I finally got round to installing a cellular router in my AS. It comprises the following:-
Pepwave MAX BR1 router
MobileMark LTM401antenna (white)
weBoost Signal 4G direct connect amplifier
I got it all from the 3gstore - they were great, answered my many emails and set up a cart for me with the all items added. Very easy and helpful.
I have a Verizon unlimited data
SIM installed in the router which is the primary connection. The router will also do WiFi as WAN which I have used to connect to my WiFi network at home when parked on the drive.
The Pepwave MAX BR1 is a US/Canada/South America cellular router that can be set up to use either Cellular (2 SIM slots), WiFi as WAN (allows you to connect to and use any available WiFi network such as at a campsite) or Ethernet. You can set up each in priority order. It will check if #1 is available and then pick the #2 source, check that and so on based on the priority you set until it gets a connection. If you want the changeover to be seamless, leave each source "active" and it will jump from source to source as required to keep you connected. I have WiFi as WAN as the primary then cellular. You can also disable sources if you know you will not have it present (Ethernet for me).
The BR1 generates a local WiFi network which you can then connect your various phones, tablets etc to. You have a choice of various security protocols with password protection.
Initial setup is done using a laptop hooked up to the BR1 via an ethernet cable. Once that is done and the default admin/admin logon has been fixed
you can do configuration via WiFi using a web browser after you have logged onto the WiFi network created by the BR1. Setup is pretty straight forward if you have set up routers previously. If you have not you could get confused pretty quickly since your are dealing with 3 potential sources for WAN (cellular, WiFi and Ethernet) and then your LAN (BR1's WiFi). I have spent days learning by trial and error some of the basics relative to router setup (various systems at home) so it only took me about 20 minutes to change passwords for admin logon and setup the WiFi network SSID and password how I wanted it. There is a manual online you can read prior to purchase if you want to see what might be involved. I'm pretty sure the 3gstore would walk you through setup on the phone also if you could not figure it out.
There are many, many options with setup on the BR1 for those that like to tinker. This is intended as an enterprise router so it can be configured in many different ways (Dynamic DNS, port forwarding etc, etc). Looks like you can even connect multiple BR1s together to use their full bandwidth combined for big, data hungry jobs. Not sure any Streamer would need this unless a fleet of AS's is in the plan.
For keeping an eye on things quickly once set up, there is a handy (free) app PeplinkPepwave you can download to your iPad to see most of the main parameters of the router (connected clients, signal strength, bandwidth etc).
The 4 wire MobileMark antenna has a MIMO cellular antenna, a GPS antenna and dual band WiFi antenna. This connects directly to the BR1 without any adapters.
I also opted for a booster in the form of a weBoost 4G direct connect amplifier which sits on the "main" cellular antenna line.
I wired this all into the AS 12V
system so that it is available without the inverter when not on ac. An added bonus of powering it this way is that the WiFi network created by the BR1 can be used whilst driving down the road to save data on our phones which are not on the same plan as the unlimited SIM
. The BR1 can be powered using AC or 10 to 30V DC so you can hook up directly to the AS 12V
system. The weBoost takes AC or 5V DC so a small 2A step down transformer / voltage regulator is required (buy the weBoost one or pick one up off Amazon).
Impressions so far - just one weekend on the road:-
Signal strength with the MobileMark/BR1 alone was improved over an iPhone inside the AS. I did not take time to record actuals. With the weBoost inline we are getting -65 dBm on the BR1 with -100 or so directly on the iPhones.
Bandwidth in this location appears to be flaky from close to 20Mbps to zero and lots of fluctuations in between. Not sure if this is normal or not for cellular. I managed to watch a live football game on watchESPN this weekend without too much trouble. Watching live TV via the DirecTV app was less successful, this app does not allow rewind (which allows for some buffering) so you are watching truly "live". Fine when you have 20Mbps, not so good when you have 30s of 50kbps.... Watching anything that is on demand and not live was just fine - it will buffer a good chunk prior to starting the show.
The WiFi network set up by the BR1 and MobileMark is OK but not as expansive as I had expected. Certainly very strong inside the AS (-65 dB) but starts to weaken as you move away from the AS. Maybe 100 ft and signal strength starts to drop off. We get 2 bars sitting in our car driving down the road. Very usable but not too impressive. The system will pull in my home WiFi (just) from about 100 ft away and through multiple walls in the house. There is an option for a logon page similar to what restaurants use. You can custom configure this apparently. You can also turn off the SSID broadcast to hide the network. From what I have read this offers little additional protection (except for the most inept hackers) and in fact will flag your network for attack by hackers since it implies you have something to hide. Mine will stay on with a secure password.
I installed the MobileMark onto of the air conditioner shroud so I would not have to make a hole in the roof. You will need a min 8" diameter metallic ground plane beneath the antenna since the MobileMark does not have one built in and the shroud is fiberglass. The cable was sheathed in a protective expanding nylon wrap and fed down the fridge vent then into the closet. To get the antenna wires down the vent I fed a spare piece of 20A wire up the right hand side of the fridge from the bottom (see last photo). This is pretty easy to do if you keep it hard over to the side. Topside, you will need to remove the rivets from the fridge vent cowl on one side and from the mesh screen cover on the vent to get the cable down. When you have pushed the wire up from the bottom, carefully reach in with your arm to catch the cable and pull up. Tape the antenna wires to the wire you fished up and carefully pull back. Two people are best for this although I managed it on my own. Weaselmouth has a post that shows some photos of a similar install here
(thanks Weaselmouth!). The antenna wire is then routed through the side wall of the fridge area into the closet. Make sure you seal this well to ensure no fumes enter the coach when the fridge runs on propane.
For power I ran a new 12V
line from the fuse box on the galley side (using a spare 12V circuit). There is a passthrough/channel under the floor running side to side that can be found beneath the inverter and on the closet side under the water pump on the other side. I believe this exists in all AS. Use a fish tape to pull your new 12V wires through. I added a local switch that turns the BR1 and weBoost off for storage. There is a 12V line for the light in the closet that you could also use I would think for 12V if you do not want to run a new line. I preferred to have a separate circuit with fuse for these items.
Overall - impressed so far. Browsing experience for normal day to day things like this forum
, news sites etc was very fast. Streaming works well with the above caveats.