The problems that computer users in RV parks and the RV park operators face are so intertwined that it is difficult to discuss one without giving due consideration to the other.
For example, for the RV park owner offering wifi service has become almost as expected as having cable TV, electrical connections, water and sewage disposal.
What has been discussed in this thread as of this posting falls into two categories:
1. Wifi signal strength.
2. Park network speed and/or ability to handle large volumes of data traffic when the park wfi network is busy.
As a general rule an RV park will have a single ADSL (DSL) line that is the connection between the network in their park and the internet. DSL was never intended to provide throughput for large volumes of data. It was intended to provide throughput for a few computers in a household or small business.
For large volumes of data the telephone companies have traditionally offered fixed data rate data service for business use. The cost differences between DSL service which is generally less than $100 a month and a data line for large volumes of data is astronomical.
So, the RV park operator has someone come out and install a router with a DSL line for the internet connection. His customers complain that they cannot get a signal for the wifi in their trailer so he has the installer come back and they install and exterior antenna for the router.
This helps people in the immediate range of the antenna but for most parks a good portion of the campers do not get the signal.
So the installer is summoned once again and a site survey is performed and multiple routers/repeaters are installed in different locations throughout the park each with an external antenna. Each of these repeaters is fed back to the main router in the park that has the connection to the internet.
All a repeater generally does is repeat the signal that the single router with the internet connection broadcasts; the repeater can also provide a network (IP) address to the computers connecting to it.
Now everyone in the park can receive the wifi signal. Wooo hooo!!!
But, when you use your computer the response is so slow you give up and put it away.
You complain to the RV park operator. For the park operator wifi has become a nuisance.
The only solution for this is more DSL lines and/or a legitimate data link with the bandwidth capable of supporting all of the computers that could be on the network at any one time.
Most RV park operators are reaching the point that they would like to see wifi go away. They do not have the technical expertise to administer the systems and the people that do so charge large amounts of money for their services not to mention the fixed costs for the hardware, the installation and the recurring monthly charges paid to the telephone company for the internet connection.
So, given that most park operators do NOT have the installer come back and do a site survey, or bother to do one in the beginning as should be done, because they just don't want to spend the money, it is easy to understand why we campers suffer weak wifi signals in our camp space; the wifi networks in most parks are grossly undersized in both areas of concern:
1. Insufficient repeaters/antennas to cover the facility adequately
2. Insufficient bandwidth for the data connection to the internet for the volume of users on the network.
As a user there is nothing we can do about the second item, the bandwidth of the connection to the internet that the park has purchased from their network provider.
But we can do something about the signal strength that we receive in our aluminum trailers/motor-homes.
As was pointed out in one of the posts in this thread, wifi signals travel in a straight line, and weak radio signals do not pass through metal. As a result, any object that is between the point of origin of the wifi signal and the receiver will impair the quality of the signal. The weaker the signal being broadcast, the more susceptible it is to signal degradation. Given that wifi signals are broadcast at a very weak level as dictated by federal regulations wifi signals can easily be impaired.
Through my own testing I have determined that the vast majority of wifi signals that I am able to receive when inside my Airstream are reflected signals. That is, the are not coming into my trailer directly from the antenna that is broadcasting them, but they are being reflected (bounced) by another object, be it another RV, a building, a tree, etc., etc.
Over the course of the past two years that we have been traveling full time in our 30' Classic I have approached the weak wifi signal issue with multiple solutions.
As was pointed out by Brian, above, Radio Labs is an excellent vendor for wifi solutions. I find their staff to be knowledgeable and the products on offer to be of good quality and they do stand behind their products.
But, I have found another vendor that I believe has a better solution to the problem. That vendor is Jefa Tech Wireless Technology Solutions.
I have tried just about everything that has been mentioned in this post and other posts on this forum in an attempt to bring wifi signals into our trailer. I found the information on rv.net related to this subject to be invaluable. And there is a very good thread on the subject on the Escapess forum.
It was not until free firmware was developed that could be installed on various vendors hardware in place of the firmware that the vendors shipped was the solution I craved at hand.
What I needed was the ability to have an external antenna that was capable of picking up weak wifi signals and then repeating the signal inside our trailer with the repeater obtaining a network (IP) address using DHCP.
This way we could use the wifi built into out computers and not need additional wifi cards or usb solutions that had us tethered to something which, in our opinion, negated the whole reason for the wifi - for the computer to not have wires connected to it for a network connections.
We found that none of the solutions that Radio Labs offered could do this. And we tried many that they had simply because that was all that was available at the time.
But, with the advent of dd-wrt firmware that could replace the firmware that shipped with various vendors routers it is now possible to reconfigure a router so that it can not only operate as a repeater but that it can do so using DHCP for obtaining its network (IP) address; a fixed IP address was no longer needed for a router to be configured as a repeater.
This means that my router reconfigured as a repeater is capable of getting its address from the router in the RV park. If the RV park network is password protected the router can easily be configured to use the password and get connected.
We each can connect our two computers to our router configured as a repeater in our trailer and it passes us through to the network. As far as the RV park router is concerned there is one device making the connection and it sees only the MAC address for our router/repeater.
If the park has a web page that must be accessed and user id and/or password entered it will appear in our browser the same as if we were connecting directly to the RV park network.
The even better news for us if the park is charging a fee for access is that we only pay the fee once, for the MAC address for our router/repeater. Any number of computers connected to our repeater can then access the neetwork.
This is NOT something that any RV park operator who is charging for network access will be happy about and I have seen a few web pages pop up for RV parks that have discovered people who have been operating their router/repeater without passwords being needed to gain access through it to the network. They state that they will evict anyone so doing from their facility. Seems fair given that they are charging for a service and I suspect that doing this would be considered fraud; but lets not discuss that issue here please.
In order to gain access to our router/repeater you must have the user-id and password. This means our router/repeater is secure whereas the ones operating in the above example had no user-id or password and anyone receiving the signal could connect through it to the network.
In the initial stages of dd-wrt firmware availability it was strictly a DIY project for replacing the firmware on your router with the dd-wrt firmware.
But, now Jefa Tech is offering a turn key package of a Lynksis router with the dd-wrt firmware installed and configured for use as a repeater, with cable and external antenna and documentation. This can be found at their web site:
JEFA Tech Long Range WiFi Repeater Kit for RV's
I have tested their offering and it works as advertised. Call them on the phone to order and be sure to tell them you want it configured as a repeater.
For my antenna pole I purchased a telescoping boat hook from West Marine and removed the rubber grip and the hook. This left me with a three section telescoping aluminum pole.
I mounted the antenna to a piece of PVC that has the same inside diameter as the outside diameter of the smallest section of the boat hook pole with a cap on the PVC, for what I hope are obvious reasons.
I raise the antenna as high up as needed to give me line of sight between my antenna and the RV park antenna. This often times means higher than the 14 foot high motor homes and/or 5th wheels parked adjacent to us.
The pole slips nicely into either a flag pole holder or a piece of PVC with an inside diameter that matches the outside diameter of the largest segment of the boat hook pole attached to the trailer jack.
I hope this post will help others have a better understanding of the issues of wifi in RV parks and offer a solution that I find works much better than any others available at this time.
As always, YMMV.
Jim, who has no interest in or connection to either Radio Labs or Jefa Tech other than as a satisfied customer.