Posted by Ken Williams on Aug 31, 2009, 06:59 PM EST
Good morning Rick (or, at least it is here in Tokyo),
The Mini Vsat is incredible. With the exception of a couple times on the inland passage, it worked non-stop all the way here to Japan. And, they have now added support for Australia and New Zealand. It really is a global service.
The performance has been rock solid at 2 megabit download, and 512k upload. That's their highest speed, and the highest cost. They have packages that cost between $1,000 a month and $6,000 a month. You'll want to check their policy as far as cancelling during the 'off season'. I seem to remember that they said that you are only allowed to stop service three months a year, but I'm not at all certain about this.
I have had one annoying technical glitch. About three times a day, my internet locks up. I've spent hours on the phone with them, and were we somewhere easy to ship to, I'm sure I'd have a new unit by now. I've been power cycling the unit, when it hangs, and we are back online in minutes. They claim I'm the only one with this problem.
At the height of the trip, across the Aleutians, we had three boats, with a total of 14 people, all sharing my connection -- and, it was wonderful. I was a very popular guy.
So .. the only downside I can think of is: price. That said, I should also mention that their 'unlimited package' does have a limit. I had to push them to find what it is, but the magic number is 12 gigabytes. If you go over 12 gigabytes, they'll threaten to boot you off the service or charge you more (an extra $1,000 a gigabyte). For any 'normal' user, who isn't downloading movies, this is a fine limitation, and not an issue. I run an internet business, and am on constantly, plus was uploading videos from the trip. My usage in April was 3 gigabytes, May 5 gigabytes, June 7 gigabytes, July 14 gigabytes, and the August stats aren't in yet. My guess is that I'll be back down to 5 or 6 gigabytes. July was the time spent in the Aleutians, when we had 14 bored surfers hard at work.
The phone service has been great. The quality varies with data traffic. WHen lots of people were using the internet, the quality was atrocious. I had to shut people down to make a phone call. When it is just Roberta and I using the internet, the quality is great. There is a delay, which is worse than a landline, but better than most sat phones. Recently, I've turned the Vsat off, because I get a cheap 7.2 mb connection here in Japan with a 3g card (E-Mobile). To my surprise, the phone still works. I guess the positioning unit was pointed the right way before I shut it down.
As a backup, I use the Fleet Broadband 250. It was only used a few days when at anchor in deep canyons. I racked up enormous bills on it ($1,700 in a day). I haven't needed it since, although I did test it in the Aleutians, and it worked fine.