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Old 02-20-2024, 10:51 PM   #1
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What Is The Best Way To Stream Movies In Our Caravel 22FB

My wife and I are Airstream newbies. We have a 2022 Caravel 22FB. We took it out last week for its maiden voyage. We had a wonderful time and are planning our next trip.

We took out our TV so we could have more counter space. In the Caravel, where the TV is, encroaches on valuable counter space.

We purchased a Nebula 3 Capsule projector in hopes of streaming movies at night, in our Airstream. We were told that wifi at most RV parks is weak at best. We did find this out on our maiden voyage.

My question is, what is the easiest way, what is the least complicated way, to stream movies in our Airstream. I have been researching the topic and it has done nothing but completely confuse me. We are iPhone users with AT&T as our carrier. Do I need a wifi extender? Do I need a wifi hotspot? Do I need something on the roof? Do I need a monthly subscription? I am so confused!!

I really don't want to do a monthly subscription since I will not be using it on a daily basis or even a monthly basis. We are hoping to get out 4 to 6 times a year.

Any info would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 02-20-2024, 11:21 PM   #2
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My wife and I are also AT&T customers and both of us have iPhones. It depends on your plan but with our unlimited plan 40GB of WiFi hotspot data is included each month for each device. If we get close to our hotspot data limit on one device, we switch to the other phone. As long as we have a couple of bars of signal strength, we can stream even HD content with no buffering or dropouts.

There are no doubt more sophisticated and costly ways to stream that will provide as good or better results in areas with weak cell signals, but you indicated that you were interested in ease of use, presumably without installation of additional costly equipment. Given that, you already have everything you need: a projector that can connect to WiFi and phones that can serve as a WiFi hotspot. It appears that the Nebula has some apps for streaming content built in. If you want access to even more services, you can plug an Amazon Fire Stick or similar into one of the projector's HDMI ports. In any event, enabling a WiFi hotspot on an iPhone is as easy as flipping a switch in Settings and assigning a password to your hotspot network.

As long as your cell plan includes adequate hot spot data and you have any kind of reasonable signal, you'll be good to stream.
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Old 02-21-2024, 08:58 AM   #3
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Another option is Airplay to mirror your iPhone screen to TV or your projector.
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Old 02-21-2024, 12:48 PM   #4
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I agree with the advice above to first try using your phone data as is, either directly or via personal hotspot. Only when you're out of coverage areas or in the fringes do the many complicated options come into play. Downloading content in advance is also a good option of course.

I know the options can make your head spin. In case it's helpful, I have come to think of these systems in terms of the following categories of options (which I've previously posted):

1: Satellite. Starlink is king of the category. It reportedly works great, but is expensive (upfront and monthly) and needs a clear view of the sky. (I'm usually in the trees, so haven't tried it)

2: Cellular-based options. You need at least *some* cell signal for these. External antennas are critical for fringe areas (aluminum shell blocks signal), and directional antennas (like LPDA or Yagi) will help snag the farthest / weakest signals. In addition to weak signals, data congestion can be a big problem at popular streaming times (i.e. evening). These break down into these categories:
2(A): Signal boosters. These will get your phone working even where signal is weak. You can then use hot spot on your phone to get other devices online, or use a portable hotspot device like a Verizon Jetpack through the booster if you have that. No additional service is needed beyond your existing phone/hotspot. These break down into two categories:
2(A)(i): Analog boosters, like WeBoost. These amplify all signals in the cellular bands and work with all carriers.
2(A)(ii): Digital boosters, like Cel-Fi. These only work with one carrier at a time, but they have their own digital baseband processing and offer better performance (at a higher price).
2(B): Cellular modem, like Airstream Connected, Peplink, Verizon Jetpack. These require their own cellular service (and monthly fee), and will provide a WiFi hotspot for your devices. Good ones support multiple external antennas, potentially allowing for the best speeds in the cellular category (subject to congestion). Without external antennas, you're not much better off than with your phone alone.

2(C): Personal hostpot on your existing phone. This only works where coverage is good.
I use a Cel-Fi booster (category 2(A)(ii)) with an omnidirectional antenna on the roof wired through the AS Connected pre-wire. I also use it with a directional LPDA antenna that I will set up on a 25' pole if the omni isn't cutting it. This setup has been perfect for my purposes (often on the fringes of cellular coverage).

