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Old 08-27-2016, 05:46 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, 06:21 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, 06:30 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, 06:45 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, 09:03 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, 11:50 PM   #6
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Whoa, great post! Thanks.
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Old 08-28-2016, 05:26 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, 11:41 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, 12:16 PM   #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, 01:49 PM   #10
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.

+1

Thanks for all the user experience report.



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Old 08-29-2016, 08:35 PM   #11
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Excellent info here!

My 2 cents:

Like others, I'd also suggest cellular data for anything important. Important to you might mean simple connectivity or might involve sensitive data. You can't really rely on free WIFI. I was just in a campground for three nights and they never were able to get the WIFI up & functioning even though it was visible. They said the techs were stumped blah, blah, blah... I was able to use my cell data.

I'm also finding that free WIFI often filters out some traffic preventing access to video data from your remote security cams etc. A VPN tunnel would likely be a workaround for that.

re: WIFI

These "Boosters" etc. are likely newer names for Repeaters, Wireless Bridge or Extenders etc. Some might have an additional features like a firewall. I think a repeater or extender just "repeats" (extends) the signal with no firewall. When I upgrade the house router to keep somewhat up with technology the old one usually gets re-purposed as a repeater in the RV. I'll likely always be behind current tech in the RV though.

I recently got an AC router for the house and the previous N router which has a repeater mode switch might go to the van to replace the existing G router/repeater. I have to figure out if the N router with two antennas can utilize the single 2400-2485 MHz exterior antenna on the van. Up until recently the G router as a repeater has worked well but I think the trend is now having setups that use only newer technologies and excluding legacy tech. I couldn't see some campground access points recently with the G router/repeater. I could see them on my N equipped phone and laptop though. Similarly, there are AC networks that I "see" at home through AC equipped devices but don't see them with N or G based equipment. It's either range issues or excluding older tech in the config or both I guess.
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Old 09-01-2016, 10:13 PM   #12
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Question for anyone running a WiFi repeater, booster, extender etc.

Does it allow you to connect to WiFi that has an intercept page requiring that you agree to something to continue?

My current setup in the van won't work in that situation. I don't get to see the intercept page so I can't click to continue. I tested another router in repeater mode today and am thinking it might work as it allows you to use the same ssid name as the the host router.
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Old 09-18-2016, 03:08 PM   #13
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just adding a bit to the topic here:

There's so many options for WiFi in an RV and I'm not even referring to brands.

Campground WiFi -> End user devices (phone/laptop)
Campground WiFi -> End user devices (phone/laptop) -> Shared
Campground WiFi -> Booster -> laptop -> Optionally Shared
Campground WiFi -> Repeater / Extender -> End user devices
Campground WiFi -> Repeater Bridge (DD-WRT) -> End user devices
Campground WiFi -> Bridge -> AP -> End user devices
Campground WiFi -> Bridge -> Router -> End user devices

Edit to add: I think a repeater with the same SSID as the source is the least desirable way to go for an RV setup. Anyone with the campground passcode could connect via your repeater. Bandwidth would already be halved using a basic repeater and having perhaps dozens of additional connections through your repeater could really slow things down for you.

I think only the last option above would allow for end user devices to be on a different subnet than the source.

The cost can be really low. I just picked up a 300N dual antenna router (3rd party firmware flash-able) for $7 at a thrift store. (You can't have too many spare routers on hand can you?) A lot of us would have older routers left over after upgrading that can be re-purposed for RV use so that could be considered free.

I just tested something along the lines of Avanti's setup and it seems to all work just fine. I used an HSPA 3G+ router (cell) and a Bridge coupled via Ethernet cable. The Bridge was connected to an AP via WiFi. The only caveat appears to be that I'd have to remember to disable the cellular router's WLAN to make sure to use free WiFi if on a limited data plan.

Modern routers allow for USB tethering of an Android phone so that's another option. I think all of my spare routers have a USB port.

I'm leaning toward keeping cell and WiFi connectivity separate though. That way I'd be sure to do secure activity via cell data and general activity surfing via WiFi.

