If you’re a business offering bus or boat tours for tourists, you can create a higher demand for your services by offering quality, high-speed WiFi connections onboard so customers can stay connected and share memories with loved ones. With the right network hardware, this is possible even while on the move. Here, we’ll discuss choosing the right LTE antenna for a stable connection to the cellular network at long range, as well as what other products you’ll need.
LTE Antennas for Boat and Bus Tours
Whether you offer bus or boat tours, your requirements from an LTE 4G antenna will be similar.
Since you’re a moving target, orienting a directional antenna to always be facing a cell mast will be impossible, so you’ll want to choose an omnidirectional antenna.
The antenna will be out in the open, meaning some measure of weatherproofing and waterproofing will be necessary (more so if you’re mounting on a boat).
The vibrations of the road mean that impact resistance is especially important for bus tours.
Finally, a busy tourism business is likely to have a lot of customers all fighting for connection at once. This means you’ll want an antenna capable of providing a stable signal with great throughput, so all of that traffic can traverse the airwaves unencumbered. For this, MIMO capabilities will be important.
In short, you’re looking for a weatherproofed, shock resistant omnidirectional antenna with MIMO capabilities.
What Else Will I Need?
The end product you’re looking for here is a functional wireless network that can be broadcast anywhere a customer is likely to be on your boat or bus. That means that, in addition to your 4G antenna(s), you’ll also need a 4G modem (or a router with a 4G modem built-in) to convert the analogue radio signal into ones and zeros for your other network devices to interact with. If using a standalone 4G modem, you’ll need a separate router capable of configuring WLANs (which is almost any router these days). If your 4G modem is built into the router (often just called a ‘4G router’), then you can use just this one device and connect your antenna(s) directly.
Once the router is configured and the WLAN is set up, you’ll need to broadcast the WLAN across space. This means employing one or more wireless access points (WAPs) for customers to connect to. These will need excellent throughput and technologies like MU-MIMO (multiple user multi-input multi-output) can really help with this to mitigate interference between all of those wireless packets being sent through the air at once.
If yours is a small cruise ship or a much larger river or coastal boat cruise, you’ll need more than one WAP to distribute the LAN throughout the boat. If the boat lacks ethernet infrastructure, then a mesh wireless solution will likely be best. Mesh access points just need power, creating a wireless link where the connection ‘hops’ between mesh access points, creating an interconnected web, or ‘mesh’, of wireless access.
The Best Antennas for River Cruises and Bus Tours
Antennas for Boats
Riverboats have the advantage over buses and coaches in that the size of the antenna tends to be less of an issue. Buses and coaches can already struggle to get under bridges, so particularly large (tall) antennas can be an issue.
Fortunately for those in boating, larger antennas are almost always capable of better performance. When it comes to providing the best tourist experience for your customers, this can only be a good thing.
Our first choice would be the use of multiple Poynting OMNI 291 antennas. The 291s tick all our boxes: they’re omnidirectional like the name implies, they’re IP68 rated for weatherproofing and IK08 rated for impact protection too. These are SISO (single input single output) antennas, so if we want to supercharge our performance, we need to establish MIMO (multi user multi output) by using two or more OMNI 291s together.
If you’re wondering why we don’t just use a single MIMO antenna, rather than multiple SISO antennas, it’s because size matters for antenna performance. A ‘MIMO antenna’ always consists of multiple SISO antennas within a single housing. Whilst these can offer good results, great results can only be achieved by using large SISO antennas and incorporating them into a MIMO array. Whilst this sounds scary, it just means spacing the two OMNI 291s at least 60cm apart horizontally and (where possible) vertically. This adds spatial diversity, which helps negate signal interference.
At 56cm high, though, the OMNI 291s are pretty large antennas. If you’d rather opt for something much smaller, multiple Poynting OMNI 403s will do the trick too, though you’ll see a drop in performance in exchange for the smaller size.
Antennas for Buses
For buses, you’ll almost certainly need something with less height than Poynting’s OMNI 291s. The best option here is to pick from Poynting’s MIMO-3-V2-1x series. For our application, Poynting’s MIMO-3-V2-12 should do just fine. It too has an IP68 weatherproofing rating, meaning it can survive being mounted on the top of your bus or coach no matter where your tour is headed. It’s omnidirectional and has MIMO functionality built-in.
Versus multiple OMNI 291s, the MIMO-3-V2-12 won’t perform as well. However, buses will need an antenna with a low profile and much smaller form factor than boats. For this reason, the MIMO-3-V2-12 is the perfect compromise, offering great performance and all of our requirements in a smaller package.
In summary, if you want to enhance your customer experience and give yourself the edge over the competition, you can offer high-quality WiFi onboard your bus tour or river cruise. All you’ll need is a quality omnidirectional antenna with MIMO capabilities, weatherproofing and some shock resistance. We recommend two or more of Poynting’s OMNI 291s for boats and their MIMO-3-V2-12 for buses. You’ll also need a 4G router for de/modulating and routing the signal, plus one or more wireless access points for broadcasting your new wireless network across space.