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Old 12-01-2016, 04:46 PM   #1
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WiFi Extenders

Hello fellow AS friends...

I searched this AS forum to find a thread discussion re: WiFi extenders.... The lack of success finding one brings me to asking y'all this......

My thinking - perhaps incorrect thinking - is that with an extender (such as the WiFi Ranger Mobile Ti and Go2) I will enhance the likelihood that I can fully utilize my laptops and handheld devices, principally at weak-signal RV parks, but elsewhere, too. Moreover, considering that we are for the most part completely entombed in an aluminum building, enhancing WiFi via external antenna and "router" inside the TT is appropriate.

Does anyone here have experience using and installing such extenders?

What products do y'all recommend?

Any other advice on this would be appreciated.

C&N
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Old 12-01-2016, 05:02 PM   #2
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WiFi Extenders

Well, I built a wifi extender myself, since I didn't want to spend the $$$ on the commercial ones.

How familiar are you with how wifi works?

If the answer is 'not much', then I'd consider one of the major manufacturers.

If discussing TCP/IP or 2.4 GHz antennas is no big deal, then I can post my system notes which might be of interest.

Oh, forgot to ask, what is your budget?

Rich
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Old 12-01-2016, 05:23 PM   #3
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Two routes. WiFiRanger, and they just released a new version that covers both 2.4 and 5mhz bands, big improvement.

Or the DIY route which is well documented on David Bott's site. http://www.outsideourbubble.com/oobe...ary-19-join-us

David even has videos. Downside is that the equipment he uses is 2.4ghz only.

Lastly, it's well documented that most RV parks have very slow connections. You may get a more solid connection with a booster but still won't be able to do stuff like watch a movie, Netflix, Hulu and the like. The parks just don't have the bandwidth out of the park and when 100 rv's all hit it at the same no one is happy.

The same thing is happening even on cellular MiFi connections. Stories abound from Quartzite last year with overloaded towers. Same issue.

But pulling in a more distant connection, like a Starbucks or MacDonald's, then a booster will definitely help.

I have the WFR/Elite and use it about 20% of my camping. Other times when I test speeds they are so poor as to be useless, sometimes even for emails.
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Old 12-01-2016, 05:52 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ghaynes755 View Post
Two routes. WiFiRanger, and they just released a new version that covers both 2.4 and 5mhz bands, big improvement.

Or the DIY route which is well documented on David Bott's site. http://www.outsideourbubble.com/oobe...ary-19-join-us

David even has videos. Downside is that the equipment he uses is 2.4ghz only.

Lastly, it's well documented that most RV parks have very slow connections. You may get a more solid connection with a booster but still won't be able to do stuff like watch a movie, Netflix, Hulu and the like. The parks just don't have the bandwidth out of the park and when 100 rv's all hit it at the same no one is happy.

The same thing is happening even on cellular MiFi connections. Stories abound from Quartzite last year with overloaded towers. Same issue.

But pulling in a more distant connection, like a Starbucks or MacDonald's, then a booster will definitely help.

I have the WFR/Elite and use it about 20% of my camping. Other times when I test speeds they are so poor as to be useless, sometimes even for emails.
+1 on all of this. I see WiFi quality at RV Parks range from great to totally unusable.

I've heard great things about WiFi Ranger products.

That DIY link looks like a good system, thanks for posting.
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Old 12-01-2016, 05:53 PM   #5
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Contributor BoldAdventure is savvy about this stuff. Travelled and worked full time from the road. Ck his posts (and others on those threads).
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Old 12-01-2016, 07:31 PM   #6
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I have both wifi extender (wifi ranger) and LTE/4G/3G wireless spectrum signal booster (Wilson). \Here is the bottom line (IMO).... If you are looking to get better signal strength at RV parks then fine, the wifi extender will work... however you are still at the mercy of the bandwidth management polices at the at park which typically throttle wifi data rates to < 1MBs. Barley enough for Netflix streaming... If your RV park is being generous...

More an more I simply use the mobile LTE network for data connectivity. I've got 10Gig / month on my Verizon hotspot and 20Gig / month on my AT&T data sharing iPhone. With a mobile signal booster my throughput is typically > 5MBs if I am staying somewhere with Ok coverage. Even out in the middle of nowhere boondocking these days I can pick up some signal for text messaging / etc...

The cost of mobile internet continues to decrease. If I were to do it again I'm not sure I would have installed my wifi-ranger.... rather, I'd probably just use my Wilson booster and a device that can share LTE data.
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Old 12-01-2016, 09:59 PM   #7
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WiFi Extenders

Besides a useful gain in SNR, I'd say a key benefit of my setup is that I use two radios (routers).

I have one connected to a 9 dB omni external antenna to 'see' the RV Park wifi, and a second inside the coach getting it's data via DHCP over a Cat5 cable from the first router. The antenna is mounted magnetically on a steel angle bracket Velcro'd to the rear Zip Dee Awning strut. I just route the RG-58 cable through the door (or I just hang it from the left hand speaker grille).

