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Old 03-25-2012, 10:06 AM   #1
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WiFi Ranger master thread

I've thought about how to get better reception on wifi. Our Verizon dumb phone works well most places, and that hasn't been a problem. I looked around a little and see there are no boosters for both wifi and cellphones—that would be a best solution. There would seem to be a market for that, but it seems no one is exploiting it.

Anything out there that does both?

Gene
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Old 03-25-2012, 12:00 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CrawfordGene View Post
I've thought about how to get better reception on wifi. Our Verizon dumb phone works well most places, and that hasn't been a problem. I looked around a little and see there are no boosters for both wifi and cellphones—that would be a best solution. There would seem to be a market for that, but it seems no one is exploiting it.

Anything out there that does both?

Gene
The Wilson Sleek for about $100 is a great external antenna/amplifier combination which works with all 3G service data phones and things like the My Fi unit, or even the USB plug in cell net modems. It is also a great cell phone booster, which is it's primary market.

I live and travel in a very difficult area for all cell reception. I have used Wilson external amplifiers, antennas and other equipment for years. However I find that the Wilson "Sleek" out preforms all of the other Wilson products, which cost far more money.

The 3Gstore.com is a good source for most cell and cell net products. I have no affiliation with it, other than a customer.
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Old 03-25-2012, 12:28 PM   #3
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Idroba, thanks for trying to answer. This stuff makes me crazy after a while. As I understand it there are two solutions for two things. Cell service which can be either voice or data plan. They all seem to require plugging into a USB port, but I could be wrong (that one place I go crazy). Some have a unit wholly inside the trailer and some have a roof antenna which may connect to a device inside which either uses a USB connection or wireless.

Then there are units for wifi boost. Wifi Ranger is one and the company sells a bunch of different things that confuse me when I look at their website. Some have an antenna that connects to the Wingart Wingman ($30 on Amazon) and looks like it works through wireless inside, but I can't understand whether it does or not. I am unsure whether this system works when boondocking (12 v.), though it appears it would. That costs around $250 for the unit, though they have a cheaper one that costs around 50 or 60 bucks, but I don't think it has an exterior antenna so inside a metal cage, it would be of dubious value. I dfo have a high gain antenna for the laptop which works not so well.

We have a dumb phone (works fine for us), a Mac laptop and an iPad. The iPad antenna is not as good as the laptop so I assume I will need a booster to get e-mail or anything else on it.

My first phone cost me $8/month. That was in 1962. It was a party line. In today's dollars, that would be $80/month, but I am still thinking $8. I have become addicted to e-mail and the digital edition of the NY Times and can only get the latter on my iPad. I know I could get a cell data plan which would do everything on the iPad (though I probably would need a cell booster), but the prices are high and the plans are set up to confuse and stick it to us. Everything costs a lot more than $8 (this is not rational I know, but emotional attachments are hard to let go of).

I feel like I am being left behind and the longer I wait to do something, the more confusing it gets. It feels like everyone else understands this stuff and when I read up on these things, the information is written for people who already understand it. I can explain the complex legal issues of health care and how the supreme court will look at it, but when it comes to these things, I am stupid. When I was a teenager, I could explain how a vacuum tube worked, by the transistor never made sense to me.

I think (if it is thinking) that if I want everything I should get mifi and deal with Verizon (better reception in the west) and somehow this "tethers" to my iPad. Tether means a rope or chain to me, but would have to be wireless for an iPad. It is expensive per month and I don't need it that much. I see people use a smart phone to do this and it then transmit to other devices, but we don't need a smartphone.

Maybe I should accept my dotage and worry about the lawn, except where we live, there is no lawn.

Gene
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Old 03-25-2012, 01:46 PM   #4
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"Camping" should not be spoiled by everyday burdens.

Camping is - getting away from that @#$%.

The New York Times old news is not what is a priority when we are camping. Family, fun, discovery, relaxation, and being together, are what we should look forward to. ( and more exercise and fresh air)

I have an older cell phone that I only turn on when I want to use it. No one has my number except my wife and daughter. I have no "mail box" to store a bunch of calls. I turn it off at the border, as roaming charges are out of sight.
I do have a smart phone that has an unactivated sim card. If I am somewhere that has free wi-fi, and I need parts or information, or need the map, I will use it. Otherwise, I use it for the good 8MP camera and video features, and as an event reminder for appointments etc.

