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Old 08-04-2021, 04:04 PM   #1
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2021 27' International
Leeds , Massachusetts
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Question Zoom calls while Airstreaming

Hello —

I am about to pick up my new Airstream 27FBQ International. One of my concerns is about my ability to work — specifically to teach online classes via Zoom. I teach 4 two-hour classes per week and need a reliable connection. I sometimes have other zoom business meetings during the week, too.

I have read many postings about cell boosters (weBoost, etc.), but mostly people talk about email access and watching Netflix. Zoom requires more bandwidth than that.

I know that campground wifi is often unreliable and shared by too many users at once. I stayed in such a place last September.

I would be grateful for any recommendations of equipment I can install in my new airstream that will give me the best possible signal strength for Zoom calls. I’m willing to buy more than one piece of equipment so that I have options in different locations.

I have heard that Zoom is less reliable on AT&T — bandwidth limitations? I have AT&T but would be OK with switching to another carrier just for this work need. I will need to research calling plans with sufficient data. It may be expensive, but I want to move toward a more and more mobile life.

(I have no choice but to use Zoom as I teach for organizations that use that platform, so suggesting Google or Webex will not help me.)

Thank you,

David Spound
Northampton, MA
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Old 08-04-2021, 05:34 PM   #2
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Broomfield , Colorado
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Bottom line you need to camp near a cell tower with very solid LTE signal, use your mobile phone as hotspot or use dedicated hotspot device like a Verizon 8800L Jetpack or AT&T Nighthawk. Your data plan needs to be full on data access with lots of GB allowance - no throttle caps and no network management.

I get 20-75Mbs download and 8-20 upload when close to towers. Video works fine under these circumstances. I toggle between AT&T and Verizon plans / devices depending on where I am.

I would spend some time at rvmobileinternet.com.

Booster is not going to help for your needs (I have one), if you are in the territory of needing a booster you are too far from the tower in the first place for LTE bandwidth / speed. External antennas can help, I have a portable one, but ultimately and bottom line you need to camp close to a tower. Coverage and Opensignal are two apps I use to approximate coverage and signal strengths at my destination.

PS - Zoom, Google, Webex, MS Teams, RingCentral, etc.. all have similar bandwidth needs. Webex seems to be the dog IMO - Zoom and others seem to have less overhead / better performance in my experience. Network doesn't matter - AT&T, Verizon, etc... being close to their cell tower and having an unrestricted plan for speed (no throttling / network management) with high data allowance (100GB+/mo) does matter. Depending on where you are and proximity to service towers, sometimes you need Verizon, sometimes you need AT&T. (I run both networks in my trailer for data).
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Old 08-04-2021, 06:02 PM   #3
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Driftless Area , Wisconsin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dspound View Post
…I have read many postings about cell boosters (weBoost, etc.), but mostly people talk about email access and watching Netflix. Zoom requires more bandwidth than that…

I have heard that Zoom is less reliable on AT&T — bandwidth limitations? I have AT&T but would be OK with switching to another carrier just for this work need.

When the pandemic started we moved to our farm, which at the time had 1 bar of signal most days, with occasional 2 bars of signal. I had both of my kids’ remote schooling (two different grades, both zoom-based) off two AT&T network cellular hotspots (one a “proper” hotspot, the other a cellular iPad). It worked much better than expected, but I suspect as a teacher expectations will be higher for you. For the record, neither Verizon nor US Cellular, both of which are supposed to excel in rural areas, had any signal on my property.

As Wulfraat said, the stronger the signal the more successful you will be with your zoom calls. I would definitely not rely on campground wi-fi. You may find a library, shared work space, cafe or other public space that you can use. Best thing to do is to test the connection beforehand (and at the time you will be connecting, which will presumably better represent network congestion for that area).

The booster I have in the Airstream works well for phone calls. Doesn’t really help much with data throughput.
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Old 08-04-2021, 06:18 PM   #4
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Good summary by wulfraat. I worked/camped for most of April, and campsite location was the biggest success factor for Zoom calls. I also switch between AT&T and Verizon depending on signal quality. I also have a weBoost cellular booster, and I agree with the comments above.
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Old 08-04-2021, 06:52 PM   #5
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rvmobileinternet.com recently released information and guidance on starlink and the current realities of 5 G

Agree on the importance of being close to cell towers and having both AT&T and Verizon-unlimited data plans.

Recommend using dedicated devices (jetpack etc.) and not relying exclusively on your cell phone. If a zoom meeting drops or becomes "shaky" its nice to have another way to connect. I have sometimes dialed in through both my computer and phone on the same call.

