What’s the most cost-effective marine upgrade?

So the boat’s going back into drydock for the winter and you’re looking at a few upgrades. You love that thing but it’s not cheap to operate. So, you’re looking to try to get the most bang for your buck as you upgrade your entertainment system. But it’s hard to know what’s out there. Let’s take a look at the most common options so you can decide if they are best for you.

Satellite TV upgrades

It was really common in the 2000s to put satellite dishes on boats. The trend slowed a little during the recession but it’s back with a vengeance now. Unless you go deep into international waters, you can get satellite TV while you’re on the water pretty much anywhere.

The real benefit of a satellite TV system is that you get a lot of live entertainment. It’s also really established technology and it’s going to be more stable while you’re out on the open water. You wouldn’t think a satellite dish would work well at sea, that’s true. Manufacturers like KVH and Intellian have decades of experience with fancy computerized systems that compensate for the motion of the boat.

Depending on the system and satellite provider you use you can get hundreds of HD channels and have all the same capabilities you have on land.


  • Tons of entertainment
  • Most reliable connection
  • Costs the same every month


  • Expensive installation
  • Generally works no more than 50 miles offshore
  • Takes a lot of wiring

Satellite internet

If you’re hooked on browsing, satellite internet is the way to go. It uses a domed system a lot like a satellite TV dish but it’s a two-way communication. You can decide how much data you want, similar to a cell phone plan. No matter where you are you can stay connected. Many satellite internet systems will work practically anywhere in the world.

You do need to know that this isn’t exactly the same experience you’ll get on land. It’s more like a cell phone experience. You could have slower speeds and overage charges depending on your plan. If you tend to upload a lot, because of work or because of other questionable pursuits, you might be frustrated by the experience.

You can hook a satellite internet system to a Wi-Fi router and get wireless throughout the boat, but do know that hardwoods and varnish block signals pretty effectively and you may want to do some hard wiring.


  • You get, literally, the whole internet
  • Access to streaming video sites and apps
  • Wireless/Wi-Fi access


  • Still may need some wiring
  • High cost of implementation
  • Potential for overage charges

Cellular repeater systems

This is a fairly new category. Systems like Winegard’s ConnecT 4G1 will act like a cellular modem, pulling in weak cell phone signals and distributing them throughout the ship over Wi-Fi. These systems can also hook up to Wi-Fi at the dock as well.

Repeater systems are a great choice for the casual boater. They will work reliably 1-2 miles off shore. Beyond that it depends on how close you are to a cell tower. Cellular is really designed to be a land-based system so if you go out over long distances this won’t work as well for you. On the other hand, for rivers and lakes it can be awesome.

With this system, you buy a cell data plan with a certain number of gigabytes. The signal goes out over Wi-Fi so anyone with a cell phone can get it. Signals are generally more reliable than they would be by just using your phone because the system can be mounted up high and it has larger antennas.


  • Lowest cost to get into it
  • Less wiring
  • Easy to cancel or suspend if needed


  • Really only works close to shore
  • Not really a wired option
  • Monthly charges can vary

There’s only one place to get the best deal

No matter which of these options you want, the best place to get them is Solid Signal. A lot of these products are available by browsing SolidSignal.com, but if you really want the best experience, you have to call the experts. That’s the real difference. At Solid Signal we have a team of techs who are ready to help you from beginning to end. Need a local installer? We can arrange for it. Need a satellite activation? No problem — no one does more than we do. Need to set up billing? We’re here for you. It all starts with one call to 888-233-7563. If it’s past East Coast business hours, just fill out the form below and one of our techs will contact you back within about a day.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.