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Old 01-29-2019, 03:24 PM   #1
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Optimizing LTE-A Modem Performance in an RV

In this thread I detailed the conversion of the WiFiRanger SkyPro Pack that came as standard equipment in my New Aire to a PepWave MAX BR1 MK2 LTA-A Modem/Router. After going through a really interesting learning curve I ultimately just added the PepWave and left the WiFiRanger SkyPro in place. The SkyPro has been powered down since installing the PepWave since the PepWave can do everything the SkyPro does and more.

The MAX BR1 MK2 LTA-A Modem/Router is my first experience dealing LTE-Advanced. LTE Advanced is a major step forward in cellular technology. While there are many changes in LTE-A over LTE the single biggest change is that LTE-A can aggregate more than one LTE source to enhance speed and reception. LTE-A can aggregate LTE radios on different frequencies and even mix reception to include more than one tower. This aggregation capability significantly enhances reception for mobile users since LTE-A can keep the internet alive while on the move working with more than one tower at a time.

For LTE-A to work with more than one LTE source it often has to combine LTE radio sources from LTE channels ranging from 700 MHz to over 2,000 MHz. Antenna performance is very different working over such a broad range of frequencies. Lower frequency LTE channels are much easier to receive and pass down an antenna lead to the modem located inside the coach. With a good installation the lower frequency LTE channels make it to the modem with little signal loss. With the high frequency LTE channels things get very complicated. It is almost impossible to get a good strong high frequency channel from an antenna on the roof down to a modem in a cabinet located in the coach. The result is that anytime the LTE modem latches on to a high frequency LTE channel, reception and speed really suffers.

The issue is compounded with LTE-A if the modem is trying to aggregate a low frequency LTE channel with a high frequency LTE channel to improve performance. If the high frequency channel is too weak the modem will give up trying to aggregate channels and fall back to single channel LTE reception.

There is really no good solution in a coach trying to get a high frequency LTE channel down to an LTE modem radio located in the coach. So the only solution is to place the LTE-A modem/router on the roof in close proximity to the antennas.

With this as background I have now moved my PepWave BR1 MK2 LTA-A Modem/Router to a sealed utility box on the roof. Both SureCall antennas are attached to the utility box with very short RG58 antenna leads. The PepWave is powered by POE using an internet connection between the utility box on the roof and my ethernet switch inside the coach.

Here is the installation:







And here are the results. Here is a speed test done using my previously installed SureCall antennas connect to the PepWave via RG58 cable.



And here is the speed after the conversion to the roof top utility box.



As you can see speed improvement is dramatic, nearly 3X. The first speed test was done using remote antennas. Apparently the high frequency channel was too weak so the modem only ran in the LTE mode.

The second speed test was done a few hours later after moving the PepWave to the roof. Now both LTE channels were strong enough for the modem to switch to the LTE-A mode and aggregate the channels. Here is how it looks in the control panel running in LTE-A mode.



As you can see the modem has placed the high frequency LTE Band 4 in the primary position and the low frequency LTE Band 13 in Secondary position combining them into an LTE-A aggregation.

High end mobile LTE-A modem/routers are beginning to deal with the issue of channel reception by moving the radios to the roof. PepLink just announced the MAX HD2 Dome that directly deals with the issue of reception performance in LTE radios. The MAX HD2 Dome goes for somewhere around $5,000. For less than $700 you can get the same performance and have built WiFi and WiFi as WAN by just removing the MAX BR1 MK2 LTA-A Modem/Router to the roof.

Got to do more testing of my new installation but early results suggest you need to put an LTE-A modem/router on the roof immediately attached to antennas for the best performance.
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Old 01-29-2019, 03:43 PM   #2
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You sure have the no how I read sometimes with interest your threads, beyond my capabilities , many thanks for your help.

I have added to your master thread of information.

Between us we do have some talented people on this NEWMAR FORUM.
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Old 01-29-2019, 05:05 PM   #3
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Would heat be an issue to consider with the modem on top and in a box?
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Old 01-29-2019, 05:11 PM   #4
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Would heat be an issue to consider with the modem on top and in a box?
I painted the box white and raised it 1" above the roof to control heating. If necessary could ventilate the base without getting it wet.