External antennas added to any of the options above would help. Winegard's (and other brands) choice to put the device with antennas outside should improve the quality of the signal tremendously. http://www.classbforum.com/forums/f2...nder-5816.html - Avanti's setup is shown there also.

That has me wondering if there is space under the A/C shroud, roof fridge vent cover or even a fan vent cover to mount a router or covered router PCB board up there.

If I don't put the device on the roof then I'll just continue with a DD-WRT repeater/Bridge and external antenna setup I have now. The only change will be replacing the G router with an N router.
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Old 09-19-2016, 01:13 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markopolo View Post
just adding a bit to the topic here:

There's so many options for WiFi in an RV and I'm not even referring to brands.

Campground WiFi -> End user devices (phone/laptop)
Campground WiFi -> End user devices (phone/laptop) -> Shared
Campground WiFi -> Booster -> laptop -> Optionally Shared
Campground WiFi -> Repeater / Extender -> End user devices
Campground WiFi -> Repeater Bridge (DD-WRT) -> End user devices
Campground WiFi -> Bridge -> AP -> End user devices
Campground WiFi -> Bridge -> Router -> End user devices

Edit to add: I think a repeater with the same SSID as the source is the least desirable way to go for an RV setup. Anyone with the campground passcode could connect via your repeater. Bandwidth would already be halved using a basic repeater and having perhaps dozens of additional connections through your repeater could really slow things down for you.

I think only the last option above would allow for end user devices to be on a different subnet than the source.
The other way to get a separate SSID is to use a router that supports "WiFi as WAN". This can get to the Internet from the campground WiFi and rebroadcast it on a different network. The Surf SoHo can do this.

BTW: In planning such a system, don't forget that modern cell phones can get their service from WiFi when there is no cell service avaiable. That means, for example, that if you have a Verizon hotspot and have only Verizon cell service (or campground WiFi--if it is fast enough), your AT&T cell phone will still work. For this reason it makes sense to concentrate on good data, rather than messing around with the crappy cell-signal repeaters. MiMo LTE is the way to go!
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Old 09-19-2016, 03:51 PM   #15
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Looks like "WiFi as WAN" on your setup would be similar to "Repeater" (not "Repeater Bridge" on a DD-WRT firmware router.

I had been assuming the router in my van was set to "Repeater Bridge" but it was set to "Repeater". I set it up maybe 6 years ago so I'm not surprised I didn't remember it correctly.

With DD-WRT the advantages of the mode of operation labelled "Repeater" for RV use are:

1. Set your RV network SSID to whatever you want.
2. Set your RV network to be on a different subnet. For example, the network in the RV is on is 192.168.y.x and the upstream router that offers internet is at local address 192.168.x.x. Other folks on the 192.168.x.x network would be able to scan for & see my DD-WRT Repeater (they couldn't connect to it) but they wouldn't see any other devices of mine such as a laptop or phone etc. as they're on a different subnet (192.168.y.x).

"Repeater Bridge" on a DD-WRT allows you to set a different SSID but the setup guides I read indicate that you will be on the same subnet as the main router as DHCP is disable on your router. That main router handles DHCP for all connected devices. In DD-WRT "Repeater" mode your own router handles DHCP for your connected devices.

The labels for these modes of operation appear to be just that. There's no strict adherence to technical definitions it seems. A router flashed with DD-WRT operating in "Repeater" mode is a MUCH different device that a stock Asus router operating in "Repeater" mode for example.
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Old 09-19-2016, 11:37 PM   #16
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I recorded this data for my use as I tested various setups today but figured I might as well post it here also:

G Router in van, in garage, DD-WRT build 26125, site survey. AP's in house basement 50' to 60' distant.

Stock 2dBi antenna:
My AP1 Rssi -72
My AP2 Rssi -79

Van roof mounted EnGenius EAG-2408 8dBi Omni Antenna:
My AP1 Rssi -70
My AP2 Rssi -62

N Router in van, in garage, DD-WRT build 26125, site survey. AP's in house basement 50' to 60' distant.

