Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.– Steve Jobs
Marina WiFi is often not very robust. Finding unsecured WiFi hot-spots when cruising is getting harder from year to year. Is there value in the Rogue Wave WiFi antenna that extends the range of fewer usable WiFi networks? Therefore, with six years of use on my boat Journey, a review seems timely.
In late March I contacted Rogue Wave in Florida to find out if I could update the firmware in my Ubiquiti Bullet 2HP. The Ubiquiti Bullet is the hardware brain of the antenna, with Rogue Wave adding the custom firmware, administration software, package components, support and sales. My antenna had served me well for six years but I wanted the ability to save preferred WiFi networks. Consequently with an update, the antenna could automatically connect to saved WiFi networks without manual intervention.
Firmware & Hardware Update
Jeff at Rogue Wave was very helpful and discussed my plan with me. He warned that there was a possibility that the hardware version I had wouldn’t take a firmware update, yet we agreed to give it a try anyway.
I first downloaded the firmware. Next I attached an Ethernet cable directly from the Rogue Wave to my laptop. I pointed my web browser at 192.168.89.1 to access the web administration page. The last step was to go to the settings menu and click on “Upgrade Firmware” at the bottom of the page. Unfortunately after updating the firmware, I completely lost the connection to the antenna. Multiple power resets did not fix the problem. Due to incompatible firmware the experiment had failed and I had “bricked” the antenna.
Rogue Wave kindly agreed to send me the latest hardware and software package to try. Rogue Wave support is great and they are extremely patient trouble-shooters. The older Bullet 2HP Ubiquity antenna base was replaced with the new more powerful Bullet M2 hardware.
Rogue Wave WiFi Antenna Bundle
The Rogue Wave WiFi antenna bundle includes an instructional CD, quick start guide, 25 foot Ethernet cable, stainless steel rail mount, PoE power injector, AC and DC power adapters, antenna base hardware, and screw on antenna.
After unboxing the Rogue Wave WiFi package I only had to swap out the antenna because Ethernet cabling and a power injector were already in place. Antenna installation is fairly simple because 12V power is supplied via a PoE injector that splits the Ethernet cable. In practice this means that only an Ethernet cable has to be run to the external antenna. Power is fed from a convenient spot inside the boat.
How It Works
The 20 inch Rogue Wave WiFi antenna acts as a wireless bridge and Ethernet converter. It connects via long range to convert the selected wireless network’s WiFi to a wired Ethernet signal. The claim is that it can pickup a signal up to 7 miles away but in practice it works best within a mile or so.
You can connect the antenna either directly to an Ethernet port on your laptop or to the WAN port on your wireless router. This is my preferred method because it allows all my wireless devices to get the benefit of the amplified WiFi connection without having to manually configure each device individually. They are all setup to connect automatically to my Mikrotik router which I previously reviewed.
When you are out of range of WiFi you can use the personal hotspot feature on your iPhone or Android device to create a WiFi network for the Rogue to connect to. After upgrading the Rogue I had problems connecting to my iPhone 5. Subsequently, a newer iPhone SE eliminated the problem.
Browsing various forums I have discovered that some users have had problems connecting to certain WiFi routers via WiFi. Apple routers – that are very close to the antenna – sometimes don’t play nice. When out on the water I haven’t found this an issue, probably because other than my iPhone hotspot, I am never very close to the WiFi source I want to connect to.
WiFi Network Selection
The Rogue Wave web administration interface is pretty easy to use. You click on the network you want to connect to and then enter the password. The software tells you if you have an IP address and whether or not you have a connection to the Internet. You can order networks by signal strength which I find the most useful. The mobile view on a phone cuts out four columns of information. This includes whether you have an active Internet connection so I found it more useful to use the desktop view and rotate my phone.
Once successfully connected you click the blue globe on the far right of the menu to add the connection to favorites. This was the functionality added a few years after I bought my first antenna in 2010. I now find it incredibly useful!
Favorite network settings allow you to prioritize the networks you often connect to. You can add your home and away marinas along with your phone hot-spot. The antenna automatically connects so long as the password hasn’t changed. I wish I’d upgraded sooner because this saves a ton of time. Just turn on the antenna and it does the rest.
My recent cruise to Gabriola and Saltspring Islands on BC’s west coast put the Rogue to the test. While anchored I was able to set up a connection via the Silva Bay marina (1/2 a mile away) to send some messages while I had no cellular connection. At my three night mooring at Saltspring Marina I connected to marina WiFi – about 100 yards away – and was able to stream live BBC news via the XFinity App on my iPad.
- Augments and backs up cellular coverage while protecting from high cellular data fees (particularly in Canada).
- Easy to install and use
- Weatherproof and durable
- Automatic network connection and favorite priority list
- Power over Ethernet reduces wire runs outside your boat
- Problem connecting to some WiFi routers via Wifi (not Ethernet), particularly if they are at close range
- Mobile version of web interface needs improvement
- Traditional antenna base attachment not supplied
Six years and still useful! I won’t be uninstalling my upgraded Rogue Wave WiFi antenna anytime soon. With the exorbitant cost of 3G/LTE cellular data in Canada it makes good sense to use WiFi whenever you can. The antenna is easy to use and reliable. It makes connecting multiple devices on a boat to the Internet a breeze. Being able to save favorite networks for automatic connection is a huge time saver. I would love to see Rogue Wave bring out a combination cellular / WiFi antenna. Ideally it would prioritize cellular and WiFi connections and switch between them automatically based on user settings.