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Old 03-26-2015, 07:00 PM   #1
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Improving Internet Access

I need to improve the speed and reliability of my Internet access. I am not retired, but have considerable freedom to travel as long as I can maintain Internet access with my shop’s server. For Internet access, I presently use either my Verizon phone as a hotspot, or the Verizon MiFi. I am exchanging the MiFi for the newer Jet Pac model tomorrow, but I’m told by knowledgeable friends (Thanks Glenn and Alan!) that the two are very similar. I DO NOT need improved cell phone VOICE communications, although I may get them as part of any upgrades I install. My usage is almost entirely for data, and my communications are not bandwidth-intensive. The most "graphic" things I communicate are engineering drawings in .pdf format, seldom exceeding 300K in size.

I have never found ANY campground WiFi to be both sufficiently fast and reliable for my purpose. Some installations have been useful during some particular hours, but once the inconsiderate RV folks begin streaming movies, the connection becomes worthless.

I understand that the improved speed and access will be largely dependent on both being able to RECEIVE stronger cell phone tower signals, as well as to SEND stronger signals to the tower. Therefore, I expect the solution to at least include some sort of external antenna, most likely a directional one requiring aiming. I prefer the signals TO and FROM my laptop to be wireless inside the coach (my Lenovo UltraBook does not even come standard with an Ethernet port). I would consider an Ethernet solution if necessary.

I fully expect the solution may run as high as $1K or so, but if it allows me the freedom to travel, it will be worth it.

If there are any among you who have experience with improving your Internet access, I would like to hear your solutions. I have not ruled out satellite access, but presently have not researched it at all.
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Old 03-26-2015, 07:13 PM   #2
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A website / group you may find of interest is at the following link "http://www.rvmobileinternet.com"

Lee
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Old 03-26-2015, 07:16 PM   #3
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I work often from our motorhome. To improve WiFi, if it can be improved, I use a Hawking Technologies dual radio repeater mounted on a mast at the rear ladder, with integrated 11db antenna. It often makes unusable CG wife usable, and improves marginal CG wifi. Although if the CG backhaul is the primary limitation, it of course cannot help. If wifi is not usable I have a MiFi 4G hotspot device, with external antenna and an amplified cradle. This usually works very well, although usage can run into $$$.
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Old 03-26-2015, 07:29 PM   #4
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Some variety of what Vsheetz is doing is what you want. I'm not sure you need a directional cellular antenna. They can be tricky to aim and a lot of hassle. You often have no idea which way to aim them as you don't know in what direction the cell tower is located. I have had great results with a Wilson Trucker cellular antenna (omnidirectional) hooked to a Wilson amplifier. Between the rooftop antenna location, antenna gain, and the amplification, I have seen zero bars on my phone go to 3 or 4 bars at times. The same signal increase will of course work for your data devices.
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Old 03-26-2015, 07:44 PM   #5
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X-2

Wilson Wireless Signal Booster and antenna are some of the best!

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Old 03-27-2015, 04:07 AM   #6
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Van,

Take a look at 3gstore.com.

They have a great selection of products and their pre-sales technical,support is very good.

I have a Wilson repeater on my MH and at some locations where I have no service outside, I can get 3-4 bars and make voice calls in the MH. Mine is a little older so it only supports 3G data, but that is the best that was available at the time.

There are many products that now support LTE and 4G. I will be looking into upgrading soon.

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Old 03-27-2015, 06:44 AM   #7
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There is likely no silver bullet for this. For improved cellular reception I use a Wilson Sleek in 4G. Use it with an appropriate antenna and it will do wonders. I use a small indoor omni, but an outdoor might be necessary.

WiFi will take different equipment. 2.4GHZ Outdoor omni is your best bet. The Ubiquity BulletM2 with an omni will be your best all-round.

Keep in mind you are venturing into the the fiddling around zone. While the cellular stuff is straight forward, the wireless stuff is not. WiFi ranger makes some products that do what you want. However, they are expensive and I have found they don't have the stability you will expect. Jack and Danielle Mayer has a good discussion of what yo are thinking.

Good Luck!
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Old 03-27-2015, 06:50 AM   #8
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Faster than Verizon 4G is going to be hard to find.. Excide 2-way Sat can take multiple video (Skype)streams but alas is not compatible with the RV lifestyle. (Spot beamed like local network TV).

There is or was a company that does offer video grade 2-way Sat... I am not sure their name (Thought it was I-Direct but a search suggested otherwise) Hughes may also be able to help (Hughesnet) But do not think they can deliver the speed you claim to need.
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Old 03-27-2015, 07:11 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vanwill View Post
I have never found ANY campground WiFi to be both sufficiently fast and reliable for my purpose.
Agreed!

I struggled just as you have. I finally settled on putting a Wilson Electronics RV/Trucker antenna on the roof, the short spring base one that mounts close to the roof, not the one on the extended stalk.

I mounted the antenna on the rear corner where I could drill down through the roof into the rear electrical cabinet, then ran the antenna cable into the back closet. I have used a variety of cellular cards and MiFi modules, getting the appropriate adapter cable and connecting them directly to the antenna.

My plan was to get a power booster if warranted, but I have never found the need. That would be my suggestion: the antenna is such an improvement in and of itself, that you may not need the booster. Try it without it, and don't spend the money unless you need it. You probably won't.

I used Millienicom for a few years with a 3G then 4G hotspot accessing the Verizon towers. I got pretty good service. Then Verizon took over the Millenicom accounts directly, and I was less impressed with their deals. I switched over to AT&T, sharing the account's data plans with my phones, and ended up getting 50% more data at a lower price than Verizon wanted (I got in just in time for a great data deal price.) Having more monthly data is nice, but I am surprised at how much faster the AT&T 4G MiFi is compared to the one from Verizon.

