SmartLink over Cruise Ship Internet

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I will take a two-week transatlantic cruise next spring and and will buy the ship's premium internet access.  It is 25 mbs downlink and 1.75 mbs uplink.  I would like to operate FT8 via my 10 inch iPad Pro.  Are the ship's internet speeds sufficient for this?
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Neil D Friedman N3DF

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Posted 1 month ago

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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I have not done it from a cruise ship using their internet but it looks like the speeds will be adequate

The issue will be latency as ships use a satellite link so you might have a DT issue with FT8.

Someone else here who has a satellite link might be able to comment more intelligently 

The other concern is whether or not they have a data volume limit as I find I burn about 1GB data per hour when I am mobile with full panadapters.
(Edited)
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Henning - DL6DH

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Hi Neil,

the given speeds will be fine. A ship does not have a „lan“ connection to the internet, they will use satellite links. I guess due to the high latency on the satellite link you will not have fun, especially with FT8 or other time critical modes.

73 Henning
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Neil D Friedman N3DF

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Henning,

Do you think SSB and CWX will work satisfactorily?
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Henning - DL6DH

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Hi Neil,

maybe SSB and CWX will work. My last cruise was in 2016 and I need to do a little bit remote work on a linux terminal and it was not fun.

The other mentioned showstopper maybe will be any firewall, I do not know if you have a VPN backup.

I would give it a try before buying any package. And trust me, there will be lot of fun also without ham radio. But if you are for example a serious DXer...

73 Henning
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John - K3MA

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You might want to check first to make sure they do not block the ports and UDP packets that you will need.  I have some friends that only have Satellite internet and have issues.
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John - AI4FR

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I've never done it either. You may wish to get permission from the Captain and also be up to speed on the FCC rules and those of any other countries you may visit.
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Bob - W7KWS -

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As long as the transmitter remains in U.S. territory, I can't think of any reason to do any of the above except to follow the FCC rules in Part 97 regarding "Telecommand of an amateur station".

Permission to use your iPad and the ship's Internet is implied or detailed in your purchase of the Internet package. I doubt it forbids your remote activities.

The transmitter in the U.S. falls under FCC rules which allow for remote operation as long as you maintain control and effective methods are in place to cease transmitting within 3-minutes if control is lost. Usually accomplished with a timer.

Here are the FCC rules:

§97.213 Telecommand of an amateur station.
An amateur station on or within 50 km of the Earth's surface may be under telecommand where:

(a) There is a radio or wireline control link between the control point and the station sufficient for the control operator to perform his/her duties. If radio, the control link must use an auxiliary station. A control link using a fiber optic cable or another telecommunication service is considered wireline.

(b) Provisions are incorporated to limit transmission by the station to a period of no more than 3 minutes in the event of malfunction in the control link.

(c) The station is protected against making, willfully or negligently, unauthorized transmissions.

(d) A photocopy of the station license and a label with the name, address, and telephone number of the station licensee and at least one designated control operator is posted in a conspicuous place at the station location.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I have talked my way into the radio room on cruise ships. They have HF SSB radios. Nobody uses CW anymore Worked /MM.
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Norm - W7CK

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Most cruise ships no longer have radio rooms.  They have VHF on the bridge and that's about it.
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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I’ve found the internet while cruising high latency, jittery and buffered to the point anything real-time was a no-go.

I saved up anything critical for either shore time or the marginal improvement when docked.

In some places like off the beaten path Greenland and Iceland ports it was a struggle to make things work.

On ship there is a pecking order too - on some ships we didn’t get much internet in our regular balcony rooms, but had very much better when we had one of the top end suites.

Even in the same cruise line the internet seems to vary by ship and by location.

While I’ve been in the radio rooms and on the bridge on some of the ships I haven’t operated there.

I did make arrangements at some shore destinations to operate from historic club stations, which was a lot of fun.

I’ve dragged my own kit and secured permission while on one cruise ship to make no contacts and I really couldn’t get decent reception. Didn’t try too hard though. Was glad I tried.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Blog: http://k9zw.wordpress.com
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Carl Jón Denbow N8VZ

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What Icelandic port were you in? Reykjavík has great cellular coverage, perhaps you were using a carrier they don’t have. As I recall two biggies there are Vodafone and Siemens. I used an Icelandic SIM card In my iPhone for a week there and could tether it to my computer all over the place, including my hotel room with unlimited data for a total of about $20 USD!
Iceland ain’t no third-world country! 73 de Carl Jón Denbow (US Citizen, half-Icelandic descent)
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Hi Carl Jón,

In Iceland the place I recollect with connectivity issues was Ísafjörður and in Greenland both Nanortalik & Qaqortoq.  I was traveling with both a USA and a UK phone, but didn't dig in too deep on tethering given the limited amount of port time.  

Have always enjoyed Iceland since my first visit over 40 years ago doing a European trip on Icelandic Air.  Use to stay at this old Danish lady's guesthouse where she would have one of her various nieces meet the young travelers, supposedly to practice their English.

To my vacation home one of the ferry boats I often ride is the "Eyrarbakki" named after the small Icelandic town where many immigrants to the New World had started their sea voyage.  

Back to the cruise situation - with the ship usually pulling into port during the night or early very early and then usually departing by late afternoon you kind of need to have your port-specific IT-plan in place, or it isn't likely to happen.  We always took on some sort of shore excursion, sometimes organized or sometimes roll-your-own style.  

I'm all about the usual tour stuff - the history, landscape, nature and so on, but even more about the people.  Usually that didn't leave all that much time to mess with IT issues.  We have found the canned prepackaged tours decent introductions that also conserve one's personal energy for the important stuff, while leaving the transport & admin/logistics to someone else.  

