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Old 07-19-2011, 12:45 PM   #1
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Do you have problems getting WiFi in your Airstream?

Hi All,

I wanted to ask if you have problems getting WiFi when your in your Airstream.

We as a company have used an Airstream to travel to our various customer locations to the tune of about 500,000 miles over the last 10 years, and we always seamed to have problems with getting WiFi inside of it.

We've come up with something we think will really help, but I don't want to be seen as spamming the forum with advertising, I just wanted to ask if other people are seeing this problem as well?

- Miles Penrod
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Old 07-19-2011, 01:13 PM   #2
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One can expect occasionally to have signal problems in a shielded container. Essentially the only access is through the windows.
If by chance some one has a really old trailer, like from in the 50's they also used metal window screens.

I rarely use private campgrounds but on a recent trip in the few I used WiFi reception was not a problem.

We usually use a MiFi and if needed , external antenna and amplifier for internet connectivity.

I have, on occasion been known to put a WiFi adapter in a plastic bag and using a long USB cable put it on a 20 foot pole.

We would not likely be a customer for a product such as you are referring to but the folks who use the WiFi equipped private campgrounds possibly could be
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Old 07-19-2011, 01:55 PM   #3
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Interesting Rick,

The "Bag an Adapter" method is one we've heard, and works if you only need it on occasion.

The thing we really try to target and help with is people who either use their Airstream heavily, or are full timing in one of the Class A's. We're hearing from quite a few customers that they want something that is automatic, and can be mounted outside the unit and automate some of the needs of trying to find WiFi or 3G/4G signal.

That's what we've tried to design with the WiFiRanger products. Just curious if people in this community have thoughts and feedback on those same lines and if they see specific needs for the Airstream community.

Our own Airstream had some very bad "dead spots" in it for WiFi, so we developed a way to mount an outdoor radio, that is Mobile vehicle rated, and then bring our router inside the Airstream for WiFi or Ethernet access.
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Old 07-19-2011, 03:05 PM   #4
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We had issues until we got a Linksys wireless range extender. I place it right outside the door under the awning, and it amplifies the signal more than enough to work well. Another lower-cost option is to get an inexpensive USB wireless unit and a USB extension cord, and put the unit inside the lid of a roof vent.
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Old 07-19-2011, 03:35 PM   #5
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Only if we have no cell signal. Othewise we use our cell as our WiFi hotspot and off we go into cyberspace.
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Old 07-19-2011, 03:52 PM   #6
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We do the cell phone thing also. one 3G and one 4G phone and we are good any place we get cell services. Very easy to tether a laptop or notebook. We love it.

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Old 07-19-2011, 04:01 PM   #7
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So it sounds like many of you aren't using WiFi access from a park or other source, but are more of a mobile broadband crowd.

We do also support 3G/4G modems, as we know many people use those instead.
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Old 07-19-2011, 04:09 PM   #8
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I use the wireless networks established in parks all the time. Airstream trailers seem to prevent the signal from reaching into the trailer many times so I bought a wireless signal enhancer (hawking) that plugs into the USB port on your laptop and is used in lieu of the wireless modem inside of your computer such as Airport in the Macs. It works very well in pulling in weak signals and I get a strong signal most of the time.
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Old 07-19-2011, 04:21 PM   #9
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Wifi for us is more of a problem with bandwidth when everyone is using it at the same time. Graphics don't load and sending photos can be impossible. A lot of people go to sleep early, so after 10 pm it works better.

We tried a high gain antenna that plugs into the USB port, but it didn't work well with our Powerbook and I haven't tried it with our MacBook.

An aircard is an option, but we don't want to pay monthly fees when we would only use it part of the year. The pay as you go option means inferior service I understand.

An external high gain antenna is another option, but I have not been motivated to install one—and am unsure how I would do so.

We get by and life is complicated enough, so any solution should be very easy and many electronics add ons are one or more of the following: confusing, difficult to install, have terrible instructions only understood by an electronic engineer or 9 year old, or overly expensive.

