|Wire for Wireless|
2: Global Wireless continued
By Brad Dunn — September 2001
"After you've installed the software on your computer, all you need is your password," explains Maria Martinez, general manager of Global Wireless. "It's as easy as logging on at home."
Because the company's wireless Web operates over a broadband T1 line, you get a lightning-fast link to the Internet. If you're used to a dial-up modem, you'll appreciate the speed immediately. Because they use telephone lines, dial-up modems, which most people use at home, can usually access the Internet at only 48K bits per second (bps)--even if you have a 56K bps modem or faster. T1 lines and DSL services can both transfer Internet data about 50 times faster. Global Wireless says it can offer speeds of up to 1.5M bps.
"This is a great first step toward wireless Web on the water," says Chris Kelly, publisher of Boattest.com, who not only tested the technology before it went live, but also hosts a video introduction on Global Wireless's registration CD-ROM. "The connection is at least as fast as cable modem lines-- fast enough to download streaming video without a problem."
But where the wireless Web is long on speed, it's short on range. Though the data signal, which travels like a radio wave, can penetrate fiberglass, steel, and wooden hulls, you can only stray from the marina up to about one mile--at best--before the connection cuts out. For coastal cruisers, that may mean getting used to regular interruptions while crossing into and out of access zones, but Martinez says that logging back on each time is simply a matter of typing in your password. For many boaters just getting the Web on an untethered computer--even if you have to stay near a marina--is payoff enough. "Boaters want to know the weather forecast instantly, or they want to check their e-mail or do business," Martinez explains. "And if you can do all that on your boat, instead of at home, you'll have a lot more time to spend on the water."
Not only is the Global Wireless system designed for cruising, but its home page is also programmed specifically for boaters. After you log on, you'll find tons of marine-related information and links to a slew of boating features. Permanent menu-bar buttons include Engine & Generator, Electronics, Navigational Data, Marina Links, and Waterfront Amenities, which are tailored to specific locations.
The company says you can use the wireless connection for safety issues as well: You can e-mail manufacturers, marinas, or towing services in the event of a breakdown, or you can download charts or local guides if you ever lose your bearing during a long cruise.
Moreover, as Internet technologies like streaming video and audio continue to improve, the benefits of an onboard Web connection proliferate. If your boat's radar malfunctions during a trip, for example, you could one day download specific video instructions to help you fix it.
"Ultimately you could even hook up a video camera in your engine room," Berton says. "If something goes wrong you could send the video feed to the manufacturer and get live maintenance advice from an expert."
Berton's effort to build a wireless Web line for boaters really is similar to the first railroad that linked ocean to ocean. Of course, to lay all the tracks on one took about 16 years. To lay all the wires on the other, according to Berton, should only take until next summer.
Global Wireless Phone: (866) 226-9790. Fax (305) 371-4420. www.global-ws.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.