Aerial photo of ship in the port to illustrate how ships get access to internet

Navigating the Digital Waves: How Do Ships Access the Internet?

9/11/23 | 3 minute read

In our increasingly connected world, access to the internet has become an essential requirement, both for personal use and business operations – including those on ships.

While many of us often take for granted the ease with which we can access the web from the comfort of our homes or offices, it's intriguing to ponder how ships, be they colossal cargo vessels or opulent yachts, manage to maintain internet connectivity while navigating the vast expanses of the open sea. In this blog, we shall delve into the intriguing world of maritime internet connectivity, exploring the technologies that underpin this capability and the challenges it poses.

Satellite Internet: Anchoring Maritime Connectivity

Picture of a satellite orbiting earth to illustrate how ships get access to internet using satellite connectivity

One of the primary methods through which ships gain access to the internet is via satellite communication. Specialised satellite systems orbiting the Earth allow vessels to establish a connection to the internet even when they are hundreds of miles away from the nearest landmass. These systems function by transmitting data signals from the ship's onboard equipment to a satellite in space, which subsequently relays these signals to a ground station on Earth. This ground station, in turn, is seamlessly linked to the global internet infrastructure, thus providing internet access to the ship.

VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal): The Navigator of Connectivity

VSAT Updated.svg Coverage map for AST' sGlobal VSAT solution

At the heart of maritime satellite internet lies the VSAT system. Employing a small dish antenna typically mounted on the ship's deck, VSAT technology facilitates the transmission and reception of data via satellite. These systems can furnish high-speed internet access, thereby enabling both crew members and passengers to engage in web browsing, send emails, and conduct video calls while sailing the open seas.

Mobile Networks: Coastal Connectivity

Photo of a man relaxing on his boat with a digital tablet to illustrate how ships get access to internet

In addition to satellite internet, certain ships are equipped with mobile network connectivity, enabling them to access the internet through 3G, 4G, or even 5G networks when within range of coastal mobile towers. Although this method offers quick internet speeds and low latency, its applicability is restricted to coastal areas and may not be accessible in remote or open sea locations.

Wi-Fi Hotspots: The Network of Convenience

Photo of the side of a cruise ship to illustrate what ships have wifi installed so crew and passengers can access the internet

To facilitate internet access for passengers and crew members, many ships are outfitted with onboard Wi-Fi networks. These networks disseminate the satellite or mobile internet connection across the entire ship, permitting users to connect to the internet using their smartphones, laptops, or other Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Such networks are integral for enhancing passenger satisfaction and ensuring seamless crew communication.

Internet Service Providers: Tailoring Connectivity at Sea

luxurious-yachts-port-evening (1).jpg

Maritime internet connectivity is often supplied by specialised internet service providers that cater exclusively to the shipping industry. These providers offer tailored packages that align with the diverse requirements of different types of vessels, thereby ensuring dependable and cost-effective internet access while at sea.

Challenges and Considerations:


While maritime internet connectivity has made significant strides, it still confronts several challenges. Foremost among these is the cost associated with satellite internet, which can be quite substantial if you’re unsure about what you need. However, companies like Applied Satellite Technology Networks have years of expertise in setting up systems and advising on how to save on these costs.

Furthermore, maintaining stable connections during adverse weather conditions or in the midst of rough seas presents a formidable technical challenge. This is where hybrid solutions can come into play, using a combination of technologies to ensure robust and reliable connections.


Photo of a yacht with a man on board against a sunset to illustrate how ships get access to internet

Access to the internet while at sea is no longer an amenity but a necessity for modern ships. Whether it pertains to vessel safety and navigation, communication, or passenger or crew entertainment, ships today rely heavily on sophisticated satellite and mobile technologies to maintain connectivity while traversing the world's oceans. As technology continues to advance, one can anticipate even greater improvements in terms of internet access for ships, thus rendering maritime travel more efficient and enjoyable for all on board.

Applied Satellite Technology Networks can help those in the maritime sector get connected to the internet. With many years of industry knowledge and expertise, having worked with multiple maritime organisations, we can help get you and your crew connected. Contact us today if you need assistance.

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