BTW in Iceland we found the Gray Line Tour buses had mobile hotspots that were useful when we were out in scenic areas.  The few times they were passworded we found buying someone off that bus a coffee or a beer worked to get the password.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Blog:  http://k9zw.wordpress.com
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Carl Jón Denbow N8VZ

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Steve, I appreciate your detailed response.  Ísafjörður is, as you know, not a very large town, even by Icelandic standards, in the northern part of the country.  I'm not surprised that you might have had some WiFi difficulty there. I apologize for being a little overly sensitive to what I thought was a slight of my maternal ancestral homeland. You've obviously travelled extensively in Iceland and have a pretty good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the infrastructure.  For the record, my mother's mother came from Hóll north of Borgarnes (Hóll, Dalasysla, Hörthudalur), and her father came from Mássel, a cotter's farm next to Sle∂brjótur in the jökulsár district in Nordur Mölasysla.  You've probably never heard of any of those places, but perhaps you have.  You seem to have a good command of Icelandic geography, not an easy undertaking.  Again, thanks for your response.  Hope to meet you on the air sometime.  73 de N8VZ  
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Neil D Friedman N3DF

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Norwegian Cruise Line's larger ships offer a premium wifi that, in my experience, allows streaming of movies, tv, etc. without much in the way of problems.  However, as others have noted above, it may be configured in such a way as to make remote Smartlink operation difficult. 
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N5LB - Lionel B

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Satellite coverage is not available in all locations.  In mid Atlantic royal Caribbean ships typically lose coverage.  It is spotty in the pacific.  Although the satellite antennas track, and have become much faster, rough seas will impact bandwidth available for passenger use. I frequently work from ships and have experienced large differences in performance.  
That said. Try it.
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Bob - W7KWS -

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I don't know if my problem with cellular Internet translates to satellite Internet on a ship but here's the trouble I have here in the seattle area.

Using SmartSDR for IOS over Verizon cellular, unlike AT&T which works better here, Verizon suffers from severe data jitter. This results in short, frequent spaces in the audio and waterfall on my iPad. I call it stuttering.

Other remote software such as RCForb, Icom's RS-BA1 and even SmartSDR for Windows work better. The first two include adjustable data buffers which bridge these data gaps. The adjustable buffers in the first two apps permit a balance between latency and good audio. I have set them at around 250 milliseconds up and down.

Even the RemoteRIG features this adjustable data buffer in their hardware solution.

I look forward to an adjustable data buffer in SMARTSDR for IOS some day so I don't have to give up the great Verizon coverage.
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Just a reminder that if an internet service allows streaming it doesn't necessarily make it suitable for doing a SmartLink Client-to-Radio connection.

While cruising the satellite-only phase of the cruise will be the least predictable in terms of internet connection.  The in-port might be the same or may fall back to another type of connection, and has a good chance of different performance than the satellite-only phase.  Some cruise ships shut down their satellite systems when in port.

I've been to ports where crowds of people were huddled around or in the only WiFi point available while on port.  And I've been on cruises where we could FaceTime at will most of the cruise.  

Cruises and ships that reviews said would be solid in terms of internet had internet that was close to unusable.  One case was nearly no signal in our suite but marginal in hallway and passable for typical browser/email purposes in the library cafe.  

I've never succeeded in getting any level of serious internet support while aboard ship, and wouldn't count on getting ports opened.

I've only done a handful of cruises on just a few cruise lines, and I never found the internet up to scratch.  

While I might take a Maestro along for shore duty and if I could get it working on ship at cruise, the concern over internet capabilities has kept me from building my cruise plans around remote operations.

Perhaps with some work upfront to get things setup by the cruise line for that vessel for that particular cruise things might work out.  An argument that would support the effort would be that you want to run a pilot exercise to see if this style of remote operations would work, and if a theme-based group cruise of radio amateurs with Maestros in the future would be possible?

73

Steve
K9ZW

Blog:  http://k9zw.wordpress.com 


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Neil D Friedman N3DF

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I appreciate all the information.
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Stephen Linton

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 my advice, leave it all at home, and enjoy the cruise  steve g8jut
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Norm - W7CK

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I agree.  Life doesn't evolve around FT8 or ham radio for that matter.   I use to operate remote, but gave it up to spend more time with XYL and meeting people while traveling.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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As I said, I have not used the Shipboard Internet for ham radio

I usually carry a WIFI Hotspot... so when in port or near land, (I use a local European Universal SIM in the Med) i totally bypass the ship and just use WIFI.   That's how I remoted from SV/A .  works great.   

Alternatively if you are on a high end ship, they can be quite accommodating with access to their radio room.   Their SSB radios are usually unused these days so you can easily gain access to HF Bands.

Don't let the jailhouse lawyers get your shorts in a knot about the FCC.. just sign your call /MM as you will be totally outside of the FCC jurisdiction.
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bahillen

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I brought my remote laptop and operated remote from an RCL cruise ship. It did not go well. The problem is that there are 4,000 other people on the same WiFi channels. It would keep disconnecting me every few minutes. I was using FT8. It disrupts the QSO when you just disappear and restart the connection.

If you think people are always on there texting at home, when on the ship it is a major pastime. It may be better when in port and most have vacated the ship. Try it from midnight to 6 in the morning and maybe better.

There were two grades of service an the indicated that the premium was twice the speed.

It would be nice if we could maintain the SmartLink connection during extended delays or immediate recovery of link.

73
Bill W9JJB