet connection available.

b. Bluetooth tethering: if you want to stretch your battery, Bluetooth tethering is the best option for your devices. The only disadvantage is that you can only connect one device at a time and it is slower as compared to a Wi-Fi connection.

Open the Bluetooth menu on your laptop/tablet and make it discoverable. Depending on the phone you are using, look for the setting option and jump to Bluetooth setting. Search for new devices and wait for your tablet or PC to show. Tap on your device immediately it shows and starts the pairing process. The pairing device will send a unique code to the other machine and when this happens, click pair on the device that prompt pairing. To initiate the internet connection, go back to setting option and select Hotspot and tethering. Toggle on the USB tethering button, and you will be ready to use your mobile internet on either your tablet or PC.

c. Wi-Fi tethering: this method turns your phone into a portable Wi-Fi router or hotspot. It is the most preferred method since the speed is decent and more than one device can be connected. The only disadvantage is that the battery drains very fast.

Connection Procedure

Open your phones setting option and tap more option. Under the Wireless and Networks, toggle the Tethering and portable hotspot on. Toggle on the Wi-Fi hotspot option and configure your phone’s Wi-Fi setting by changing the SSID and the password. Set the security option to WPA2 PSK since it’s the most secure. On your tablet/PC, click on the wireless signal, and you will find the setup Wi-Fi. Tap on it and click connect. Put your set up a password, and now you are good to browse the internet.

Difference between 3G and 4G Internet Connection

In simpler terms, 3G stands for the third generation, and 4G stands for the fourth generation as set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Nowadays, all smartphones sold in any shop are 3G enabled. The 3G network uses its broad broadband more efficiently than a 2G internet connection. 3G uses High-Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) and High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) to upload and download packets respectively. The two technologies enable users to upload and download their contents with speeds of 1.76Mbps and 21Mbps respectively via MiFi or USB. 3G service network uses a cellular-based technology that passes signals between phone towers.
On the other hand, the 4G network offers data rates at a speed of up to 100 megabits/sec for users on moving cars or trains, and up to 1 Gigabit/sec for low mobility users. Currently, 4G has been deployed as either High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) +, Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX), or Long Term Evolution (LTE) which is the most widespread in the USA.

Benefits of 3G/4G

4G is still evolving, and its standard is not precisely defined. On the other hand, 3G has established rules that guarantee minimum download/upload speeds. Therefore, 3G is considered to be more reliable and widely available.

When operating at its standard, 4G users enjoy increased internet speeds which translates to faster streaming and download of media on YouTube. For example, a 2GB HD film can be downloaded in 3 minutes on a standard 4G network as compared to 25 minutes on a conventional 3G network. Data transfer is also faster especially when tethering your devices using a mobile hotspot.

Technical Requirements for 3G/4G Connection

To be 3G connected, you need to have a 3G compatible phone and subscribe to a data plan through a service provider. After subscription, the service provider issues you with a SIM card which connects you to the 3G network when it’s within your range. In case your location does not have a 3G service, your phone can connect to a 2G service. To enjoy 4G connections, your phone needs to have a minimum of 128 MB of RAM, the processor of 624-MHz and above, and a minimum of Windows 6.1 operating system.

Importance of Internet at Sea

Internet connectivity at sea is essential for both cruises and a small yacht. This is because sailors can now be able to monitor yacht fuel usage and also troubleshoot any mechanical or technical problems in real time. Additionally, real-time troubleshooting by IT technicians offshore is possible since they can be able to access the yacht, or boat system online. Technicians onboard a yacht or a ship can access several operational manuals faster as compared to browsing through hardcopy manuals.

Most sailors don’t have a doctor on board. Internet access within a yacht enables the seafarer to address a medical issue by consulting a physician on land. Additionally, members onboard a ship or a boat can be able to keep in touch with people at home in case there is an emergency through real-time emails.
Internet access also allows increased security surveillance at sea. In case of a pirate threat, installed cameras can be able to transmit the video footage to nearby law enforcement officers patrolling the sea. The captured footage can inform the naval agencies on the potential of the threat in the form of its size, weaponry, and complexity.

Internet access allows seafarers to get real-time weather information as well as precise routing of their destination. This information is helpful in evading high tides and waves. This information can also be transmitted back on land to inform persons on earth at the location of the yacht or the boat.