That way, I only have to login to my external router, and set up the connection to the RV Park one time, with one device. They are on separate subnets so it's easy.

Thus all of our wifi devices (TV, PlayStation, iPad, iPhone, Samsung Tablet, laptop) don't have to be connected individually each time.

They all just 'connect' to my local inner network automatically.

Really saves me time arriving in camp.

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Old 12-01-2016, 10:35 PM   #8
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I too decided to DIY my own two-router system connected to a small Yagi antenna. The first router is a WRT54G with external antenna connectors and the second was a small Apple Airport. The Airport connects to all the local devices inside the trailer including visitors. This allows all my devices to use only one WiFi configuration (SSID/password) regardless of how I connect to the web. Well after many trials I found WiFi to be too unreliable. So now, I use the WRT54G router to connect to either an iPhone hotspot (ATT) or I'll connect the 54G router to a Verizon hotspot depending on which has better coverage. I've found cellular data to be far more reliable than a typical park's WiFi. Your mileage might vary.
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Old 12-02-2016, 07:57 AM   #9
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WiFi Extenders

^^^ I like the WRT54G for the RV Park side.


It has external antenna connections that I've substituted RP-SMA antennas on short extention leads.

I did not see great performance with my 18 element Yagi, so I've settled on a decent omini annular Sunhaas (?) stubby whip off-brand. Gain is supposed to be +9 dB, which I've found pretty true so far, based on monitoring changes in received power in dBm. I think 1/4 wave at 2.4GHz is like 1.2", so I have thought of making a small ground plane of some kind. Still tinkering.

I've found them readily available at Salvation Army or Goodwill, too. Last one I paid $2 for.

I've reflashed mine with DD-WRT, so I can set it up as a repeater bridge.

On the RV side I just leave the stock Linksys/Cisco firmware and set it up as an Access Point as you would at home. It gets an IP via DHCP and a Cat 5 cable from the outer router to the inner.

Bottom line though this will not generate a solid 5 Mbps/10 ms ping if the camp wifi stinks. But I have definitely been able to get wifi from across fairly large distances where if I had to use my devices inside the coach I'd be out of luck.
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Old 12-02-2016, 08:40 AM   #10
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Our Airstream only RV park Ponderosa Shadows just finished installing an "Open Mesh" wifi system with 13 transmitters all connected by ethernet. Next summer we think we can let the users stream movies by upping the speed per user settings.

On the road, I have a fixed external antenna for my Verizon MiFi on both trailers. It creates the network inside the trailer. We jump to a high data plan for the summer. In some places, that does not work and when I go outside I see I am in a no service area for Verizon. Plan B is a McDonalds or Starbucks...... to get emails.
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Old 12-03-2016, 01:33 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Llando88 View Post
^^^ I like the WRT54G for the RV Park side.


It has external antenna connections that I've substituted RP-SMA antennas on short extention leads.

I did not see great performance with my 18 element Yagi, so I've settled on a decent omini annular Sunhaas (?) stubby whip off-brand. Gain is supposed to be +9 dB, which I've found pretty true so far, based on monitoring changes in received power in dBm. I think 1/4 wave at 2.4GHz is like 1.2", so I have thought of making a small ground plane of some kind. Still tinkering.

I've found them readily available at Salvation Army or Goodwill, too. Last one I paid $2 for.

I've reflashed mine with DD-WRT, so I can set it up as a repeater bridge.

On the RV side I just leave the stock Linksys/Cisco firmware and set it up as an Access Point as you would at home. It gets an IP via DHCP and a Cat 5 cable from the outer router to the inner.

Bottom line though this will not generate a solid 5 Mbps/10 ms ping if the camp wifi stinks. But I have definitely been able to get wifi from across fairly large distances where if I had to use my devices inside the coach I'd be out of luck.
I selected the WRT54G for the same reasons, an external connector and the ability to flash DD-WRT. I'm using the same configuration. The only downside I've found is that I have to connect my laptop to the external router and configure a tethered ethernet connection in order to configure the radio for the WAN side. I'm guessing more polished systems permit this configuration to occur via the internal WiFi connection. So for the savings and technical satisfaction, I'll put up with a little inconvenience. Just curious, are you able to configure the external router via WiFi?
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Old 12-03-2016, 01:38 PM   #12
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WiFi Extenders

Quote:
Originally Posted by alano View Post

Just curious, are you able to configure the external router via WiFi?
Yes.

So what I do is setup the inner router IP address at 192.168.3.1. The outer is at 192.168.13.1. Ok so far?

Now, the inner is named 'hulagirl' and the outer is 'hularptr'.

On arrival, I power up both routers and deploy the antenna on hularptr.

I then connect my iPad wifi to hulagirl, which services all the devices in the coach, as normal. (Actually it connects all the time since hulagirl is a known connection).

I then open Safari on the iPad, and enter '192.168.13.1' for the URL. It passes me to DD-WRT, where I authenticate with my username and password.