I didn't run any formal speed tests to back up the claim, but it sure feels faster - I can watch YouTube videos in HD now with no buffering using the AT&T Netgear AirCard 781S, and with the Verizon Pantech MHS291 I kept getting buffering pauses even when selecting lower resolution SD settings. (And this is at the same locations, I use the MiFi for Internet access at home as well as on the road.)

Good luck! Good Internet access on the road is possible. Not necessarily cheap, but possible.
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Old 03-27-2015, 07:17 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr4Film View Post
X-2

Wilson Wireless Signal Booster and antenna are some of the best!

Dr4Film ----- Richard
My wilson makes the motorhome go from 1 bar to at least 3 in most cases. Internet is good I get 4g where ixrtt is normal. The drawback you leave the phone in the cradle so you must use a bluetooth earpiece.

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Old 03-27-2015, 07:24 AM   #11
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Don,

Doesn't Wilson have wireless boosters now that don't require you to tether or cradle the mobile?

Dr4Film ----- Richard
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Old 03-27-2015, 08:18 AM   #12
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Thanks for the replies. I hope there are others. I am definitely learning a great deal by reading some of your references. You all seem more knowledgeable about this subject than I.

Someone correct me if I am wrong, and then please answer the question at the end of this paragraph. I stated in the original post that it appeared to me that the limitation of most campground WiFi systems was not their signal strength, but their capacity to handle multiple connections at once. I have been in one campground in particular, where the owner went to considerable lengths to improve his WiFi by placing multiple repeaters around the campground. My hotspot-enabled Verizon phone (or my MiFi)always showed "5 bars", but the connection was miserably slow...except at 3AM, at which time it was quite fast and very usable. It was my assumption that his "pipe" (bandwidth) to the ISP was simply not sufficient to support large volumes of traffic at once. QUESTION: In cases such as this, NO WiFi-enhancing device would be of any value, correct?

Similarly, correct me if I'm wrong about this aspect of cellular Internet access. When at Quartzsite this year, there was NO WiFi available that I was aware of. Using my hotspot-enabled Verizon phone for Internet access--at 3AM, access was blazingly fast, but at peak usage times, it slowed considerably. It never became totally unusable (as has been my experience with campground WiFi), but it slowed considerably. QUESTION: My ASSUMPTION was that the tower was overloaded. In that case, no cellular-enhancing device would be of benefit, correct?

To answer one person's comment about data usage, I have found that even at times when I have had very good cellular Internet access (10 meg) and used it daily, in a months' time, I would never use 20 gig.

One more question, please. Does data transmission via MiFi or Jetpack connect to different towers than voice usage? Alan, a very knowledgeable fellow at Quartzsite, had a very sophisticated cellular data enhancing setup in his coach, based on a Jetpack, external antenna and amplifier. He said it appeared to him that his Jetpack was not connecting to the same tower as his cell phone might. He thought that might be an explanation for why his setup performed so well.


I do not mean to infer that I am not going to pursue one or both of these alternatives (WiFi or cellular). I don’t have any choice—I MUST improve my Internet access if I wish to continue taking anything other than very short trips. Thank you for all your responses. I have a lot of reading and studying to do.

My apologies for the long post. I am researching all the suggestions you have all made.
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Old 03-27-2015, 08:26 AM   #13
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Richard, Adam, and Don--you all have made good suggestions. I might just start with an antenna that is compatible with any amplifier I might choose later and see how that works.

Again, my budget is far from unlimited, but my need for reasonably fast, reliable Internet connection makes it a top priority.

I am a member (or lurker) on several forums, but this one is my "go to" for rapid response and sound advice. Thank you all!
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Old 03-27-2015, 09:09 AM   #14
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In all cases, the speed you get will be determined by the slowest link the chain. A slowdown anywhere along the path will slow down the overall transfer, regardless of how fast any of the other segments may be.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vanwill View Post
QUESTION: In cases such as this, NO WiFi-enhancing device would be of any value, correct?
Correct!

Quote:
QUESTION: My ASSUMPTION was that the tower was overloaded. In that case, no cellular-enhancing device would be of benefit, correct?
Correct!

Quote:
To answer one person's comment about data usage, I have found that even at times when I have had very good cellular Internet access (10 meg) and used it daily, in a months' time, I would never use 20 gig.
That, of course, will depend entirely on your usage and what you do with the Internet. Personally, I use the same MiFi device at home and on the road (I live in the boonies and it's my only practical alternative: dial-up is too slow, satellite is too expensive.) I could generally get by with 20 GB per month, but I had to be careful at times. I know have 30 GB (with rollover) and it's not much of an issue for me. Some people will get by with far less, others would never make it on such a limited amount. Only YOU can decide how much you need, other's experiences are pretty much useless in that regard. (It's like asking a bunch of people what size pants they wear so you can decide what to get for yourself!)

Quote:
One more question, please. Does data transmission via MiFi or Jetpack connect to different towers than voice usage?
It's technologically possible. I don't know how common it might be.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vanwill View Post
Richard, Adam, and Don--you all have made good suggestions. I might just start with an antenna that is compatible with any amplifier I might choose later and see how that works.
The important detail is the frequency band(s) used by your device. Both your antenna and amplifier must be compatible with those frequencies. Therefore, by definition, if your amplifier is compatible with your device, the antenna will be compatible with both the amplifier and with a direct connection to your device.

It all starts with the requirements of your device.
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