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Old 11-19-2020, 07:06 PM   #1
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My 30km Wifi Solution (19 miles)

Hi Folks!

I realize there are a ton of useless over-priced RV specific Internet access solutions out there so I thought I would post up how a former network engineer gets his Internet by repurposing the ancient TV antenna. You know, that odd looking thing that you crank up into the air and have to put back down before you leave?

This is a real cheap and real fast solution. So cheap, and so fast, that you might miss it. So here it is....btw, it's less than 100 USD.....and it's 10,000x better than whatever 'RV' solution you bought.

First, we remove the existing antenna and then we cut off the piece that holds the two bars together on the roof. This is really easy because the antenna is plastic....

With the antenna removed (just two circlips and pull two pins) we have the antenna on the ground. As you can see, I take out my oscillating saw and cut off the part we need, the bracket that holds the two pipes together on the roof. It's plastic, you can cut with a hacksaw blade in your hand if you want to or maybe even a serrated knife....it's that easy.

Once that's done, we go back on the roof and put the bracket back on the two poles. It's literally just line it up, push the pins back in, and then put the circlips back on.

At that point, the antenna assembly is back to stock, minus the TV wings.
Then we install the dish with a 2" hose clamp around the front pole. The front pole only, or else you will not be able to raise and lower it.

I had previously ran a network cable onto the roof. How did I do that?

I removed one of the speakers inside the unit, the one closest to the antenna, and then drilled a hole through the roof. Don't' worry, it's really easy to seal it better than Monaco ever could have. Push the network cable on up through the roof, leave yourself lots of slack on both ends, and then use URETHANE to seal it up (windshield adhesive). Good for at least 50 years and will never ever leak. Where do you get Urethane? Any auto parts store. Fresh Urethane is better than old (read the date code).

At this point it's clear that one end of the network cable goes into the dish, where does the other end, inside the motorhome, go?

I was easily able to route it into what I call the electronics bay. That is the shelving above your windshield where your VCR used to sit (you know, the one you replaced with a Blu-Ray player?). Either way, that's really where you want it to go as that's where all the electrical outlets are. In my case, the network cable goes to a firewall and then to an internal 833MB access point. But that's not important. That end is up to you.

Mount the dish with the hose clamp, and then run the network cord into it after you put new ends on. At that point, the dish is in place and it operates exactly the same as the TV antenna....Ie, you raise and lower it before leaving and you can align it both vertically and horizontally (aim it for best signal) !!! In my pics, the network cable is outside the arms, I will fix that tomorrow and put it through the holes built into the side of the arms where the cable used to go. That way it will clean and neat like the factory did it.

Btw, the dish is rated for something like 125 miles per hour...and that's accurate. But your TV antenna mount is not - so pull it back down before you leave or you will see the warning light on the dash.

How does it work? First, you need an access point to connect to. Most parks have Wifi, so they give you that info. Or maybe you have, as we do here, open access points all over the place. Just connect to one of those and away you go. Remember, you can rotate the dish for best signal and raise/lower it for best signal.

The Internet company in my country, Canada, has something like 450 Wifi Access points that are open for their customers. Or, maybe you can share with someone across the street. Whatever. If there is Wifi out there, that you can access, this dish will do 30km's so you can pretty much nail anything out there. In my case, I routinely bore through trees for 250 meters to a local access point.
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Old 11-19-2020, 07:09 PM   #2
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Here's some more pics. As you can see, it folds down for travel just like the TV antenna used to. Given that the TV antenna design includes dialing it in for height and direction, it's a really nice way to go.

Like I said, tomorrow I will run the network cable up the arm which will make for factory install.

How much is that dish? Why, it's usually less than $100 USD, by about 50% and it's completely weatherproof. It will work in the Sahara, the Antarctic and in 150 MPH winds. It won't be the dish that lets you down.....

What is it? The Ubiquiti M5. I routinely get 150MB connections on it but mine is an older one. The new ones do 450 Megs and the MSRP is $49 USD....yes, that's right, carrier grade gear for $49.95 USD......

Btw, you only need 30MB for 4K TV....
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Old 11-20-2020, 10:26 AM   #3
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Nice write-up, Bob! This is going on my to-do list. I have no use for a TV antenna.
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Old 11-20-2020, 12:02 PM   #4
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Not that Id worry about the dish down against the roof...another option.
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Old 11-20-2020, 12:24 PM   #5
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WOW, that's absolutely brilliant! I've never thought about retrofitting the original TV antenna for this purpose. What is the model number of the dish, specifically? The Ubiquiti M5 is a line of many different products, and I can't seem to find a big dish like that online.
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Old 11-20-2020, 12:58 PM   #6
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It's not that big. In fact, when you see the box it ships in, you'll be surprised.

