Internet connectivity - Fiberglass RV


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Old 05-16-2014, 10:31 AM   #1
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Internet connectivity

At home I stay connected with Wi-Fi. I have a TiVo in the camper, and I can transfer TV shows from the house TiVo through my Wi-Fi network. I can also watch Netflix on it. It works so well I never bothered hooking up to the network with Ethernet wires.

So I was considering what to do when away from home.

I just found out I can remove the SIM card for my iphone which has unlimited data and stuff it in a 4G MiFi. This might be the solution I am looking for. I could still get text messages because I use Google Voice for texting. I am wondering how I could use the phone for telephone calls using VoIP.

The MiFi I am looking at supports an external antenna. It looks like a very good solution.

Has anyone been playing around with this sort of thing?
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Old 05-17-2014, 10:11 AM   #2
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I ordered a MiFi and am shopping for an Omni antenna. I debated getting a high gain directional antenna, and these work better but it mean more headache getting it pointed I the right direction although I may add one of these later.

An optimal system includes an amplifier and I may consider that later on also.

Many of these antenna/amplifier systems include a patch (flat) wall mount antenna indoors. I am skipping that completely.

My choice for an antenna is a marine mount. The typical marine mount has a clamp so that it can pivot to lay down and there are optional mast to raise the height up higher. My thoughts are that I can mount it on the back of my camper inverter and flip it up high easily for better reception.

The cable feedline is extremely important At these frequencies cable line losses are huge and can exceed the gain of the antenna for longer lengths. That is offset by placing the antenna up high where it works better. I happen to have a 500' spool of Chinese Shiren cable which is equivalent to Times Microwave LMR-400. For an RV this is fine. For a home application on a longer run I would use LMR-600 or 1200.

While I prepare for the job, I thought it might be a good time to install my external WiFi antenna. My connection to the house has been marginal. Particularly in heavy rain and high bandwidth cases such as streaming Netflix I have three antenna to play with. A high gain vertical antenna --that is going on the house, a medium gain vertical-- planned for the boat , and a high gain YAGI-UDA directional-- planned for the camper.

My idea for mounting the Yagi antenna is to use a fixed marine mount base and manually point it when in a fixed location, otherwise leaving it pointed on the axis of my truck do I can point it by pointing my truck. Most free wifi locations tend to have parking lots oriented around a buildings parking lot. I'd like to be able to park on the far side of a parking lot and make a connection. I've found these free wifi site often are set up so they work indoors . I don't want to have to go into a Tim Horton's to check my email. I anything to loose weight !
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Old 05-20-2014, 09:05 AM   #3
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My MiFi is coming in tomorrow. $140 dith shipping for a new one on eBay. I paid another $100 for a marine antenna, mount, and short mast. I plan to buy a longer mast at west marine later on. First I will try this out. I may buy an amplifier at some point if I find I need it. This will be an interesting week.
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Old 05-20-2014, 09:26 AM   #4
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I have a 4G LTE mifi from AT&T (it's backward compatible with ordinary 4G) and I also bought the patch antenna. It's a Sierra Wireless unit and antenna. I run the phone and tablet with it, and on rare occaisions have let a camping neighbor access it. I have found it to be very acceptable but I don't download/stream movies with it. Often there are only a few "bars" of signal and I don't have an unlimited data plan.

I rarely use campground WIFI access for security reasons even though I have firewall and anti virus programs.
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Old 05-20-2014, 10:11 AM   #5
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I use Millenicom - $89.99/month.
  • 3G/4G MiFi Hotspot
  • 20GB of data
  • Connect up to 10 WiFi-enabled devices
When I was on the Outer banks at Frisco NPS campground, I could only get 3g. When I stayed at Oregon Inlet, I got 4g. I'm planning another trip to Outer Banks (Hatteras NPS) near Buxton, and it looks like it is right on the border of 3g/4g.


I am considering a Wilson amplifier, but I can't figure out from the web site how it works. They talk about a cell phone cradle and I have a little box - not a cell phone. Has anyone looked into the Wilson amplifiers for MIFI?
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Old 05-20-2014, 10:26 AM   #6
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Huck, I find the information on Wilson amp's confusing. I need to give them a call.

First I want to find out if I can use Google Voice or some other VOIP for telephone service. I'll see how practical it is to use that, Skype, or google Hangouts for voice com.
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Old 05-22-2014, 09:02 PM   #7
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Here is the marine antenna I bought. I have not tried it out yet. It will need a much longer masts to get the height up higher. I also called Wilson Electronis to just talk about amplifiers and got their recommendations. One of the more confusing issues is all the different connectors. It looks like they mostly use SMA connectors which are very small; suitable for smaller gauge wire.

The automobile, RV, boat amplifiers are designed to reduce single output as you get closer to cell towers. The home-based amplifiers are more powerful however they do not provide for reducing output for vehicle. Home-based amplifiers provide significantly more gain and use N connectors which are lower loss connector suitable for heavier gauge wire longer cable runs to reducing losses at these frequencies.

