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Old 02-21-2013, 07:41 PM   #1
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Improving Wifi Reception

It is well known that receiving wifi signals in an Airstream is a challenge and many campground wifi signals are weak to begin with. After researching several options for improving wifi signals in our Classic, I focused on the Wifi Ranger Sky to avoid the need to drill holes in the roof to run power cables. The original Sky attached to the batwing antenna and shared power with the Winegard antenna amplifier. Besides interfering with the power required for the antenna, there was also a conflict with receving cable channels which do not require use of the power feature of the Winegard face plate. After discussing these issues with the Sky manufacturer, I selected the newer model WiFiRanger Sky OEM model that uses a small cable to get 12 volt power from inside the Airstream. It has the same advantages of the original model and does a great job of amplifying weak wifi signals. Now to mount the Sky to the roof without drilling a hole through the skin. After researching various approaches on Air Forum. I decided to mount the Sky on the refrigerator vent and take advantage of the existing path for routing wires to the refrigerator access panel.

The Sky OEM is being marketed directly to RV manufacturers and mounts on the roof by drilling a 1/2" hole to accomodate a weather boot on the bottom of the unit for running the 12 volt power cable. Here's how I mounted it without drilling a hole in the roof (a photo of the installation follows

1. Remove the refrigerator vent by drilling out the 10 rivets attaching it to the roof.

2. Remove three pop rivets that hold an insect screen to the inner opening for the refrigerator vent. I removed the rivets that are closer to the front of the airstream and bent back the screen to allow access for routing the power cable.

3. Using a fish tape from the inside of the lower refrigerator access panel, I ran the tape up to the left front side of the vent to attach the power cord.

4. Drill a 1/2" inch hole in the center of the refrigerator vent about 8 inch back from the front that is nearer the front of the airstream. This hole will allow the weather boot on the bottom of the Sky to run the power cable. I ran a strip of butyl rubber sealing tape (available from Amazon) to seal the the Sky to the vent. I used two 1 and 1/4 inch number 8 stainless steel bolts with nylon lock nuts to fasten the Sky to the vent. The bolts go through the vinyl tape to provide a weather tight connection. I also applied Silkaflex to the top of the bolts to insure a weatherproof seal.

5. After attaching the end of the power cable to the fish tape, I pulled the cable down to the inside of the refrigerator access panel to connect the 12 volt power. Since I had previously installed a weather proof 12 volt recepticle in this area to power my tire inflator, I chose to use this connection for powering the sky using a fused male 12 volt plug that I leaved plugged in whenever I need to use the wifi connection. You could also run the wires inside the cabin and use an on/off switch for controlling the Sky power.

6. Before pop riveting back in place on the roof using existing rivet holes. I applied butyl sealing tape to the bottom of the vent cover so that all rivets would penetrate this tape for sealing in place. After pop riveting the vent back in place, I applied Silkaflex to seal every pop rivet to prevent leaks.

After powering up and connecting to the campgrounds wifi using the Sky control panel on my laptop I noticed an immediate significant increase in wifi signal strength. The advantage of this device is that it will run any number of wifi enabled devices (computers, ipods, tablets, smart phones, etc) and is password protected so it is not accessed by others without your permission. The Sky has a unique identifier so you only have to connect your devices to it once and it will be remembered in the future. When changing locations, it is simple to select a new wifi source for your Sky at the next location using the sky control panel from your laptop. There are a number of other neat features that allow automatic connection and reconnection to the strongest signals that are explained in videos on the manufacturers web site.

We've been using the Sky for a week now and are delighted with the results.
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Old 02-21-2013, 07:46 PM   #2
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Photo of WiFiRanger Sky OEM

The photo of the Sky installation did not come through so I'll try again.
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Old 02-21-2013, 08:15 PM   #3
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Thanks for the detailed info. I am looking at WiFi right now and it is all confusing!
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Old 02-21-2013, 09:45 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Travel Bird View Post
Thanks for the detailed info. I am looking at WiFi right now and it is all confusing!
There are a lot of posts on various approaches to improving wifi reception in the forum discussions. But the increasing dependence on using wifi has resulted in the state of the art constantly improving the technology in solving connection problems.
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Old 02-21-2013, 09:47 PM   #5
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We have been using a wifi range extender for about 5 years now. It is called the Wave RV. It is a separate wifi card with an attached antenna that plugs into my notebook via a USB connection. I use the Wave RV inside the trailer in the back window over the dinette. It always improves the campground's wifi signal, most often to a full 54.0 Mbps. I have have been very satisfied with the Wave RV It is easy to use and relatively inexpensive ($130). The Wave RV is made by RadioLabs in Fortuna, California (radiolabs.com).

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Old 02-21-2013, 10:02 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by moosetags View Post
We have been using a wifi range extender for about 5 years now. It is called the Wave RV. It is a separate wifi card with an attached antenna that plugs into my notebook via a USB connection. I use the Wave RV inside the trailer in the back window over the dinette. It always improves the campground's wifi signal, most often to a full 54.0 Mbps. I have have been very satisfied with the Wave RV It is easy to use and relatively inexpensive ($130). The Wave RV is made by RadioLabs in Fortuna, California (radiolabs.com).

Brian
We used to use a similar technology, but since both my wife and I bring out laptop and tablets with us, we needed something that would handle all of these devices without buying separate antennas and wifi extenders for each one. The Sky will seamlessly handle several devices in a password protected environment with just one setup.
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Old 02-23-2013, 07:19 AM   #7
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Two weeks after installing my new WiFiRanger Sky OEM model amplifier/router and it continues to perform flawlessly. Before I installed the unit on top of my Classic, my wifi strength at the campground we're staying at in Florida was 2.5 out of 5 bars. Since then it has consistently remained at the full 5 bars of signal strength with no dropped service. It works great and we are using it to drive two lap tops and two Kindle fire tablets without issues. There are still times that the response time is slowed because of high wifi usage in the campground, but the signal strength remains double what we had before it installed was installed.
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Old 02-23-2013, 08:26 AM   #8
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Wow that is quite an installation!
I have had o.k. luck with a range extender. Cost about $70 at Best Buy. Mine is a Linksys, but they are made by Belkin and other manufacturers.
I position mine outside of one of the windows where it can receive the park signal and rebroadcast inside the AS to my computer.
Sometimes I have to experiment and position the extender in different places to get it to work as the park signal is blocked by giant motorhomes. Wifi is line of sight and won't transmit through dense material. One time I had to put the extender on the roof where it could rebroadcast to the computer through the skylight.
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Old 03-10-2013, 11:33 AM   #9
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Verizon Mifi

My wife and I are your typical internet junkies... we need to check our mail when on the road, she will look for places of interest while I'm driving. When we are set up, either in a state park or in a full fledge campground we have our own internet service that supports up to 10 devices. (so we can share if we desire) We are self sufficient!

The mifi has an external antenna that can be attached to the unit and will slid through the window and stick to the glass with two suction cups. It works in most areas and has fast speeds.

The unit was $49 with the service and the external antenna and adapter was around $20

The other option is a phone tether to your existing service, I have found that companies using a lower frequency have greater penetration (thus better service) that is why we have found Verizon's service to work best for us.

I have no horse in the race, no stock in Verizon... I just wanted to offer another solution.

Link to the Mifi below
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