Good luck!
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Old 02-21-2024, 02:26 PM   #5
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Mikeinca, DarthBrader, thank you very much for the info. It looks like my cell phone is the least complicated and best bet. Maybe with the help of WeBoost, I will look into that.
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Old 02-21-2024, 03:06 PM   #6
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I can work remotely and need a reliable internet connection and we often boondock in places with a poor cell signal. I don't use a lot of data that streaming does however. I installed Starlink and a cellular modem making use of the Airstream Connected wiring. In order of preference:
  1. Existing cell plan using a hot spot: 2(C). We have ATT also and have had to buy additional hot spot data on occasion. As you're aware the signal inside the aluminum trailer isn't always the greatest.
  2. Starlink: 1. It's awesome when there is a clear view of the sky (or pretty close). It's $700 for equipment and $150/mo for the RV plan but can be started and stopped with no activation fee. When we head out West for a long trip we activate it. In Minnesota with trees, it's not so good.
  3. Cellular modem: 2(B). It costs about $800 for the equipment (5G), but there are cheaper options. I have a data-only prepaid plan that uses the ATT network. Using my existing ATT plan doesn't allow for starting and stopping and they charge by the month regardless of usage, so pfffft.
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Old 02-21-2024, 03:25 PM   #7
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I think an escalating strategy is a great idea. If plain old hot spot isn't working, go to WeBoost. If that's not cutting it, then go to fancier antennas and electronics. That's what I did. I have WeBoost in the car and it definitely helps, but it doesn't have anywhere near the reach of the Cel-Fi system with a well-aimed, pole-mounted LPDA antenna. I've gotten 20 megabits in the trailer, while outside we had one bar and couldn't even check email.

It seems that most people who really need to get online carry multiple options.
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Old 02-21-2024, 03:35 PM   #8
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It's definitely true that the inside of the aluminum shell isn't the best location to get a good signal. I've found that it helps to experiment a little by leaning the phone up against different windows around the trailer until you get the most stable reception.

It's a trade-off among simplicity, cost and how often you will be travelling and want to stream. If I was a full timer, very frequent traveler or working from the road one of the more sophisticated solutions with boosters, antennas, etc. would be the way to go. For our occasional needs the iPhone hotspot and a Fire Stick work well enough to keep us satisfied.
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Old 02-21-2024, 04:45 PM   #9
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We made our TVs smart by adding a streaming device, like a Google Chromecast, and used a 5G T-Mobile Home Internet Cellular -- Wifi router.

So far T-Mobile does not geo-locate their T-Mobile Home Internet (which is unlimited), and we have had excellent luck in most of the country.

If you have 12VDC TVs it's worth noting the T-Mobile router can be powered directly by a USB-C Power Delivery outlet -- which you can buy on Amazon to upgrade the USB-A only outlets you currently have.

We also have a Verizon Inseego Hotspot as a backup, plus, in a pinch you can use the data plan of your cell phones.
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Old 02-21-2024, 06:35 PM   #10
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Here is a photo of our T-Mobile Home Internet cellular/wifi router we use in our rig and a screen shot of a speedtest of the router taken at the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo Campground near Lakeland, FL.
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Old 02-21-2024, 07:30 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SallyForth View Post
Here is a photo of our T-Mobile Home Internet cellular/wifi router we use in our rig and a screen shot of a speedtest of the router taken at the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo Campground near Lakeland, FL.
Wow, almost 400 Mbits down is great! Is that in an area with otherwise good service? I thought you'd need pretty solid 5G coverage for that kind of data rate...
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Old 02-21-2024, 08:36 PM   #12
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Thank you very much everyone for this incredibly useful information. This forum rocks!!

Here is an update. I am retired but the company that I am one of the owners of, pays for our cell phones (my wife and I). We have about 50 employees and we pay for all of their cell phones as well. Everyone has unlimited data. Unfortunately, to get unlimited data, with the company plan that we have, no one can use their phone as a hot spot. So it looks like using the phone for a hot spot is out!