Stock dual 2dBi antennas:
My AP1 Rssi -72
My AP2 Rssi -72

Antenna selection: auto
Right - van roof mounted EnGenius EAG-2408 8dBi Omni Antenna:
Left - stock 2dBi antenna:
My AP1 Rssi -67
My AP2 Rssi -57

Antenna selection: auto
Left - van roof mounted EnGenius EAG-2408 8dBi Omni Antenna:
Right - stock 2dBi antenna:
My AP1 Rssi -67
My AP2 Rssi -57

Force both left
Left - van roof mounted EnGenius EAG-2408 8dBi Omni Antenna:
Right - stock 2dBi antenna:

My AP1 Rssi -69
My AP2 Rssi -57

Force both right
Left - van roof mounted EnGenius EAG-2408 8dBi Omni Antenna:
Right - stock 2dBi antenna:

My AP1 Rssi -68
My AP2 Rssi -57

Force both right
Left - stock 2dBi antenna:
Right - van roof mounted EnGenius EAG-2408 8dBi Omni Antenna:

My AP1 Rssi -66
My AP2 Rssi -57

Force both left
Left - stock 2dBi antenna:
Right - van roof mounted EnGenius EAG-2408 8dBi Omni Antenna:

My AP1 Rssi -67 (not always visible in scan)
My AP2 Rssi -57

The roof mounted antenna does improve the signal strength.
The N router signal strength is slightly better than the G router. Also, N spec is faster than G spec.

Additionally, I could see more neighboring AP's with the N router than with the G router.

It appears that antenna diversity - What is dual Wi-Fi antenna? - Definition from WhatIs.com -
Quote:
Dual Wi-Fi antennas operate on a principle known as antenna diversity, which offers two different reference points for signal reception or transmission (or both) and uses the better one.
is in play here. It doesn't seem to matter which side antenna connector gets the roof mounted antenna.

I have not been able to determine if the dual antenna N router is MIMO enabled.
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Old 09-19-2016, 11:55 PM   #17
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Thanks for so many replies! I'd say about 90% of this is over my head
I have an iphone that I use regularly and is mostly dependable.
What I'm really looking for is a way to make sure my jetpack works (ellipsis MHS800L). Today I had 4 bars near a freeway on the outskirts of Albuquerque, NM and still couldn't get decent service when logging on for work. It's 100% fine if I'm using my computer for everything else - it's just the remote access to work (which needs to be secure). I suspect that this might also be a mac issue but am unwilling to buy an entirely new computer at the moment.
Any other thoughts?
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Old 09-20-2016, 12:22 AM   #18
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I don't know anything about MACs or your ellipsis. With a Windows laptop I try to remember to temporarily disable updates from occurring if using cell data.

There may be settings to cache some content locally also. I vaguely remember tweaking settings like that if using Terminal Server or Citrix to remote into work. Does "work" have tech support you can speak with?
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Old 09-20-2016, 12:23 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RNYC View Post
Thanks for so many replies! I'd say about 90% of this is over my head
I have an iphone that I use regularly and is mostly dependable.
What I'm really looking for is a way to make sure my jetpack works (ellipsis MHS800L). Today I had 4 bars near a freeway on the outskirts of Albuquerque, NM and still couldn't get decent service when logging on for work. It's 100% fine if I'm using my computer for everything else - it's just the remote access to work (which needs to be secure). I suspect that this might also be a mac issue but am unwilling to buy an entirely new computer at the moment.
Any other thoughts?
My recommendation is to (a) replace your Jetpack with far superior Jetpack AC791L; and (b) get a roof-mounted MiMo antenna. The AntennaPlus AP-CC-M-SCSC-WH is comparable with the ACL791L:

IMG_7216.jpg

I think you will find far better performance with such a configuration.
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Old 09-20-2016, 04:39 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avanti View Post
My recommendation is to (a) replace your Jetpack with far superior Jetpack AC791L; and (b) get a roof-mounted MiMo antenna. The AntennaPlus AP-CC-M-SCSC-WH is comparable with the ACL791L:

Attachment 3592

I think you will find far better performance with such a configuration.
Thanks! Assuming you installed your antenna yourself. I'm not going to be able to do that. Any suggestions so I don't chose the wrong person and end up with a roof leak?
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