I put my iPhone in signal test mode. Despite bring on a hilltop my signal is pretty poor here -105dB which is about one bar.

I think I'll take a break here. I smell propane. I might have a leak somewhere. I better check to see if I I left something on, or if not, shut it off at the tanks. I turned the furnace on for the first one in a while. That might be the culprit.


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Old 05-22-2014, 09:10 PM   #8
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It was just the refrigerator I restarted it after signing rings out.

This is the RV/auto / boat amplifier that is recommended by Wilson. A gal named Holly was a delightful woman who helped me in their recommendations department.

Amplifier Model 460108

It comes in a kit and includes a 4" high antenna on a mag mount and an internal antenna if you want to use that.

The FCC has certain antennas that are approved for this sort of use. I recommend using an appropriate antenna.
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Old 05-22-2014, 10:53 PM   #9
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Huck...we have a wilson amplifier...our mi-fi unit fits in the cradle...the amplifier came with several arms of varying sizes. We also have a small roof mount type antenna that works in the car and then mounts onto a mast that that mister made from the telescoping pole from a pool cleaning net that mounts onto a small rod he bolted to the rear bumper of the Scamp.

It all works pretty well and quite often gives us enough extra boost to make the difference between whether we can post pictures on FB while on the road.

All in all we're happy with our set=up. We'll see what happens when we put it to the test on our Westward-Ho Madventure this summer.
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Old 05-24-2014, 04:05 PM   #10
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I installed the MiFi antenna mount today. I will have to do it over. The plastic mount I chose for its light weight is not strong enough and will surely flex and break. It is junk. I'm very disappointed in it. I'll have to replace it with a stainless steel one. I originally planned to use a stainless mount plus stainless mast extensions but deemed those too heavy. I was hoping the plastic and fiberglass mount and mast section would be light and strong. Well, the mast sections are fine at least. II may have difficulty running the feed line through the exit ports on the mast sections. I will solve that by drilling them out if necessary, and plugging the unused holes somehow.

Photos show two fiberglass masts one on top of the other and the stainless section, shown in an early post's photo, removed.

I put the stainless piece that came with the antenna and mount on a stainless top plate mount for my WiFi antenna--a high gain beam (Yagi-Uda) antenna. With all those threads on the mount I should be able to manually turn it to any fixed direction easily enough for calm days. Or adjust the U-bolts that will secure it for windy situations. So I will just bolt down that top plate when I get some hardware and cable glands. I will have to cut off that beautiful N connector to bring the feed line inside where it will hook up to a Ubiquity bulletin a WiFi access point and tie into my camper Ethernet switch with Cat 5 wire which will also provide 12V DC to the access point. I'll also have to drili a drain hole to prevent water from collecting in there.

Meanwhile my pup is eating my wiring bag.

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Here is the antenna is the down for travel position.



Yagi-Uda High Gain directional antenna. It's a Cushcraft, and about 13dB gain. It works better than an omni-directional antenna but nulling out interfering adjacent signal--the benefit of a steerable antenna. Shows mast base and short section of mast on top.
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Destructive dog.
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Old 05-24-2014, 05:17 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2yax2go View Post
Huck...we have a wilson amplifier...our mi-fi unit fits in the cradle...the amplifier came with several arms of varying sizes. We also have a small roof mount type antenna that works in the car and then mounts onto a mast that that mister made from the telescoping pole from a pool cleaning net that mounts onto a small rod he bolted to the rear bumper of the Scamp.

It all works pretty well and quite often gives us enough extra boost to make the difference between whether we can post pictures on FB while on the road.

All in all we're happy with our set=up. We'll see what happens when we put it to the test on our Westward-Ho Madventure this summer.
Thanks. I just found out about an hour ago that the Millenicom Jetpack fits in the Wilson amplifier. I think I will order one before I head back to the Outer Banks.
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Old 05-24-2014, 05:18 PM   #12
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For general info on mobile Internet connectivity, I recommend this video from technomadia.

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Old 05-25-2014, 05:32 PM   #13
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10 minutes of information crammed into an hour long video. Still worth watching. nice folks.
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Old 05-26-2014, 07:02 PM   #14
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New and improved mount. I used a stainless swivel base this time and decided to use the short stainless mast section at the bottom to allow an easier path for the cable. I still need to acquire a length of cable. I need to call Winson to see if the Amplifier I bought--in the mail, is an SMA or FME connector.

I also reinforced the inside of my cabinet with a 4x6" x 1/2" piece of starboard and used fender washers on all four bolts. The bolt were given to me by the manager of the local West Marine . These were 3" bolts and I luckily had spare fender washers and used the nuts and lock washers from the kit.

This mount is pretty solid. My only worry is driving off with it up. I may put a label on the door "Mast Down?" To remind me.

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