At this point, I usually then go to 'status' and search for wifi connections (I'll usually see the Camp, and all my neighbors broadcasting SSIDs lol) to connect.

Does that help? Maybe because I have separate subnets is why this works for me?
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Old 12-03-2016, 01:47 PM   #13
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WiFi Extenders

As a matter of info for anyone who might find this useful, I put this description together for a SOB web blog last year, hope this helps. Some things have changed since I did this write up, but this is the essentials.

I've been researching WiFi boosters for our RV, but did not like the cost of a commercial set up. Was looking for cheap options to get a good signal inside the coach, and I didn't want to reprogram all our wireless devices every time we set up camp.

So, I assembled my own WiFi booster/repeater system for around $90. I hope this write up is useful to someone.

If anyone has any questions about WiFi, I'll try and help. I am an EE, and work in Aerospace Engineering. My system does what I need, but I'm definitely no networking expert.

All these items are commercially available. Aside from reflashing a router with DD-WRT, it does not require any particularly exotic skills.

Summary

I use two routers: one to 'capture' the Campground Wi-Fi, operating in repeater mode, with an external antenna. A second router, connected to the first by an Ethernet cable, provides the wifi network in the coach.

Together, they allow me to extend the range of my coach network far beyond what would be possible to pickup with a normal router inside the RV.

The two routers are called 'Hulagirl' (our mascot is a Hulagirl) and 'Hularptr' (Hularepeater) (Our Coach is named Hulagirl )

RV Repeater/Booster: Name: Hularptr

Router 1 is a used WRT54G Linksys router. It has been reflashed with DD-WRT, a Linux-based software package.

Hularptr features:

A 2 Watt 2.4 GHz Amplifier, and a magnetic mount RP-SMA 3m cable, about $60:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I also attach a 16 dB Yagi directional antenna to the Amplifier's RP-SMA antenna jack, about $25:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

(for times when I need an omni directional antenna, I just use this, about $6:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

The WRT54G is a good choice for a repeater because it has external antenna ports. It is also commonly found at yard sales and Goodwill type stores, since many people have discarded them in favor of newer N routers with conformal (i.e. Internal) antennas. I got mine for $2 at the Goodwill.

DD-WRT replaces the stock Cisco firmware. It is open-source router software that provides a full set of features, the main one being the ability to set up the router in Repeater Mode. See www.dd-wrt.com for more details.

The physical interface is to 'the camp' through the Amplifier and Yagi antenna.

I use my laptop connected to Hularptr via an Ethernet cable to set up the physical connection to 'the camp'. That has to be done once, every time we arrive, or to e.g. at a McDonalds, Starbucks, etc.

All routers are password protected, and all are running WPA2 Personal/AES encryption.

Hularptr serves two functions: first, it connects to 'the camp' with the amplifier and the Yagi Antenna. Second, it provides a wired (not wireless, this is key) Internet connection for Hulagirl off of one of the ethernet ports on the back of Hularptr. That way, Hularptr's radio only has to wirelessly connect to 'the camp'.

Since Hulagirl 'sees' a DHCP internet connection from Hularptr, there is no halving of data rate, since I have one radio connecting to 'the camp' (Hularptr) and one radio servicing the RV (Hulagirl).

RV WiFi Access Point: Name: Hulagirl

The second router that supports devices inside the RV, is a refurbished WRT120N Linksys N unit from Amazon, $13:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

It is running Cisco Firmware, and set up as a normal Wireless Access point. Hularptr gets it's Internet connection via Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP) from Hulagirl via an Ethernet connection on a wired port with a short Ethernet cable.

How this all Works

Hulagirl serves only one purpose, to be the Wireless Access Point (WAP) for all the devices in the RV.

When we get to 'the camp', I obtain the wifi access point details (ask at the Camp office, search for signals, etc.), then connect to Hularptr from my Ipad, login at 192.168.2.1, and change the physical interface in DD-WRT wireless setup to point to 'the camp'. That's it.

From then, all our devices enjoy full bandwidth to 'the camp' with no set up required, since they are already set up to automatically connect to Hulagirl. If 'the camp' provides a 10Mbps connection (measured from say, speedtest.net) then Hulagirl will be able to provide a 10Mbps connection, because I've got two routers (radios.)

If I used one router (i.e. one radio) in DD-WRT repeater mode for both 'the camp' AND Hulagirl, the effective data rate would be half what is available, since the router (radio) would have to service both the long distance connection to 'the camp' as well as serve as a WAP for the coach.

So far, this seems to work pretty well for us, for under $100.
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Old 12-03-2016, 08:27 PM   #14
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I am surprised folks are finding campground WiFi networks worth the effort of connecting to at all, much less building infrastructure in the trailer to make it easier to do so. We've yet to find a campground WiFi that was worth the trouble, even when taking a tablet or laptop right up to the office where the signal was strongest. Regardless, if it is working for you guys, it must be less awful than we thought.
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