BC Ferries Says Faster Wi-Fi Possibly Coming, But You’ll Pay For It


By now, any BC Ferries passenger knows the onboard free Wi-Fi is pretty much a joke, as it’s slow as molasses and can never keep up with demand.

Now, according to CTV News, BC Ferries says they are investigating numerous options to speed up onboard Wi-Fi, including a satellite system seen on airlines. However, these faster solutions will come at a cost.

WiFi flatsheet Coverage diag02 CR

“Five, ten years ago, people weren’t carrying as many devices as they are now,” said BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall to CTV News Vancouver Island. “You see a customer come onboard now they might have an iPad as well as a phone, so people are trying to use our system with multiple devices and we just don’t have the bandwidth for it.”

The company says a two-tier Wi-Fi system would most likely result, meaning free slower Wi-Fi would remain, but a paid option would surface for streaming Internet. Currently, BC Ferries Wi-Fi does not allow streaming video from apps or websites, as data is restricted, meaning YouTube and Netflix are out of the question.

Here’s how the company explains the current Wi-Fi solution, which they developed in-house:

Our network for internet connectivity is one that BC Ferries has developed because shore-based solutions from traditional Wi-Fi internet providers will not work over water. BC Ferries has built its own network, using its terminals as the base for internet connectivity, and has installed ship-to-shore radios at our terminals and on private property in locations throughout our major routes. From these locations, the signal is then transferred to access points onboard our ships, making Wi-Fi accessible for customers. However, ship movement, the movement of other vessels, as well as the distance to shore can all have an impact on the signal strength and cause issues in connectivity.

WiFi flatsheet diag01 CR

BC Ferries didn’t comment on how much a paid Wi-Fi solution would cost or when it would be implemented, other than to say it’s currently in talks with various service providers.

It would be great if BC Ferries considered bundling faster, streaming Wi-Fi for those in the Seawest Lounge and those in the Pacific Buffet. I wonder at what price point people would be willing to pay to stay occupied for 1.5 hours. Ferry rides are when offline Netflix downloads can be your best friend, as long as you remember to set yourself up at home.


  • My 1/2 cents

    How’s Telus coverage around the islands?

  • FragilityG4

    But now you have ten gigs!!

  • cayaguy

    My understanding is Telus was providing on board wifi to BC Ferry customers.. Maybe that was just a trial??? I specifically remember advertisements at terminals and on board Flashing Telus as the *Fee wifi* supplier.

  • cayaguy

    On Board (upper decks and outer) the Service is great through the straights and island also (Gulf) islands. When you’re on vehicle deck It can be spotty… but not allowed on vehicle deck anymore so haha

  • cayaguy

    Totally. Belus is the only provider to have complete coverage in the Georgia straight (LTE).. Halfway through Rogers has no service or unusable 2G/3G or roams on US network for about 10 min.

  • FragilityG4

    Man that sucks. I’m glad I don’t have to take ferries!

  • Mich

    This is bullkaka in the highest order.

  • Aceclutch

    I just manually connect to ext and I’m good

  • well, lower vehicle deck 🙂 I never stay in the car down there anyways, way too loud and stuffy.

  • Bill___A

    There are enough islands they should be able to set up relay stations with more modern equipment and use it for running their operations as well as customer wi-fi. For example, they don’t have chip and pin or interac on the ferries from what I understand. Irish Ferries has free wi-fi on their boats between Holyhead and Dublin for example, and it is satellite, but there is a sinister side to it, as the satellite internet ALSO has “cell tower” capabilities which will charge calls/sms/data at satellite rates (not the free wi fi rates), so something like this would cause BC Ferries and their customers lots of grief. Pay wi fi and advertiser supported wi fi has limited success.
    Here is my solution: Dedicate some billboard advertiser space at the docks and on the ships exclusively for raising revenue to get wi fi.connectivity. Do NOT allow one carrier to have exclusive access to mobile services if that is provided. By doing it this way, you can get some money for providing wi-fi without annoying the heck out of everyone and making it hard to use. There is no reason to put the Wi-Fi advertising actually on the Wi-Fi…hence the billboard idea. I haven’t seen this idea in place anywhere yet, so it is my idea and you’re seeing it here for the first time (I hope BC Ferries is reading).

  • Kev

    If Rogers and Telus would just add more cell tower repeaters on the islands near active pass then people wouldn’t need BC Ferries WiFi.

  • raslucas

    Ya. I suppose they’ve never considered working with the carriers to make this happen eh? I’d expect that a commercial version of a wifi hotspot with one of the carriers like Telus or Rogers would be the ideal solution. Maybe the money didn’t make sense for them.

  • RanyDany

    The network described here was designed for low speed, operational use, not for a flock of bandwidth-hungry passengers. I was actually amazed it was even possible to let users surf when it was first implemented. Commercial services are not cheap and if you don’t want your ferry rates to go up (wink!) then you need to pay for the service.