About BC Ferries

Wi-Fi at BC Ferries

BC Ferries is continuously working to enhance the travel experience for our customers. We strive to deliver a reliable and readily available internet connection for customers at terminals and onboard vessels servicing the major routes between Vancouver, Vancouver Island, and the Sunshine Coast.

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.

Wi-Fi networks onboard a ship are a challenge for a number of reasons:

• Wi-Fi signals cannot penetrate steel hulls and bulkheads can block radio signals, reducing range.
• Movement of other vessels may block the signal and cause interruptions of Wi-Fi service.
• Radio interference can interrupt the Wi-Fi signal or reduce range.
• Ship movement can result in aiming problems when using highly directional antennas to increase 
  ship-to-shore range.
• Distance to shore can have an impact on the signal strength and cause drops in connectivity.

How are we working to improve the Wi-Fi experience?

Ship to shore

Without telephone or coaxial cables connecting vessels back to the terminal, it is necessary to transmit the Wi-Fi signal from each ship using a ship-to-shore radio.

BC Ferries is in the process of installing the latest in ship-to-shore radio technologies onboard all major route vessels and at shore-based locations. These new radios will have much higher connectivity and throughput capabilities than the previous generation radios.

When vessels are too far from the terminal for a reliable Wi-Fi connection, shore-based repeater sites are used to relay the Wi-Fi signal from a closer shore-based location back to the receiving radio at the terminal. A network of these shore-based repeater sites will be installed along the major routes.   .   

Ship to shore connection diagram

Onboard the vessel

Wi-Fi coverage is available in all customer areas. Please note: customer Wi-Fi is not available on the vehicle decks at this time. The diagram below demonstrates access points onboard providing the greatest signal strength and Wi-Fi coverage.

Onboard Wi-Fi Coverage before and after diagram

Terminals and vessels with Wi-Fi networks:

Terminals  Vessels   
• Swartz Bay
• Tsawwassen
• Horseshoe Bay
• Langdale
• Departure Bay
• Duke Point
• Coastal Renaissance
• Coastal Celebration
• Queen of New Westminster
• Spirit of Vancouver Island
• Spirit of British Columbia
• Queen of Oak Bay
• Queen of Cowichan
• Queen of Coquitlam
• Queen of Surrey

Streaming video (YouTube and Netflix)

There are limitations to the amount of data that can be concurrently transmitted to and from the vessels. In order to allow as many customers as possible to access Wi-Fi, streaming video has been restricted for customers onboard vessels and at terminals.

For more information, check our Frequently Asked Questions >>