As far as I know, you want the first M5 as that's the one that does not use the proprietary AirMax protocol.

Apparently the model number is LBE‑M5‑23 but I'm not sure even that is correct. From what I understand, you want the 1x1 with 100MB network port.

I've been told anything that has AC in the part number means it's AirOS only. Not even sure if that's accurate

That's one thing about Ubiquiti, their stuff changes fast and they are not often clear.....having said that, they probably have other items that do the same.
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Old 11-20-2020, 01:14 PM   #7
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Couldn't you have just attached that dish to the arm, below the TV antenna?

That way you would still have OTA TV, when desired.
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Old 11-20-2020, 01:47 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by 96 Wideglide View Post
Couldn't you have just attached that dish to the arm, below the TV antenna?

That way you would still have OTA TV, when desired.
Yes!

This is how I used to do it but....you cannot raise and lower the arm anymore. So....everytime you break camp you have to go up on the roof and remove the dish etc. That got to be a pain.

I chose to forgo OTA on the basis that if you have the 'net you have TV in some semblance anyway. But in all truth, a satellite dish is ideal for TV and that is on my list. Replacing the sat dish with something new.

But you bring up a good point. You don't have to cut the OTA antenna, you can try it out or attach it to the first pole.
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Old 11-20-2020, 02:03 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by BobJones View Post
It's not that big. In fact, when you see the box it ships in, you'll be surprised.

As far as I know, you want the first M5 as that's the one that does not use the proprietary AirMax protocol.

Apparently the model number is LBE‑M5‑23 but I'm not sure even that is correct. From what I understand, you want the 1x1 with 100MB network port.

I've been told anything that has AC in the part number means it's AirOS only. Not even sure if that's accurate

That's one thing about Ubiquiti, their stuff changes fast and they are not often clear.....having said that, they probably have other items that do the same.

What's the downside of using their newer AC antenna which uses the proprietary AirMax and AirOS protocols?
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Old 11-20-2020, 05:58 PM   #10
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You have to be connecting to the same type of device, ie, a AirOS access point.

I'm still looking into it to see if there is a 2x2 MIMO version that is not stuck on AirOS as as replacement for mine.
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Old 11-20-2020, 06:23 PM   #11
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In Ubiquiti products AC does NOT mean Apple Air OS. In my stick house I'm running UAP-AC-LITE & UAP-AC-Pro to provide WiFi to Android devices and IOS
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Old 11-20-2020, 06:26 PM   #12
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Good point

Not be confused with Apple AirOS.

When you have a Ubiquiti AirOS device my understanding, and experience, is that it has to connect to another AirOS device.

So....unless you are doing point to point, it's not what you want. You want the conventional AC wifi, if possible.
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Old 11-20-2020, 06:28 PM   #13
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This seems like a very simple setup for a really annoying problem.
BobJones thank you so much for posting this.
So my dinosaur brain gets this right...

1) Attach the antenna to my useless OTA mast.
2) Shove a ethernet cable through the roof and plug it into the little black box.
3) Plug the box into it's power supply.
4) Run a second ethernet from the black box to wireless router.

Thanks!

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Old 11-20-2020, 06:37 PM   #14
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Yes! That is about it.

You can make it as complex or simple inside as you like.

The dish has it's own radio and comes with POE so you don't have to run power to it (it gets its power through the network cable).

So it comes with a little black box with two network jacks, one is the network cable/power feed to the dish and the other is Internet (assuming you have the dish aligned and picking up wifi).

So you actually don't even need a router inside. You could, if you wanted to, even just plug your laptop into the other network jack.

Or...as you said....put in a wireless router inside and then have Wifi inside getting it's Internet off the dish.

I went elaborate and have a UB hardware firewall and 877 MB Unifi frisbee. But you can just a easily put a cheap hub on it and then run wires everywhere or even a cheap linksys router and have wireless. Whatever you like.

Once the dish is up, and the network cable is attached and run inside, assuming you are connected to an access point, you're good to go. What you do with it at that point is up to you.

Mine is connecting through a forest, fully wet, 250 meters and I have -65 signal. It will work right through the snow too. I have no doubt I could do 10km's with line of site. By rotating the dish, from inside, I can also pick off the park's wifi.

With this dish, you will have the strongest signal period. If there is Wifi, you will get it. And if it's close, like in a park, or outside a park, you will get it. But it's cheap, fun and powerful and it's 100% rock solid. I have an old product of theirs, Pictostation HP, and it spent 10 years in the rain and snow and wind and then gave to my cousin who has been running it outside for another 10 years.......

It will not die. Ubiquiti makes carrier grade radios cheap on the basis of mass sales. Most Eastern European countries are entirely serviced by UB. You can also use Nanostation M5's and the like. They have LOTS of great and powerful gear, all cheap (so to speak) and all bullet-proof.
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