Now, having said all that, I do have a wi-fi hub that is mounted in the Clipper, that gives WiFi any place there is cell coverage. We find we don't use it much, other than to check email and keep up to Air Forums news.
Again, we shut it off at the border.

Just dream of how we camped 25 years ago! (yeh, the wife says get real)

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Quote:
Originally Posted by CrawfordGene View Post

We have a dumb phone (works fine for us), a Mac laptop and an iPad. The iPad antenna is not as good as the laptop so I assume I will need a booster to get e-mail or anything else on it.
I think (if it is thinking) that if I want everything I should get mifi and deal with Verizon (better reception in the west) and somehow this "tethers" to my iPad. Tether means a rope or chain to me, but would have to be wireless for an iPad. It is expensive per month and I don't need it that much. I see people use a smart phone to do this and it then transmit to other devices, but we don't need a smartphone.

Maybe I should accept my dotage and worry about the lawn, except where we live, there is no lawn.

Gene
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Old 03-25-2012, 02:46 PM   #5
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Gene:

This area is somewhat confusing, I surely will admit. But I think that maybe I can explain it a little more so you and others can understand. At least let me try.

I to have a "dumb phone" which I use for voice only. I use Verizon, because it has the best coverage, especially here in the west.

For the past 5 years now I have been using Verizon cell system for my internet while traveling, and also at my winter home in AZ. At my "real" home in Idaho there is no cell reception whatsoever, from any carrier, so I can't use these systems there, phone or net. In Idaho, I use a regular wired phone and satellite internet service from Wild Blue. I have no options there at all.

Ok, the mobile internet connection: five years ago I went to Verizon and purchased a USB 720 modem (newer versions are available now) It looks just like a data storage stick which plugs into the USB port on your computer. A modem allows you to talk to the cell phone net directly. If you only want net service to one device, it is just fine. That is how I started. My no longer available plan is for "unlimited" data, and 3G only. New ones are limited to how much you need to use and want to pay and can use both 3G and 4G service, but most reports seem to indicate that the 4G service is poor, and not real reliable. The cost is $50 to $60 a month, for 5gb of data. More money buys you more data bandwidth. No movies now, they take way too much bandwidth.

Now, if you want to use more than one computer at a time, or use something like a wifi iPad, you need to somehow make that USB plug in modem into a wireless system. That requires a special router which takes the USB modem and allows it to "talk", via wifi, to your other devices, be they computers or tablets, or ipads.

The routers that work best with USB modems seem to be the ones made by Cradlepoint. So, you plug your Verizon modem into a Cradlepoint router, and now you can use any computer with wifi connectivity and funnel the signal to your Verizon cell network. You have your own wifi "hotspot" then. Thus, the modem and router sit someplace convenient, and you work, wirelessly from your laptop or other wifi device. Guests come over, kids, etc, just give them your password and they connect their computer into your cell net system.

If you have seen the references to the MyFi system, it is a combination of the modem and router in one small package. Sounds good of course, and is, but has some limits on range and ability to pick up the cell signal in difficult areas. But it is simple. Go to Verizon and walk out with your own little wifi hotspot. Simple.

Back to the USB modem system I have been using. Mine allows an external antenna, which I find necessary where I travel and camp in my trailers. The MyFi system does not allow external antenna input. What I do is to have a 12 volt powered Cradlepoint router in the TV, with the Verizon USB modem plugged into it (takes power from the router). I have an external Wilson magnetic mount antenna connected to the USB modem. I just leave it running on the TV battery, only takes 0.2 amps which is insignificant for a few days of boondocking. I use my laptop in the trailer, all wirelessly connected. If I take the TV off someplace, I can take my computer or iPad and have service. (but anyone in the trailer is without it). Of course the 12 volt router and USB modem can be left in the trailer, but then there is no connections in the TV. Take your choice.

At my winter home in AZ, I simply take my same Verizon USB modem, and plug it into a different Cradlepoint router in one of the bedrooms, and have WiFi throughout the house. I could use the same router I use in the TV, but choose to have a different one with a little more power output and features.

