WIFI in the Bahamas is better than ever before — we are told. Based on our sampling, WIFI here is hit or miss with quite a bit of miss. Here in Marsh Harbour, dial-up would be blazing service. Heck, at this point I settle for a couple of Progresso cans and a string.
We use an ALFA wireless booster good for about 2 miles, as far as capturing signal is concerned. But we use it more as a signal booster to improve quality of service at shorter ranges. We use USB to connect the card to the laptop. For non-HTTPS traffic we use a VPN.
Old Bahama Bay had WIFI, and we barely used it, so I can’t say how we felt about it. We sent “arrived” messages and that was it.
Spanish Cay had it at $10 a day (think $300 a month), and since we were almost the only boat there and within slingshot range of the antenna, it served us well.
Green Turtle Club had it with multiple antennas, and it worked fine. Neither of the independent hotspot providers showed up in our network scans while we were there, though their sites indicated hotspots were available.
Off Guana Cay in Fishers Bay we had excellent signal from one of the two hotspot providers and signed up for service. Perhaps three times a session, their server would lose connection to the internet while we still had that excellent signal.
In Marsh Harbour, on the first two days, we had something between Green Turtle and Guana service from the hotspot provider and then…
The wind picked up, and we could begin to see what we surmise are the effects of moving vegetation between us and the antenna. Signal Strength and Quality palpitate constantly, and 100% strength and quality are a memory.
The user population increased as the threat of bad weather brought in dozens of boats. Whatever problems the server has with staying connected to the net appear to have have been aggravated by greater demand.
Data rate, when connected to both hotspot antenna and server, has been slower than an IV hydrating drip. Since Day Three it has been averaged an astounding 2.5KBPS — That means a 1MB page load requires, on average ~6 minutes to complete — the WordPress Blog editor requires an hour to load incorrectly. Since the browser times out in three to five minutes without a server connection, this is an effective data transfer rate of ZERO. One becomes very familiar with “Try Again” and “Problem Loading Page.”
- LESSON ONE: We changed our home page while here to the logon page for the hotspot provider. When we used our usual BarometerBob homepage, we had to go through a referrer, and that step seemed to trip up the server from time to time to time to time.
- LESSON TWO: Don’t buy two months of service until you understand what service means. Ours has been characterized as commercial grade…not on any planet I’ve been to it isn’t.
- LESSON THREE: Begin data detox well before leaving. Find sites that are text rich and grahics poor. Find sites that will email you the info you want. Think ahead and begin trying to access what you need well before you need it. Don’t rely on WIFI for anything to do with health and safety. Forget about WIFI enabled smartphones and other devices, closing the link will be a random and widely spaced (think planetary diameter) event.
- LESSON FOUR: If you plan to use VOIP communications (ala SKYPE) teach your routine corespondents to treat the conversation like simplex radio. Speak, say “over,” wait for a response, listen, respond, ad nauseum. Routine conversational speech renders these services almost useless when WIFI isn’t robust.