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Old 08-27-2016, 04:46 PM   #1
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Default Wifi, Boosters, & Hot Spot Questions from Newbie

Hi out there.

I'm taking off in 2 weeks to travel across the the country in a 2001 Rialta (first trip!) and I will be working full-time from the road. I already work from home using wifi, but in a major city. At times I use my Verizon jetpack hotspot for work but it's not totally dependable. It seems that it slows down as the day goes on (my theory being that the more people using internet/satellites the slower my downloading/uploading speeds - this seems to happen all over the country).

There are a few times that I will be traveling through smaller towns and I'm concerned that I won't have decent wifi access. I will certainly position myself to be in larger towns when I need to work but...

Any thoughts on the best boosters and where to get the best wifi access while on the road? I do not want to drill an antenna or satellite into my RV.

Thanks!
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Old 08-27-2016, 05:21 PM   #2
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mcdonalds, starbucks have free wifi.

verizon is generally accepted to give the best coverage nationally.

In my work I travel, usually by road- we use mifi type devices and generally they work well near population centers...and they don't much work in the boonies.
This seems to hold true or the 4 major carriers

I use t-mobile for my personal stuff- the cost works for me- even though coverage is not as good

mike
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Old 08-27-2016, 05:30 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RNYC View Post
Hi out there.

I'm taking off in 2 weeks to travel across the the country in a 2001 Rialta (first trip!) and I will be working full-time from the road. I already work from home using wifi, but in a major city. At times I use my Verizon jetpack hotspot for work but it's not totally dependable. It seems that it slows down as the day goes on (my theory being that the more people using internet/satellites the slower my downloading/uploading speeds - this seems to happen all over the country).

There are a few times that I will be traveling through smaller towns and I'm concerned that I won't have decent wifi access. I will certainly position myself to be in larger towns when I need to work but...

Any thoughts on the best boosters and where to get the best wifi access while on the road? I do not want to drill an antenna or satellite into my RV.

Thanks!
You can subscribe to the Verizon business plan.
They guarantee the throughput.
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Old 08-27-2016, 05:45 PM   #4
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There is wifi service and there is cellular service. Which are you most concerned with?

In addition to McDonalds, Starbucks and similar I found most every public library I have visited had wifi as do many of the private campgrounds and some public.

Cellular's best coverage is Verizon and AT&T. Verizon reputedly has the widest coverage but I find many times AT&T has better signals as I use both. The others not so much. I found Sprint worthless and gave up on it. T-Mobile is mostly metro area based. There are others but they are not primary and use the big 4's signals.

There are booster antennas for both wifi and cellular. With cellular you can create hotspot setups so you can use a laptop computer as you would transparently like wifi. For picking up wifi signals close by like in campgrounds I use a WifiRanger antenna, booster and router so all devices pick up the signal same as you would at home with a wire wifi router. For example, if I am in a KOA I can see my internal wifi network called "Alvar" and the campground network called "KOA". I could connect directly to KOA but instead I will connect my Alvar network to KOA and then in turn on my laptop where you have a choice of wifi networks I would select Alvar. Generally with an outside antenna the Alvar network through the WifiRanger hardware is going to give me a stronger, faster signal.

Avanti might pop in here and answer your cellular options. I think he has researched this more than anyone.
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Old 08-27-2016, 08:03 PM   #5
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Yeah. I've tried numerous cellular repeaters over the years, both in RVs and in a vacation home with problematic service. I no longer use them. The problem is that they all amplify the noise along with the signal, and it is the signal-to-noise ratio that is important, much more than raw signal strength. Unless you are trying to get service in a cave, they really only improve things marginally under most conditions.

The answer is something called MiMo. This is whats-hapenin'-now in wireless. A MiMo device has TWO antennas instead of one. The cell towers also have two antennas. The way it works is that the device automatically (and frequently) selects which of the four possible paths between the antenna-pairs is working best and chooses it. You might think that this would be a small thing, but it makes a huge difference by minimizing damage due to echos and multi-path interference. It is great.

In order to use it, you need a MiMo-capable device, meaning that it has two jacks for external antennas. You also need an external antenna. No external amplifier is involved.

I am currently using a Verizon Jetpack AC791L:

MiFi.jpg

It is connected to a MiMo dual antenna from AntennaPlus (model # AP-CC-M-SCSC-WH):

IMG_7216.jpg

The antenna is roof-mounted. This setup works spectacularly well; far better than any amplifier I have tried.

