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Old 09-03-2020, 05:40 PM   #1
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Default Choosing antenna for LTE/5G + WiFi

We've got a Sportsmobile build starting soon on a Ford Transit EB chassis.

We plan to work from the van so I'm looking to do what we can to get decent signals on the road (cellular) or in the campground (WiFi - if it's there and working...)

From suggestions from Avanti and others, I'm looking a configuration of:
* PepWave Surf Solo Router
* Verizon MiFi JetPack for cellular connect to Router via USB
* Occasional use of iPhone connected with WAN via WiFi
* NO booster

I'm stuck on the best/good antenna solution. I'd rather stay away from a mast.

I'm looking at something like the MobileMark LTMG508 mounted on the roof to act as a ground plane.

This antenna has MiMo for cellular and two WiFi antennas for campgrounds.

Anyone have experience with the MobileMark? Or a better choice?
Where does this mount? I am concerned that the AC will block it since it's so low to the roof.

Thanks!
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Old 09-03-2020, 08:20 PM   #2
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I having a van custom built and had the builder put the LTMG508 on the roof. I plan on plugging the leads directly into my Verizon hotspot. I pick the van up in a few days and will report on how it works. Would be interested if others have the LTMG508 and how it worked for them. I currently have one of those paddle shaped MIMO antennas that you suction cup to a window. It actually works fairly well so I'm expecting the LTMG508 to be great.
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Old 09-04-2020, 12:20 PM   #3
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Couple things:

Why not get a Pepwave with built-in cellular radios & SIMs & leave the JetPack out of the equation?

Are you planning on being dependent on a single carrier? I've had several situations where one carrier had good signal, the other not.

Do you need wired Ethernet for some reason?

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Old 09-04-2020, 12:38 PM   #4
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Couple things:

Why not get a Pepwave with built-in cellular radios & SIMs & leave the JetPack out of the equation?
This is certainly an option, but I prefer a separate JetPack, the reasons being that I often use ours outside the van and it also affords easy upgrades as things advance. I expect my Surf SoHo to be adequate for a long time. Not so the JetPack.

A disadvantage of the JetPack is that the antenna connections are fragile. I solved that by 3-D printing a nice dock, which is very handy.
Quote:
Do you need wired Ethernet for some reason?
I installed wired ethernet throughout the van. I think it is marginally cleaner to hardwire things like the AppleTV and a smart TV. I do admit, though, that WiFi has come a long way.
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Old 09-04-2020, 03:04 PM   #5
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There's lots of reasons for not getting a pepwave, most of it is cost.

A pepwave costs $1K while a jetpack is a few hundred dollars.

2 sim cards requires 2 overpriced plans from 2 companies with horrible customer service. I'm not that desperate for 24/7 service. Besides, no one gets a signal in national parks.

I can slip the jetpack in my pocket and use it anywhere (don't think I can do that with a pepwave)

Not sure where pepwave stands with 5G. Do I buy a 4G one now, then pop another $1K to get a 5G one next year? Or, can I buy a 5G one now that also supports 4G and then roll over to a 5G plan when the nationwide rollouts are further along?

Don't get me wrong, I think pepwave is a great product, it just seems a bit overpriced. I'm going to stick with the jetpack for now and re-evaluate where 5G and Elon's LEO satellite service stands next year.
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Old 09-04-2020, 03:05 PM   #6
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Agreed with Avanti on the MiFi. Having two units gives me more flexibility, esp as 5G is coming online with different services on different carriers.
I also expect to want to take it around with me to other locations.

Also for cost. My company pays for the MiFi and the PepWaves get pretty pricey! But certainly an option to consider.
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Old 09-04-2020, 06:20 PM   #7
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We use a Pepwave Cellular Router with external MobileMark LTM402 antenna.