When our GT25 FB arrives early next year, first thing we will be doing is setting it up to work from the road. With the rapidly evolving technology landscape, optimistic tool boxes for road warriors will be even better.

Its awesome to have the opportunity to work and travel.
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:09 AM   #6
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I spent three years fulltime in my Airstream Motorhome and found the key is multiple options. I used Verizon but the saving grace was WiFi Ranger through which I could select the strongest signal. I also have WeBoost for the phone and hotspot. As a consultant I was constantly Zooming, phone conferences, and needed internet continually for my work. While I can't say it was always seamless, there were very few times (maybe one or two) where I had to give up and try again later.
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:11 AM   #7
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Seattle , WA
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Zoom

we have used zoom in our AS since COVID forced us out of Seattle in Fall of 2020 - We have not had a lot of issues with the exception of surpassing the AT&T data limits (which in honesty was when we were streaming to catch up on the 3 seasons of Yellowstone!) - other than that, it seems to work pretty reliably - we do have a pretty good cell signal on our farm. We have the standard wifi set up that came with our Classic - no need for boosters or using our cells as hot spots. Hope this helps. Keep on streaming!
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:24 AM   #8
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I’m currently in a location where I barely at all have any cell service however with our new booster I was able to have a teams call with video no problem. I had a weboost 4Gx or something like that and just replaced it with the weboost Reach. The added power of the reach made the difference. I also made sure to install the outdoor antenna at the front of the trailer and use the indoor antenna at the rear of the trailer so there’s proper separation.
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:42 AM   #9
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We run a cell booster with Netgear Nighthawk for internet with our provider... Boondocking may be a challenge for you because it is dependent on cell tower location. I would imagine the US has a better system than Canada in this regard. If you go on YouTube you will find lots of videos about this....
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:47 AM   #10
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Naples , Florida
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My husband is Verizon and I am AT&T. We have iPhones and IPads respectively. ATT night hawk hot spot and a MIMO antenna and a weBoost with exterior antenna mounted on our batwing antenna. We full timed for 2 years and seldom had problems. The problems occurred when we were at a spot, like Pinnacles National Park, where there was no signal to be boosted. Mobil Interned Resource Center is where I went to learn what I needed. rvmobile internet.com.
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Old 08-05-2021, 10:30 AM   #11
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Lots of advice - but I do not see anything about the costs of using cellular data for a Zoom call. Although Zoom itself manages bandwidth really well it is still a streaming service and as such uses lots of cellular data. AT&T's "unlimited" account usually caps off at around 20gb per month at which point they reduce your bandwidth to the point that you cannot do any video or streaming. Or they start billing you for blocks of data which can quickly give you a bill in the hundreds of dollars for regular zoom calls.

I have a legacy AT&T account with true unlimited bandwidth and use it with a cellular data modem and the WeBoost RV booster, 20ft external pole with multi-directional antenna. Works well - if there is a cellular data signal of even low strength.

I also use a wi-fi booster - a true booster/extender - Bearifi BearExtender Outdoor AC - which again boosts a wi-fi signal - if there is one. But keep in mind, almost all basic RV park wi-fi is not strong enough to support a Zoom call. If they have Tengo, then you can pay for a higher level of bandwith.

If you have to have a signal, there are satellite services - but $6,000 for the equipment and install and a minimum of $150 per month for a minimum level of service.
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Old 08-05-2021, 10:30 AM   #12
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BUCKEYE , AZ
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Been rving in our airstream for three years. Campground wifi is the pits. Cell coverage not that good. Been on the road from AZ to Wa this time.
You need some kind of outside antenna, remember your in a tin can that blocks your signal. Have yet to find anything that really works.
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Old 08-05-2021, 11:45 AM   #13
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West Lake Hills , Texas
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter C View Post
I’m currently in a location where I barely at all have any cell service however with our new booster I was able to have a teams call with video no problem. I had a weboost 4Gx or something like that and just replaced it with the weboost Reach. The added power of the reach made the difference. I also made sure to install the outdoor antenna at the front of the trailer and use the indoor antenna at the rear of the trailer so there’s proper separation.
How did you mount the outside antenna and route the wires to get power?
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Old 08-05-2021, 11:46 AM   #14
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This is not an immediate solution but I have been intrigued by the Starlink concept and they appear to be continuing to ramp up. No real data about link speed or latency which would be big Zoom issues.

https://www.pcmag.com/news/spacex-pr...m=notification
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Old 08-05-2021, 11:58 AM   #15
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Hi

Indeed the biggie is how much data you actually use. Zoom can run anywhere from 0.5 to 1.0 GB an hour. 8 hours of class a week in a 4 week month could have you at 32 GB of data just for the class part of it. If you have another ~4 hours a week on top of that you are up around 50 GB a month.

