This past fall, we purchased an unlocked Novatel 2372 MiFi. This unit connects to cell phone towers and gives you Internet access.
The advantage of the MiFi over a rocket stick or air-card is that it creates a wireless hot-spot and allows up to 5 devices connected at the same time. This hot-spot has an advertised range of 30 feet but the signal seems to extend further than that and we have been able to allow a neighbouring vessel to connect through our MiFi by giving him the code.
Initial set-up in the US was slightly tricky, as we didn’t want a contract. But we did manage to get a pay-as-you-go T-Mobile card and 30 days or 1 G for $30. Once that was working, we never lacked for internet access, unless we were anchored a long ways from civilization.
In the Bahamas, we spent some time at the Batelco office in Lucaya and were lucky that we landed there. The only places where we could get the system set up initially, were Freeport/Lucaya or Nassau. Perhaps next year, it will be simpler, especially now that we have learned some of the tricks.
Cost in Bahamas is the same as the US – 30 days or 1 G for $30. With places charging $10/day for wifi access, that is a deal. You need to purchase a data sim card, which will give you a phone number for your device. Bring both the device and your computer with you to the BTC office. The technician will create a new profile, under Internet settings. The APN is internet.btcbahamas.net and authentication is none. You will receive some messages from BTC, asking to send a confirmation and then to remove and replace the battery.
Once your MiFi is up and running, to renew your service, you need to have MORE than $30 applied to your account/phone number. That extra amount can be as little as $1 and you can transfer money from your Bahamas cell phone to another number ie your MiFi number. My plan, for next year, is to top-up my Bahamian cell phone with $100 and transfer funds as needed to the data card. Top-up cards for cell phones can be purchased anywhere, whereas not every BTC office has the ability to re-charge your data card. It is confusing, but seems to be the case.
When you have the funds transferred, through your MiFi landing page, text this message to 5000 – Data 30D . You will get a confirmation request and once that response has been sent, your renewal takes affect.
If we are anchored some distance from a cell phone tower, we place the MiFi unit in a bucket and hoist it up the mast. As it is a wireless device, it can go as high as necessary but seldom needs to go above the spreaders.
The Novatel 2372 MiFi unit costs about $150 but I was able to purchase a re-furbished unit for less than $40.
The availability of free internet access in the US and Bahamas has been disappearing rapidly. With a MiFi unit, you have safe, secure and reasonably priced internet access, all without the danger of taking your computer ashore in a dinghy.