A high gain antenna that is compatible with all computers, fairly short, cheap, works both for up- and downloads, is powered by the computer when 120 v. is not available, and will dissolve the molecules of all giant RV's that obstruct the signal from the campground routers would be the ideal product. And, would there be a way to use the Airstream shell as an antenna?

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Old 07-19-2011, 06:31 PM   #10
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We'd be interested. I've been considering getting a Wifi range extender and figuring out how to mount antennas for it on the roof of the camper, and looking at active and passive cellular repeaters for the same end. I think both would be very helpful. That aluminum shell makes a good faraday cage.

I've been considering upgrading the home network to a wireless N/gigabit ethernet router, then using my ancient WRT54G v1.1 as a range extender in the camper.
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Old 07-20-2011, 09:27 AM   #11
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Interesting thought on using the airstream as an Antenna, but realistically, I bet it's not a great receiver as much as it is a "shield".

Some of the things we've considered is that for Part timers, they are probably moving their equipment in and out of the Airstream. So we have a Router component (The WiFiRanger), and then the outdoor component (WFRBoost).

You can take your WiFiRanger and plug it in at the house, or then when you leave, go plug it into the Airstream, and be on the same network, no re-configuring your laptops, ipods, etc, every time you go.

The WFRBoost can be permanently mounted and is mobile rated, so weather, vibration, etc, isn't going to damage it.

We kind of think that if you can find cheap or free WiFi, that's better than paying for 3G/4G. And if you can't get WiFi, then pre-paid 3G/4G is usually good enough for the short periods you may need it.
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Old 07-20-2011, 10:59 AM   #12
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I haven't heard this mentioned on the forums, but we are having good success with PDA net. Basically it is an application available on the Verizon market place (free trial, then pay $25 or less for the application. Load the application on phone and laptop. Tether the phone to laptop with the cord that came with the phone. then a couple of settings and presto you are connected to the internet. Does not count against your minutes, does not incur a tethering charge, works anywhere you have a decent signal and it's FREE. The phone gets its power from the laptop connection. The laptop is plugged into the 12v in TV and running Delorme Topo for navigation.

Now I'm looking for the best "signal booster" for the phone that can help when phone is in TV and easily transferred to the AS. I have read about something called a SLICK. Anyone?
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Old 07-20-2011, 11:48 AM   #13
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WiFiRanger

You may wish to contact the forum management about becoming a commercial member.

Like many posters upthread I prefer to rely upon my 3G service rather than utilize a public or semi-public WiFi system. I utilize the "wifi hotspot" feature of my Droid X. It is rare for me to find that the HSDPA coverage is substantially better outside the trailer shell, which should not be surprising since HSDPA is well corrected for multipath and the large number of windows in any Airstream provide ingress and egress for signal.

There are a number of signal boost products on the market, among them the Wilson Electronics repeaters and the z Boost from wi-ex. Basic Wi-Fi repeaters are widely available from many manufacturers, and there are some mobile hotspot devices designed to accept a 3G aircard and provide a WiFi connection through a separate antenna (sorry, can't remember the manufacturer for these).

Any of these can be combined with an external antenna but interest in such solutions has been declining with the overall improvement in 3G coverage and falling 3G prices.
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Old 07-20-2011, 12:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sage64 View Post

Now I'm looking for the best "signal booster" for the phone that can help when phone is in TV and easily transferred to the AS. I have read about something called a SLICK. Anyone?

You are probably reffering to the wilson SLEEK
Wilson Electronics Inc.

It is an inductively coupled cradle type amplifier which is supplied with a companion antenna.
I bought one of these about 6 months ago. Frankly coming from an RF and Antenna background I approached this product with great skepticism but needed something i could use with my phone or my MiFi which does not have an external antenna connector.