Internet access has also shortened the distance between the seafarers and their loved ones on land. Real-time exchange of ideas is made possible through emails and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Friendster. Connecting with the loved ones over the mobile internet is less expensive as compared to using VOIP since users use a fraction of their bandwidth and data.

Offshore 3g/4g connection

While operating of countries coastal waters, you can enjoy 3g/4g coverage of up to 15 miles offshore. 3g/4g coverage overseas is dependent on the service provider. However, this varies greatly depending on the location of the tower and object interference. A tower located next to a densely populated area or a busy highway will have weak signals, and therefore the connection coverage might be shorter.

Additionally, natural factors such as temperature variations can weaken the signals transmitted.
Signals transmitted from the tower to your phone come in the form of waves and just like the ocean waves, they become weaker as you go deeper into the sea. Once outside your countries territorial waters, data roaming charges apply and they are costly.

To overcome this challenge, you should consider installing a signal booster on your boat. The work of the signal booster is to enhance the existing incoming signals to a high level that powers all your 3G/4G signals.

Expected data Usage for YouTube

Data usage on your phone or tablet is dependent on compression and variable quality based on your network conditions. Irrespective of your location, streaming audio media content on YouTube will be the same. Audio media content is grouped into three quality categories:

i. High Quality: content in this group has a quality of 320kbps, and the stream rate is 2.4MB/min or 115.4MB/hour on average.
ii. Low Quality: content in this category has a quality of 96kbps, and the stream rate is 0.72MB/min or 43.4MB/per hour.
iii. Standard Quality: content in this category has a variety of 160kbps, and the stream rate stands at 1.20MB/min or 72MB/hour on average.

Video streaming on YouTube is dependent on the strength of your connectivity. Poor internet connectivity results in buffering during streaming while high internet connectivity results in faster download and streaming of videos. Video quality are streaming rates are categorised as follows:

i. UHD Quality: video content in this category uses more data at a rate of 7.2GB/hour.
ii. HD Quality: video content in this category has a quality of 720p to 2k, and the streaming rate stands at 0.9GB, 1.5GB, and 3GB per hour.
iii. SD Quality: the quality of videos in this category stands at 480p, and the stream rate stands at 0.7GB per hour.
iv. Low Quality: the quality of videos in this category stands at 320p or 240p, and the stream rate stands at 0.3GB per hour.

Depending on your data plan, you will enjoy varied hours of streaming based on the quality of your music or video. At a minimum, a 2GB data plan will allow you to stream low-quality music for 47 hours; normal-quality music for 28 hours; high-quality music for 17 hours; low-quality videos for 6.5 hours; standard definition videos for 2.8 hours; 720p videos for 2.2 hours; 1080p videos for 1.3 hours; 2k videos for 0.6 hours and 4k videos for 0.25 hours. Apply a factor of 2.5 as the data plan increase. For example, the 5GB data plan will allow you to stream low-quality music for 117 hours.

Limiting Data Usage

If you are not using your phone to browse or stream any media, ensure you switch off the 3G/4G access on your device. This is because your phone, PC or tablet will use the data automatically and the battery will be drained off its power very quickly. While on territorial waters, ensure you switch off data roaming to prevent your phone from accessing another country 3G/4G services which can cost you a great deal of money.

To reduce the usage of your tethered data, you should meter your connection. This concept stops the window from downloading any un-important updates, windows apps, and file synchronisation. Click on the ?etwork’ icon located at the bottom right-hand corner of the taskbar. Right, click on the tethering connection that pops on the charm bar and selects ?et as metered connection.’

Browsers such as Google Chrome also saves bandwidth by restricting image downloads on opened window pages can be used to keep on your data. To enjoy this service, click the chrome icon in the upper right-hand corner of your google chrome browser and select settings. Navigate and select ?how advanced settings’ then click Privacy, then click content settings and toggle on the ?o not show any image’ button. In case you are using Opera, an installed app called Turbo will automatically compress the data before it is sent over to your laptop or tablet thus reducing bandwidth usage.

Finally, disable any cloud service such as google drive or Dropbox. To do this, right click on the service icon on the lower right corner of the taskbar and click ?ause syncing’ on the pop-up window that appears. The same should apply for Google Drive but now click ?ause’ on the pop-up window. Immediately you are out of tethering mode, remember to turn on the syncing mode on both your google drive and Dropbox.

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