WIFI on a canal boat

Wi-Fi have been researching how to add Wi-Fi on a canal boat for a while, I have started designing a system for monitoring the system onboard so that I can remotely monitor and warn me when things need attention.

But before that can start I needed to add a reliable network on the board, that can offer both WI-FI and cable networking. In my background I had been part of a team that developed an optical fibre network where we created our own wall plate network interfaces and an Ethernet switch that could work with both Plastic Optical Fibre (POF) and copper (CAT5/6) networks. Hopefully this would not be rocket science.

Huawei B311

Huawei B311 2020
Huawei B311 2020

Having read up on what was available I found a few devices that looked like they would be a starting point, and I selected the Huawei B311 as my first choice, it is a very low-cost option for what it offers. I expect I will upgrade this as time goes on, but it will get me started.

This would hopefully give me WI-FI throughout the interior of the hull.

The unit comes with a 240V to 12V mains power adapter, so should be no problem adapting this to run on the boats 12v supply.

I expect we will need an external antenna at some point to get a good signal due to the steel construction of the hull, but we will see, at present our phones seem to work very well inside the boat.


Next we needed to find a data SIM that does not cost the earth, I tried the comparison sites  but they all the options seemed expensive it was then recommended I look at GiffGaff (on the O2 network),  who at the time offered 100 GB for £20 per month and SMARTY (on the 3 network) who had an unlimited plan for the same price, both would be completely adequate for our peak usage in the summer, with my daughter streaming films at one end of the boat and us doing the same at the other (it is not like that all the time, but you do need to cover the possibility of a wet summer in the UK).

I ended up selecting SMARTY as they also had a much cheaper smaller tariff that I will switch over to in the winter when I plan to just monitor the boat remotely.

Future Plans

This is stage one of the plan, I have in development low power remote sensors to monitor onboard systems and GPS with a movement alarm that will detect unauthorised movement. The onboard systems will send SMS messages in case of problems, else everything can be monitored by and web interface.