CELLULAR COMMUNICATION & WIFI
Many people are drawn to the freedom of sailing but it’s still important to consider how you will stay connected with the rest of the world, at a minimum to get regular weather updates.
In today’s technological age, staying in touch while sailing can be accomplished through several options including cellular, WiFi, and satellite services.
Let’s take a closer look at what cellular and WiFi options we have selected for our new Outremer 52.
PEPWAVE ROUTER MAX BR1 PRO CAT-20
A cellular router is a networking device that will connect to a cellular network using a SIM card with a data plan and create a WiFi network on your boat so you can connect multiple devices like phones, tablets, computers... just like the WiFi network you have at home.
We have spent two seasons cruising in the Mediterranean Sea with the Pepwave Router MAX BR1 Pro LTEA W-T (worldwide) (3G/4G) and had no connection or bandwidth issues at anchorages, even for Zoom calls, during that time. However, for our new boat we have opted for a newer model: Pepwave Router MAX BR1 Pro CAT-20
It is important to understand that not all 4G connections are equal. Our previous Pepwave Router was a CAT-6 and the new one will be a CAT-20, meaning we will now have much higher maximum download and uploads speeds.
Our CAT-20 Pepwave router will also be able to connect to many more bands so better connections.
(Wide Area Network)
1x 10/100/1000/2500M Ethernet (WAN can act as LAN)
1x LTE-A Pro Modem with Redundant SIM Slots
(Local Area Network)
2x 10/100/1000M Ethernet
Simultaneous Dual-Band (2.4GHz / 5GHz)
Wi-Fi 6, 2X2 MU-MIMO
Wi-Fi WAN and/or AP
Hot Failover, WAN Smoothing, Bandwidth Bonding
Number of SpeedFusion VPN Peers
2 (enabled by default) / 5 (enabled with subscription)
Drop-in Mode, Load Balancing/Failover, Ignition Sensing
SpeedFusion VPN Throughput
- No encryption
- 256-bit AES
Standard (supported in a future firmware upgrade)
Max number of AP supported
Cellular Data Rate
(Downlink / Uplink)
CAT-20: 2 Gbps / 211 Mbps (theoretical max data rates)
4x SMA Cellular Antenna Connectors
2x RP-SMA Wi-Fi Antenna Connectors
1x SMA GPS Antenna Connector
10 - 30V
8W (nominal), 19W (max.)
5.78 x 5.08 x 1.15 inches
146.8 x 129 x 29.3 mm
-40 - 149 F
-40 - 65 C
15% - 95% (non-condensing)
FCC, CE, RoHS
E-Mark (Motor Vehicle)
EN 61373 Shock and Vibration Resistance
EN 50155 Railway Applications - Electronic Equipment used on Rolling Stock
EN 61000 Electromagnetic Compatibility
1 year limited warranty
1x MAX BR1 Pro CAT-20
4x LTE/5G Antennas (ACW-234)
2x Dual Band Wi-Fi Antennas (ACW-341)
1x GPS Antenna (ACW-232)
1x 12V2A Power Supply (ACW-632)
SIM Card Size
When buying a SIM card for your PepWave router make sure you request a pre-paid Data (only) SIM card (a.k.a. data SIM).
If the cellular network provider doesn't have a data SIM (data only) card available you can always use a regular SIM card (voice/SMS/data) but you will need to make sure they remove the password before you leave the store so you can use the data in your PepWave router or a WiFi Box.
Also make a note of your SIM card size before going to the store ;-)
COMPARISON WITH OTHER PEPWAVE MAX ROUTERS
5G or NOT?
As of December 2022, the infrastructure of 5G is simply not yet ready in a country like in the US so it is not likely we will get decent 5G where we plan on cruising (i.e. Caribbean, South Pacific...) over the next couple years. In the end we have decided to pass on 5G and save about €1,000 on a 5G device plus installation.
If you know that most of the time you will be in range of a 5G cell tower and can take advantage of the fast bandwidth then you can get the Pepwave Router MAX BR1 PRO 5G with a 5G-ready antenna. It is the same router as the 'CAT-20' but with the added 5G capability. With the 5G version you will also be able to connect to 4G and 3G networks.
Even though 5G is being highly promoted it doesn't mean the 3G and 4G bands will be going away anytime soon, so no worries about that.
Marina/At Anchor WiFi
The Pepwave Router MAX BR1 Pro CAT-20 comes with 2 WiFi antennas so we will have that option to connect to a local public WiFi if we happen to be within range. We didn't opt for adding an external WiFi antenna to extend our range because nowadays most public WiFi networks are protected with passwords and WiFi coverage in marinas is typically very poor, plus we try to avoid marinas as much as possible.
You could use WiFi in tandem with your cellular connection for redundancy and increased reliability of your connection.