So the modem I have can plug into my computer directly, to a router in the TV, or to a different router in my second home. I use the external antenna when in the TV, and because of location, it works better at my AZ home with an external antenna.

Now, the Wilson Sleek I talked about in my post above is a way to increase the signal strength to any cell phone, MyFi device, or even the USB modem I have been talking about. Many phones and MyFi's and even new USB modems have no external antenna inputs. They can all be used with the Sleek though, which has an external antenna. I use mine mainly with my old Verizon dumb phone, while traveling. You simply put the phone, MyFi, or USB modem in the Sleek cradle and plug it into 12 volts and put the antenna outside, and you have vastly extended range.

I do not "tether" my phone to my computer. Service is too limited and too annoying for what I want to do. Some folks make it work, I would rather have separate service for phone and net.

I hope that helps a bit more.
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Old 03-25-2012, 03:21 PM   #6
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Thanks again. It starts to become less confusing and I appreciate the time you've taken to educate me. We have some same limits at home—cell phone barely works inside and we chose not to use it on the front porch, so we have a landline. TV comes from satellite and broadband wifi from a substandard (substandard maybe the norm) wireless company that is not always functioning, but usually works.

The laptop usually is fairly ok at Campgrounds. I haven't tried the iPad camping since I just got it last Dec.

I'd probably give up at this point, except we have our house on the market and need to make sure we get e-mails and phone calls on the road. So long as our house is for sale, we won't go far and need to make sure we are within cell range at the least and wifi often (it only takes a few minutes to update the iPad and I can get my beloved NY Times with new news). The cellphone is usually on a 50 minutes per month plan. We can increase that whenever we want and then go back to the 50 minute plan whenever we want. It is an old plan that may not be available anymore, but we stick with it without problems, so far.

It seems to me that what we need is better wifi coverage at CG's right now (and forever), but cellphone boosters would be nice. I'll have to read over your post a couple of times and it should be clearer. I looked up the Wilson and if I understand what I read and what you've said, it uses a magnet to stick to the trailer where the ribs are? I am looking for something that installs permanently so I don't drive off with the device stuck to the outside of the trailer. Wifi Ranger may accomplish what I want for wifi because so many CG's have lousy wifi, but it won't help cell coverage. I must do more thinking.

If I were to go to Canada (not this year, have to stay close to home), I know data plans stop at the border and because of the costs in when you cross the border each way depending where you live, no data plan makes sense because the companies do not cooperate. Voice is different and we can get a fairly cheap plan for Canada.

Gene
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Old 03-25-2012, 03:57 PM   #7
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Gene:

PM me, I think we are taking too much space up here and your issues are slightly complex and maybe too specific for everyones time. Might be easier to talk about it on the phone.
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Old 03-25-2012, 05:20 PM   #8
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Actually, I for one am following your discussion closely. Unless others object, please continue...

I am looking at the "Pepwave Surf On-The-Go 3G/4G Router w/WiFi as WAN" as a possible solution. Do you think this would work?

Link to Pepwave on 3G Store Web site:

http://3gstore.com/product/3498_surf...4g-router.html

Other questions:

* Do you think an external antenna is necessary, or perhaps a repeater?

* How much data do you typically use in a month?

* Do you recommend a specific mobile broadband provider, or do you have opinions on which carriers to avoid?

* Any experience with 3G Store?

Thanks,
Phoenix
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Old 03-25-2012, 05:59 PM   #9
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Gene and idroba,

I too am following your conversation with great interest. I had a usb modem, but now have a Verizon MiFi that I use as a hotspot for my laptop and Samsung Tablet. The reception on the MiFi is often spotty out away from cities, especially inside my trailer. I have a newer model MiFi and it does have an "external antenna" input on the side. I'm thinking about adding an external antenna and I'm just starting to read up on it.

So, please continue your comments here. The conversation has been very helpful.

Thanks,
Stan
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Old 03-25-2012, 06:01 PM   #10
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One more question:

* What is typical 3G down- and up-load speed in Mbps?

Also, Spenfolder, which MiFi has an external antenna connector?

Thanks,
Phoenix
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Old 03-25-2012, 06:01 PM   #11
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Many smart phones can be used as a wifi hotspot and/or USB tether as well.
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Old 03-25-2012, 06:05 PM   #12
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Here is an interesting link with lots of pertinent info.....


