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BC Ferries removes Wi-Fi from major sailing routes

Victoria -

BC Ferries has removed its Wi-Fi services on vessels sailing along its most popular routes, following numerous complaints about its quality.

The internet service was powered down on July 5 for the following routes: Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay, and Horseshoe Bay to Langdale.

BC Ferries says the move comes after years of increasing complaints about the poor connection quality, and the lack of a feasible replacement system.

"Extensive research and analysis of various technology solutions has shown it is not possible to improve the Wi-Fi service on our ferries to the level expected by users and we continually receive complaints about the quality and reliability of the service," reads an update on the BC Ferries website.

BC Ferries first introduced Wi-Fi aboard sailings in 2010 through its own land-based radio devices.

The company says that over the past 11 years, demand for the Wi-Fi has risen from about 40 to 50 users per sailing to more than 900, which strains the system.

Any replacement system, such as satellite or cellular technology, would be prohibitively expensive and would likely be unable to accommodate the volume of users per sailing, according to BC Ferries.

An airline can offer internet services for passengers because planes carry far fewer passengers than the roughly 2,100 passengers that sail on larger BC Ferries vessels, says the company.

Moreover, changes in radio standards means that Wi-Fi coverage would be even worse in the future if BC Ferries kept its current system in place.

"The existing Wi-Fi service runs on a ship-to-shore network using wireless network radios which we would need to upgrade and certify under newer, stricter Radio Frequency (RF) regulations," says the company.

"These newer radio devices have a large reduction in the amount of power we can apply to its network radios, which would further reduce the reliability and quality of onboard Wi-Fi."

Free Wi-Fi service is still available at most BC Ferries terminals, including Tsawwassen, Swartz Bay, Horseshoe Bay, and more than a dozen others.

BC Ferries notes that cellular coverage is still available on most routes, meaning people with data plans on their cellphones can still connect to the internet. Top Stories

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