In some cases this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are folks who do nearly as much data setting up for a class as running the class. A lot depends on what you teach and the format used.

I would not count on getting things done with anything below a 50GB a month "un-throttled" limit. To be safe, I'd go to a 100GB/mo plan. If you have actual logs of your usage per month, that would be a great way to target things. Unfortunately most don't have that kind of info.

As others have mentioned, urban areas are going to be more likely to provide what you are after in terms of service. I've parked in sight of some rural cell towers and not been able to get adequate bandwidth to do video. Some of them simply are overloaded from dawn to well past dusk.

Having plans with multiple carriers is a fine idea. A carrier is not the same as a re-seller. There are only a few outfits with nationwide cellular networks. Verizon and AT&T are the biggies. Past that, I'm not sure T-Mobile has enough of a network outside major urban areas to help much.

Finding campgrounds with good signals is sometimes more of a challenge than one might think. One loop of the campground has great signals and everybody posts lots of reviews about that. The other three loops over the hill have zip. For whatever reason, nobody talks about them ( or vice versa ... who knows ....).

At the moment, cellular is all there is. Someday maybe there will be alternatives that work nationwide. Right now, they aren't there yet.

Fun !!!

Bob
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Old 08-05-2021, 01:28 PM   #16
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Consider Running Two Hotspots Simultaneously

We tend to run two Jetpacks simultaneously.
We have seen each of the Three: T-M, VzW, and ATT tend to lock up on Zoom calls at various times.
So for important Zoom calls we have the primary jetpack running the Zoom call, and have a secondary Jetpack running with a iPAD streaming a Youtube playlist at 140p just to keep the second Jetpack from idling out and dropping the LTE connection.
This way, when the first provider locks up on the Zoom call, we toggle the PC to the other WiFi connection in a matter of seconds.

Waiting for a second Jetpack to establish an LTE connection, or waiting to toggle the primary Jetpack LTE connection is just too long.
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Old 08-06-2021, 07:46 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fungus View Post
How did you mount the outside antenna and route the wires to get power?
Hi

The most common approach is to run the wires out through a vent. The fridge vent is a common candidate for this. The A/C venting would be a possibility, but not one I'd put high on the list.

Once the wires are out there, 3M VHB tape is your friend for anything like this. Be *very* sure the surfaces are clean before you stick it down. Don't ask how I know this ....

Of course if you have a newer AS, it's already got an antenna up there cabled and ready to go. You just have to decide what you want to use it for.

Bob
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Old 08-06-2021, 10:06 PM   #18
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I work full time from the Airstream. I have AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile/Sprint plans with hotspots. I use Speedify to aggregate all three into a single VPN tunnel, getting me the fattest possible pipe. Whenever I am on public WiFi (seldom) I use NordVPN for privacy. [I started working from home back in 1978 and have evolved aling with technology.]
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Old 08-07-2021, 05:46 AM   #19
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I wish we could build a guide on this forum so that people can just see the 2-3 options for working from the road, the 2-3 best hitches, etc etc. There is so much misinformation and new threads being started every day.

DSPOUND: I run my tech company from the road, the ONLY way to do this is a modem that carries multiple SIM cards hooked up to a very large MIMO antenna on the roof. Equipment will cost you $1,200-$1,500 and monthly costs $200-$300.

I have been on the road for 9 months and didn’t have signal only twice, in very very rugged mountain terrain. Otherwise I have faster broadband than in most houses, Zoom, Netflix, Apple TV, Nest security camera etc all at the same time and no problem. I even have Wifi in my car while driving.

Here is the full install post.
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Old 08-09-2021, 01:22 PM   #20
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If you plan on being near either the Canada or Mexican border the you need T-mobile. It really works well on out of country networks. At Organ Pipe NM we had signal off a Mexican tower when no one else in the campground could pull a signal. Pretty much the same thing in the Washington coast where we pulled the signal from Victoria on Vancouver island. it really is a "horses for courses" situation. Be careful looking at coverage maps - Verizon has great coverage, but only for voice and text - much of the so called coverage does not hold up to data.
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