Communication
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Old 03-25-2012, 06:13 PM   #13
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Hi Phoenix:

OK, here goes again. Let me say first that I am an avid user, and have some significant experience, but I am not a professional expert. These are my experiences only, as they say, your milage may vary.

The Peperwave you mention appears to be a wireless router only, like the Cradlepoint line that I have experience with. It needs an external USB modem, such as the one I have from Verizon. Cradlepoint seems to be the leader in this area, and I can recommend them highly. I have no experience with Peperwave at all. That does not say there is anything wrong with them, but only that I don't know them.

For my use, with the Verizon USB modem that I have, and traveling where I do into remote area of the west, an antenna is highly desirable and in some cases makes the difference between connection to the net and no connection. My old USB 720 has an external antenna input, not all of the new ones do. Remember, this is NOT an antenna for the Peperwave router you mention, it is an antenna for the modem which plugs into it.

I don't know what you mean by a "repeater" unless you mean an antenna connected to an amplifier which then rebroadcasts the signal inside the vehicle, like a TV or Trailer. I have limited experience with that system, but do know they can be tricky, as they either are not strong enough, or are prone to the kind of thing we know as feedback (howl) in audio systems when the interior antenna puts out enough signal to be picked up by the external one, and off it goes. I recently bought one used at Goodwill, and made a quick test to see that it worked, but have no real life on the road experience with it. I could not resist it though, it was $400 new, and I paid $5 for it.

When here in AZ, my winter home, I tend to use between 4 and 6 Mb per month. My high was close to 8Mb. I use my computer a lot, but do not download but limited videos, once in a while from You Tube. Video use eats up bandwidth very quickly and I cannot recommend it from the cell network. With my grandfathered in "unlimited" download system, I can run over the current typical 5 Mb/$50 a month limit some (btw, my unlimited is $60 a month), but they start to slow down usage when I run over 8 Mb. So, it is not truly "unlimited" and at any rate is no longer available from Verizon.

ATT has had a lot of problems with providing enough bandwidth for it's smart phone customers (mostly due to the iPhone contract that they had exclusive rights to, now past). ATT has very poor reputation for service quality and coverage in general (from Consumers Reports information). Sprint has limited coverage in the West especially. As far as I am concerned, although Verizon is not perfect, it works very well in most areas. My Idaho home is one of the exceptions, but then it is so remote that there is no cell service from any carrier. I have a long haul truck driver friend, and he has the same setup in his truck that I have and he tells me he has virtually never been without service, but remember that trucks tend to stay on the main roads. I get Verizon service in most all campgrounds I visit even in relatively remote western Montana. I find few places here in AZ that I don't get service.

3 G store is truly excellent. Good prices, wonderful service, and they do extensive testing of the products they sell. I rarely buy anywhere else.
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Old 03-25-2012, 06:33 PM   #14
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Spendfolder:

If you add an external antenna to you MyFi you will greatly increase the range of your unit. I was not aware that they now have a version with an external antenna input. That is very good news, as it will simplify life for those who don't want the USB modem and separate router that I have been using. Usually those external antenna inputs are pretty fragile so be careful when you use it or it will not work for long. Remember, you can also use the Wilson Sleek with the MyFi hotspot, and eliminate the fragile antenna input, but still have the external antenna the Sleek comes with.

Phoenix: Upload and download speeds depend on how heavily the specific tower you are connected to is being used. The more voice traffic, the less capacity is left over for data, so it slows down at times. My typical is around 400 to 500 kbps (0.4 to 0.5 Mbps) here in the far Phoenix SE valley. I see 1 to 1.2 Mbps now and then when siting right on top of a tower which has little use. This is for 3G service. I have no experience with 4G other than reading all the problems that folks have been having with it, and most simply lock it off and stay with 3G at this point in time.

Since I don't do much video downloading (due to bandwidth concerns) the 3G cell net service works well enough for my needs. There are times, fewer now, that the old old cell net system is all you can connect to (I forget what it is called, 1x maybe) and it is around 50 kbps, like dial up was in the old days. OK for mail, but that is about all these days.
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