WiFi Ranger and satellite dish seem to do ok on the roof, so my guess is the PepWave will take it as well.
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Old 01-29-2019, 05:23 PM   #5
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I'm going to do an alternate test. I ordered two more SureCall antennas with 2 foot RG58 cables. I'm going to see how much of an effect cable length is (I'm using 10 ft to the roof now) but obviously balance the fact these antennas will not be roof mounted. I'll mount the two antennas on the back of my AV cabinet inside the front windshield. This test may help others that don't want to get on their roof or can't but running internally mounted dedicated MIMO antennas may help. I had an extensive talk with a 3gstore.com rep and discussed various options they offer as they have quite a few MIMO antenna types but several have 16ft cables attached. I'm sure you could cut and splice but I didn't want to so I went with 2 x SureCall with 2ft cables and will test and compare to the roof pair when they arrive in a week or so.
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Old 01-29-2019, 05:29 PM   #6
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I'm going to do an alternate test. I ordered two more SureCall antennas with 2 foot RG58 cables. I'm going to see how much of an effect cable length is (I'm using 10 ft to the roof now) but obviously balance the fact these antennas will not be roof mounted. I'll mount the two antennas on the back of my AV cabinet inside the front windshield.
I predict your test will have good results if the cell towers are located in front of the coach.

The SureCall antenna documentation says a ground plane is not necessary. I decided to add one anyway to the top of the enclosure in my installation. No idea if it makes any difference but it can't hurt. You can see the ground plane made of aluminum in the first image above.
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Old 01-29-2019, 05:55 PM   #7
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I predict your test will have good results if the cell towers are located in front of the coach.
I retract my prediction. Just remembered the tinting on the windshield on my NA must be metalized. I tried to mount a GPS antenna behind the tinting. No go. Same antenna worked on the windshield several feet below the tinting.
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Old 01-29-2019, 07:07 PM   #8
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My GPS antenna is there. No issues for me. We’ll see how it goes.
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Old 01-30-2019, 08:20 AM   #9
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TURBOPILOT Thank you for sharing this setup. This looks like an excellent solution for mitigating the signal loss over the antenna cables.
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Old 01-30-2019, 08:40 AM   #10
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Parts list for those interested?
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Old 01-30-2019, 09:27 AM   #11
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I was thinking about the ventilation, and I have an idea, which may be a good way to start my Thingiverse / 3D printing experience.

The basic idea is to install holes in the bottom of the box, then create a platform that is sealed on all but 1 side ,creating an air flow path. This would keep the pepwave in a dry area (on top of the platform). By adding a fan, air could be forced out of the box, which would flow over the pepwave, and be pushed down the side, and out the bottom.

I think this would be very doable, and result in a kit that could be easily assembled and installed.

The only cable needed would be the POE, and a POE splitter would be used to power the fan.

Potential Issues to address:
*How much CFM would be required to get the heat to push out the bottom of the box.
*In hot summer days (105F) with direct sun, how will the unit get cooled? The unit will be generating plenty of heat on its own, and with the additional heat from outside, I can see where the Max operating temp will quickly exceed the 145F. Need a safe way to bring in fresh air to aid in cooling.
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Old 01-30-2019, 09:29 AM   #12
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I personally think you're going to fry it or cause a thermal shutdown. So waiting to see, but this may be Turbo's way to get a new system next summer

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Old 01-30-2019, 09:30 AM   #13
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Here is one commericial option for an outdoor enclosure that is ventilated

14x10x4 Inch Vented OUTDOOR Enclosure with PoE interface and Cooling Fan - NBP141004-40FW
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Old 01-30-2019, 09:37 AM   #14
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Here is one commericial option for an outdoor enclosure that is ventilated

14x10x4 Inch Vented OUTDOOR Enclosure with PoE interface and Cooling Fan - NBP141004-40FW
Looks like this box is set up for the more conventional POE 48 volt wiring. PepWave max voltage is 30 volts. I am running a non-standard 12 volt POE to my remote box.
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