It’s a fact of life these days that water, electricity and gas are not the only utilities anymore, one that is seemingly just as important is the internet, I know it was always the first thing I got sorted whenever I moved into a new rented flat, way before I considered actually finding an electric company or registering with the water board. It therefore comes as no surprise that one of the major concerns people have when they’re moving on to a boat is how to get internet on a narrowboat. Thankfully for us we’d spent the last few years living and travelling in our self-build campervan and as such we were old hats at sorting out internet on the go and making sure we had the quickest speeds we could get, so when we moved we knew exactly how to get internet on a narrowboat.
Like within your house on land all you really need is a router and an internet connection in order to get WiFi throughout your boat however unlike your house, narrowboats don’t have a phone line buried underground and coming into the boat from a box in the wall and as such we have to depend on a mobile internet connection the same as the one you get on your mobile phone. In order to connect to this mobile internet signal you need a special router and a SIM card installed and once you have these you are pretty much ready to go. This is the set-up we currently use on the boat and it has worked great for us.
The router we have is a Huawei Mobile Wifi E5573C which contains a battery rechargeable via USB and a SIM card slot for our mobile internet specific SIM card. The Huawei Mobile Wifi E5573C is extremely small and pushes out a signal strong enough that we can reach it from every corner of our boat. Set-up was a breeze as all we had to do was to charge the battery, put the SIM card into the slot and switch it on. Once it connects to the network you can log into the WiFi using the password on the Huawei Mobile Wifi E5573C as you would do with any normal router and you’re away. We keep ours plugged in constantly and store it hidden away near our window so it can pick up the strongest signal without having to get through all that steel.
With the Huawei Mobile Wifi E5573C in our boat all we needed was a mobile internet SIM card and we would be away. Every single network provider you will have heard of for your mobile phone also have a data only mobile internet package, each with their own prices and perks. Because we were going to be living and working in our boat full time we wanted to make sure we would have enough internet to suit all our needs, be it running websites to watching Netflix and so we settled for a SIM card from Three which offered 20GB worth of data a month, unlimited data for Netflix and Apple Music all for £20 a month. This SIM card, plus our own mobile phone contracts that include 25GB each of data we felt pretty confident that we would be able to comfortably enjoy the internet without having to ration ourselves.
Since we chose this deal EE have come out with 100GB a month for just £35 which is a deal we probably would have gone for just so we didn’t have to worry!
It really is as simple as that. Of course, as with your own mobile phone, signal is always going to be a concern, especially when you are in the remote canals of part of the network or within rural areas where signal can be spotty. This is where we add a signal boosting aerial to the set-up to increase the strength of the Huawei Mobile Wifi E5573C. Signal boosters and WiFi aerials are something we are accustomed to from our days in the campervan, often we would park up a few kilometres away from a Starbucks, pull out a WiFi booster and connect to their free WiFi from the comfort of the back of the van, so when we struggle for signal we can just pull out the signal booster, mount it on a pole on the roof, point it in the direction of the mobile phone tower and enjoy a stronger, faster WiFi connection. The booster we use is the Huawei Mobile Wifi E5573C and has been worth every penny.
Of course, there is one last method to get internet on a narrowboat which is perhaps the easiest and that is simply turning your mobile phone into a WiFi Hotspot. We’ve used this method all across Europe and it works a treat in the UK, the downside being the usually limited amount of mobile data people have as well as limits that networks will place on tethering your phone in this way. But for reading the news, scrolling through social media and even writing a blog this method works great.
I hope it helps seeing how we get internet on a narrowboat, it’s not the only way but it’s just the way that works the best for us.