Does anyone have experience with Travlfi? I was just reading up on them and they have many different plans and you can pay as you go. And their price for equipment is not bad.

I will be digging deeper on this. I really appreciate everyone's input and information. It helps so much!
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Old 02-22-2024, 06:15 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarthBrader View Post
Wow, almost 400 Mbits down is great! Is that in an area with otherwise good service? I thought you'd need pretty solid 5G coverage for that kind of data rate...
We were camping at the Sun n' Fun Aerospace Expo Campground for the first time. Very cool place. It borders Lakeland Linder International Airport (LAL) that has a mix of private aviation enthusists, including vintage warbirds and aerobatic planes as well as a commercial section that is mainly a local hub for Amazon Prime's fleet of cargo jets.

We have had very good luck with the T-Mobile device -- even in borderline areas, epecially considering it's operating within a faraday cage.
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Old 02-22-2024, 07:38 AM   #14
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Does anyone have experience with Travlfi? I was just reading up on them and they have many different plans and you can pay as you go. And their price for equipment is not bad.
There was a thread about TravlFi recently, but no reported experience there (yet).
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Old 02-22-2024, 08:30 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by SallyForth View Post
Here is a photo of our T-Mobile Home Internet cellular/wifi router we use in our rig and a screen shot of a speedtest of the router taken at the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo Campground near Lakeland, FL.
Excellent deployment of the catus antenna array!
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Old 02-22-2024, 09:28 AM   #16
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I work from our trailer, but except for the occasional video conference, do not have demanding needs. So, I have been trying to use phone hotspots. I have Verizon and my wife has AT&T so that I can use the better of the two. Last summer I did a trial T-Mobile dual sim on my phone while we travelled to Montana and Wyoming. Where both Verizon and T-Mobile had coverage, T-Mobile was almost always better. So, I just got a T-Mobile 5G hotspot to try to get a bit better coverage because neither Verizon nor AT&T have been all that great in our typical state park camping spots. I guess this is our first incremental step to improve coverage.
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Old 02-22-2024, 09:51 AM   #17
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Another data point. We had been using Google Fi which is T-Mobile and it's a plan you can turn on and off without charge. It's $20 to sign up then $10/Gb. So if you just need something for browsing, it's pay as you go instead of a monthly plan.
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Old 02-22-2024, 10:22 AM   #18
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Another data point. We had been using Google Fi which is T-Mobile and it's a plan you can turn on and off without charge. It's $20 to sign up then $10/Gb. So if you just need something for browsing, it's pay as you go instead of a monthly plan.
A nice feature of Google Fi is that, if you have a phone on the account, you can add a "data-only SIM" that you don't have to turn on and off. It charges ONLY for data usage, so in a month when you're not traveling you'd get billed JUST for the phone. In a month when you use a bunch of data you buy it at $10/gb but it's not charged in whole gigs so your data bill might be $5 or $17 etc. depending on usage. I don't remember offhand if it has the same expense cap the basic phone plan does (anything over 60 GB caps at $60 until you hit some large monthly milestone, perhaps 120gb?) My AT*T hotspot is "unlimited" so if I have an AT&T signal I'll use that, but the T-mo backup has been useful more than a few times.

Another feature of Google Fi that works for me is a bit off-topic to THIS discussion, but the international roaming is EXCELLENT. There's no daily slap-in-the-face charge like AT&T or VZW, data costs the same as in the US, sending & receiving text is free and placing calls is $0.20/min.
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Old 02-22-2024, 01:24 PM   #19
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Is there a consensus rooftop external antenna or router light for modest streaming needs? Netgear, peplink, etc
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Old 02-22-2024, 07:52 PM   #20
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I was just watching a video where they were comparing Starlink to T-Mobile and the person in the video decided to dump Starlink and go with T-Mobile. They said everything was better and easier with T-Mobile.

It's still very confusing out there as to the best set up for streaming videos, if you can't use your phone as a hot spot. Does a wifi extender/repeater work for RV Parks that have, not so good wifi?

All the information is very helpful. I am leaning towards going with the T-Mobile Home Internet. I think it may be the easiest and most affordable. It will all come down to what carrier or company will allow me to only pay for the month that I am using it. I don't want to pay for a service while my trailer is in storage.
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