Finally, I designed a nice cradle for the Jetpack to make it easy to connect the cables, and printed it on a 3-D printer:

IMG_7275.jpg

If anybody wants to print their own, PM me and I will send you the model.
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Old 08-27-2016, 10:50 PM   #6
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Whoa, great post! Thanks.
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Old 08-28-2016, 04:26 PM   #7
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Avanti's post looks really cool, but I've had lousy luck with Jetpacks - I have a drawer dead ones.

For the last couple years, I just use my iPhone as a hotspot for my laptop & tablet. I have an AT&T plan, which seems to work fine in most towns and along the interstate highway corridors. I don't use any boosters or repeaters or any of that stuff. I had used a wifi-ranger in my Oliver, but let that go when I sold it.

I do see many people using them to draw in the campground wifi and make their own hotspots in their coach. What that does though, is make the wifi space VERY crowded in an otherwise rural environment. And of course, as theirs cuts in and out (and changing channels), it bumps all the remaining spots around. Normally if I'm connecting on wifi, you can expect a shuffle every half hour or so from this.

Often I just connect to my phone either bluetooth or usb and that ends up being pretty bulletproof for those times I'm doing something important that I don't want interrupted.
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Old 08-29-2016, 10:41 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wincrasher View Post
Avanti's post looks really cool, but I've had lousy luck with Jetpacks - I have a drawer dead ones.
Some of the older Jetpacks had flimsy power connectors that often failed. The AC791L appears to be much better built--at least it seems so so far. However, all of those tiny coaxial antenna connectors are pretty fragile. That is one reason I made the dock--it is much easier on the connectors (and on the user) than repeatedly plugging in the wires by hand.
Quote:
For the last couple years, I just use my iPhone as a hotspot for my laptop & tablet. I have an AT&T plan, which seems to work fine in most towns and along the interstate highway corridors.
The iPhone makes a fine hot spot (although I have a legacy unlimited plan which I would lose if I activated it on mine). The trouble is the lack of external antenna ports. As you say, it is fine on the highways. But in remote campsites, a rooftop MiMo antenna greatly increases the odds of decent service.
Quote:
I don't use any boosters or repeaters or any of that stuff. I had used a wifi-ranger in my Oliver, but let that go when I sold it.

I do see many people using them to draw in the campground wifi and make their own hotspots in their coach. What that does though, is make the wifi space VERY crowded in an otherwise rural environment. And of course, as theirs cuts in and out (and changing channels), it bumps all the remaining spots around. Normally if I'm connecting on wifi, you can expect a shuffle every half hour or so from this.

Often I just connect to my phone either bluetooth or usb and that ends up being pretty bulletproof for those times I'm doing something important that I don't want interrupted.
I haven't experienced the kind of issues you describe (at least outside of NYC), but if you have such problems, you should consider setting your hotspot to the 5GHz band, which is almost always wide open.
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Old 08-29-2016, 11:16 AM   #9
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While we are on the topic, here is the rest of the story of my van's comms setup:

Windcrasher mentioned the "WiFi Ranger". This is package that consists of two-radio router that supports what is called "WAN over WiFi". This means that one of the WiFi radios picks up the campground network and the second one retransmits it inside of the van as a separate LAN. If you are comfortable with router management, you can build your own such system for much less money and probably better performance, by just buying a suitable router and your own external WiFi antenna.

We use a PepWave Surf SoHo router:

This is a very fine router that supports Wan-over-WiFi, both wireless and wired LANs in your vehicle, and can also directly link to the AC791L via USB. I have a wired Ethernet to several points in the van (including an AppleTV that I modified to run on 12VDC native).

The icing on the cake is a NanoStation Loco M2:



This is a very powerful directional WiFi antenna that can pick up very weak signals. You can use a pair of these things to create line-of-sight WiFi links miles apart. Ours is mounted on the TV antenna mast so we can point it from inside the vehicle:
Antenna1.jpg

These antennas actually have their own routers built into them, so you run a shielded ethernet cable to them rather than a coax. This prevents RF cable loss. However, it does complicate the network management when setting it up, so you really do have to know your way around a router. Once set up, though, it is an amazing system. That said, I have to confess that we have not ended up using it very often. The cellular network has gotten good enough that the MiMo hotspot usually carries the day. But, if you want to absolutely maximize the likelihood of having a good network connection, this is the way to do it.
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Old 08-29-2016, 12:49 PM   #10
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.

+1

Thanks for all the user experience report.



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