Amazingly we found it works very well and was often the difference between no phone /internet and good performance.
For the MiFi it was great, just set it in the cradle, With the phone a little inconvenient requiring some sort of headset or using speakerphone or bluetooth.

I have no way to measure the transmit performance beyond seat of the pants but can measure received signal in dBm and it does meet Wilson's claimed spec.

Well worth the $135 or so that it cost

For those who boondock. The standby current is only a couple hundred ma. increasing only when transmitting while my Wilson direct connect amp was an 800 ma steady state load
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Old 07-20-2011, 01:19 PM   #15
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From an old U.S. Army commo sgt - the trailer shell can't be used as an antenna (it resonates at the wrong frequency for starters), but would probably make a good ground plane for an antenna mounted on it. I personally think that the least expense solution would be to just walk down to the campground office or drive to the nearest Starbucks with your iPad or laptop once or twice a day.
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Old 07-20-2011, 01:24 PM   #16
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There seems to be a lot of cell phone solutions to WiFi, but we donít have data included on our plan, and we donít want to add another $35-50 to our monthly cell bill. We are full timing and we tend to look for RV parks that have electric and Internet available.

Since 2008 I have tried several WiFi solutions, and bought and ultimately sold several hundred dollars of equipment, antennas, and coax lead-in cables. All portable WiFi solutions have advantages and their disadvantages, and you may make a poor investment on your way to the best solution.

For us the USB powered external WiFi antenna device worked very good for us, but the 15 feet of USB cable wasnít long enough for our trailer, and I had to add a USB extender cable, with a USB connection outside. The USB connection outside went bad in just a few months of use in Arizona, even though it wasnít in the direct weather. If you can avoid the outside USB connection, this should work for anyone as a long-term solution.

The system that we are now using is a power over Ethernet WiFi antenna. On the down side, it has to be pole mounted, or held by something outside of the trailer, it has bulk and weight, and needs to be stowed away for travel, we stow it in the trailer for travel. On the plus side, we have the flexibility of placing the antenna post anywhere within a few hundred feet of the trailer, as power over Ethernet has 300-foot limit vs. 15-foot for USB cable. There is an outside network connection, and it does occasionally get corrosion growing inside it, but I have a supply of connectors and a crimping tool. The antenna is a WiFi receiver, and a router, and it is another firewall device, and it is cabled to a small hub, and cabled to each laptop in the trailer.

Connecting our antenna to a network did have a small learning curve, but once this was sorted out it is now quite easy. The range is incredible, line of sight it will do 1Ĺ mile to a home network, and 5 miles to an outside network. In some urban areas a site survey has found 60 wireless networks.

Only one night last summer in a very rural area, we had no WiFi signal and no internet, every where else a WiFi signal could be found.

Radiolabs.com has many RV and Marine WiFi solutions, and very good tech support.

Steve
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Old 07-21-2011, 09:14 AM   #17
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I have to admin Darlingbooks, that's a pretty spectacular setup. We've taken a pretty similar approach, but made it a bit more compact and automated.

Thanks for the continued discussion, it's very interesting to see how many different ways people are solving their internet problems. We do think there is some value to having a compact, and automatic solution to do the things most of you are doing, and being able to do Cellular and WiFi is a must.

We feel like if you can get WiFi, you should use it, if you can't, then a pre-paid month of 3G/4G cellular is never a bad option.
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Old 07-22-2011, 06:55 PM   #18
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I bought the Bear Extender for my PC laptop and it really enhances the WiFi signal. For $50, it works and does the job. I bought mine online at: BearExtender n3 - Long Range Mac USB Wifi Adapter - Home.
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Old 07-27-2011, 12:38 PM   #19
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Thanks for everyone's feedback on this, it helps us hone and figure out what customers are faced with, and the ways we can help solve some problems.
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Old 07-27-2011, 01:45 PM   #20
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That pole mount looks very interesting.What model is it.I looked at Radiolabs.com but I did not see the one you are using.
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