If you're a boater who rarely ventures far from shore, your cheapest option is public Wi-Fi and a signal booster system that puts Wi-Fi networks in reach of your vessel. And mobile hotspots can offer an internet connection if a marina with public Wi-Fi isn't in sight.
But for a more reliable, expansive (and expensive) internet connection, BGAN satellite systems are your best solution—and also the most expensive.
Just know that, whichever marine internet option you choose, your online experience won't be the same as it is at home. Even creature comforts like unlimited web browsing and unlimited ship-to-shore calling cost the equivalent of a decent midsize automobile for a satellite dish that has a diameter of about two feet.
For the most part, the challenge of getting satellite internet for a boat is cost, along with the fact that a boat moves.
The movement of your boat requires a satellite that can maintain a connection while it's rocking in the water.
Distance also factors in, as larger and more expensive satellite dishes are required to compensate for angled signals as a boat veers towards the poles. If you’re looking for a strong signal anywhere in the world, be prepared for a substantial price tag.
Wi-Fi extenders and hotspots don't face these same challenges, but they do require you to be closer to shore. And public Wi-Fi connections may be spotty, while hotspots require you to pay for cell service and a SIM card.