We don't understand the interest people have in Jet-Packs . . . why not just use your cell phone as the "Jet Pack"?
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Old 09-04-2020, 06:37 PM   #8
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We don't understand the interest people have in Jet-Packs . . . why not just use your cell phone as the "Jet Pack"?
Because you can't connect a roof-mounted MiMo antenna to a cell phone.
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Old 09-04-2020, 07:00 PM   #9
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The jetpack is designed specifically for data. I don't have the ability to quantify it, but my Verizon jetpack seems to get slightly better reception than my Verizon cell phone. It's definitely better when I plug a MIMO antenna into it. It has a better battery life than my cell phone and I can connect a lot more devices to it. Unlimited data plans for jetpacks tend to be a lot cheaper than unlimited cell phone plans. If you already have a pepwave, I wouldn't bother getting a jetpack, but if you don't, the jetpack is a cheaper and more flexible way to go IMO
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Old 09-04-2020, 07:31 PM   #10
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Because you can't connect a roof-mounted MiMo antenna to a cell phone.
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It's definitely better when I plug a MIMO antenna into it. It has a better battery life than my cell phone and I can connect a lot more devices to it. Unlimited data plans for jetpacks tend to be a lot cheaper. . . If you already have a pepwave, I wouldn't bother getting a jetpack, but if you don't, the jetpack is a cheaper and more flexible way to go IMO
The few Jetpacks we've seen only had internal antennas. The existence of connectors for external antennas does change the logic.

We would be interested in hearing more about "jetpack plans". We're with Verizon and to our knowledge there is no such thing as an unlimited data/hot spot plan. Indeed, Verizon charges us the same for our Pepwave as for a cell phone ($30/month when adding to an existing plan). And gives us the same limited 15 gigs/month of hot spot data. And unlike the data you get for use on the phone, itself (i.e. not in hot spot mode) where they advise if you use too much data they MAY throttle you back - - when it comes to hot spot data, if you exceed 15 gigs, they WILL throttle you back.

Which is why we still use our phones for hot spots. When traveling we can 'blow-thru' 15 gigs in short order so must balance the use of our Pepwave and cell phones so that, hopefully, none run out of data in any given month. Generally we limit use of the Pepwave to either 1) while we're driving; or, 2) where cellular coverage is marginal and we require the rooftop antenna. Otherwise we try and use the cell phones. And this is where the dual/multi WAN input of the Pepwave is handy, we can easily switch between "internet sources" without having to reconfigure our network or take certain computers off the network.

PS: When we're in/near the campervan we generally have all our equipment, including cell phones, on campervan power so battery life becomes a non-issue.
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Old 09-04-2020, 07:47 PM   #11
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The few Jetpacks we've seen only had internal antennas. The existence of connectors for external antennas does change the logic.
Some do and some don't. Most folks who use MiMo prefer the AC791L, which certainly has external MiMo support. It is getting long in the tooth, though.
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Old 09-04-2020, 07:47 PM   #12
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It's a challenge. Last year Verizon offered an unlimited data plan for hotspots for $65/month. People jumped on it so they quickly discontinued it. They claim after 20Gb they reserve the right to throttle in times of high network volume. I've never found their speed to be particularly good at any time, but it's good enough to stream. Not sure when or if Verizon will offer another deal.

I've also noticed that some of the newer hotspots do not come with antenna jacks. There's no good reason for them to do this. We have one of the older 7730 jetpacks. I believe you can still get them and the 8800 wasn't a significant upgrade.
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Old 09-04-2020, 07:54 PM   #13
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It's a challenge. Last year Verizon offered an unlimited data plan for hotspots for $65/month. People jumped on it so they quickly discontinued it. They claim after 20Gb they reserve the right to throttle in times of high network volume.
I don't think it is fair to call a plan with throttling "unlimited". ALL devices that support tethering of any kind (phones, hotspots, etc) will have a catch of some kind. Otherwise people would use them as their home service, which obviously the carriers will never allow.

Maybe Elon will save us...
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Old 09-04-2020, 08:59 PM   #14
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This is great info.

I still have one major question: Where's the best place to mount a MobileMark (or other low profile antenna)? Does the A/C interfere?
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Old 09-04-2020, 09:16 PM   #15
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avanti, did you mean this literally? "Otherwise people would use them as their home service, which obviously the carriers will never allow."

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Old 09-04-2020, 10:10 PM   #16
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avanti, did you mean this literally? "Otherwise people would use them as their home service, which obviously the carriers will never allow."

Bud
Yes indeed.
That is the fundamental reason you never see unlimited plans that allow tethering. The industry maintains an arbitrary firewall between "wired" internet and "mobile" internet. A few high-usage homes would suck up all the bandwidth of a cell tower. The network is just not architected for this usage pattern, so they have to maintain recourse for what they consider "abuse". They don't always exercise their throttling options, but they make very sure that they are always there for when they are needed.
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Old 09-04-2020, 10:22 PM   #17
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Yes indeed.
That is the fundamental reason you never see unlimited plans that allow tethering. The industry maintains an arbitrary firewall between "wired" internet and "mobile" internet. A few high-usage homes would suck up all the bandwidth of a cell tower. The network is just not architected for this usage pattern, so they have to maintain recourse for what they consider "abuse". They don't always exercise their throttling options, but they make very sure that they are always there for when they are needed.
Sorry avanti, I agree with this 'today' I was really asking you to be a soothsayer - say 5 years or 10 years from now when I no longer exist.

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Old 09-04-2020, 10:36 PM   #18
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Sorry avanti, I agree with this 'today' I was really asking you to be a soothsayer - say 5 years or 10 years from now when I no longer exist.

Bud
Oh, that's different.
In five years things will be completely different. The LEO satellite constellations will change everything. Nobody knows how that will sort out, pricing wise.
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Old 09-05-2020, 12:49 AM   #19
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This is great info.

I still have one major question: Where's the best place to mount a MobileMark (or other low profile antenna)? Does the A/C interfere?
I'll let you know next week. I get my van on Tues. It's mounted mid-ship between the solar panels in the front and the AC in the back. I would think that up front or all the way back is best, but the guys that built my van felt they didn't have room to mount elsewhere. I do know you need a metal grounding plane underneath the mobileMark antenna for it to work best so it has to be mounted on a bare metal roof or have a metal plate installed underneath. I'm not sure how big that grounding plane needs to be, but if I recall, approx 15" diameter is ideal.
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Old 09-11-2020, 11:43 AM   #20
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A couple of general comments -

-- The OP never really described must-haves (vs. would-like-to-haves). It's impossible to nail down an antenna solution if the demands of the system are not clearly articulated.

-- Husband and I have not found a way to meet our traveling cellular needs without both AT&T and Verizon. They each have their own white holes, by design.

However, if you watch for special offers, getting an air card doesn't need to be prohibitively expensive. If you use just one carrier as your primary, then getting a standalone card on the other at a good price is impossible, I have found. But I have Verizon and DH has AT&T as our cell phone providers - we are not both on one carrier as a family plan or whatever, due to personal preferences that are older than our marriage. Therefore, air cards are account add-ons, and we each reciprocally use each others' cards.

I have the model of Jetpack that Avanti cites. Regrettably, it's probably $50 per month. I don't use it nearly enough to justify that price, but it is what it is (I need it for business reasons).

However, we put an in-car device called a Mobley on my husband's AT&T account which is only $20 a month. It was one of those special offers that materialized a year or so ago. It does have a handicap in that it automatically shuts off after 2 hours of being stationary. The lower price came with the assumption that it would only be used while the owner's vehicle was in motion (which its internal accelerometer detects), and thus a lower data demand would result. Rebooting it while we are stationary is a pain, but it saves at least $360 per year over a less-burdened AT&T option.

Technomadia is typically good about publishing special offers that pop up in the market.
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