Most RVers need to be connected on the road to the Internet, some of us more than others. For those digital nomads who depend on the Internet to work from the road like Jennifer and me, having a redundant, backup way of going online is a must.
To cut to the chase, click the image below to see the video we just did on the new redundant mobile Internet system we are using. To read the details, we invite you to keep scrolling down.
For years we have relied on our Verizon Jetpack Mi-Fi hotspot for Internet connectivity. We have also used and tested out several different cellphone boosters and Wi-Fi amplifiers.
Verizon has been our go-to cellular provider. Traditionally, it has had the best network and the most 4G LTE cell towers. But over the past two years, we've noted that in many of the most popular RV areas and in crowded campgrounds, Verizon access has been spotty. That's mostly because so many other RVers are also using Verizon for data and when everyone is online at once, the cell towers get overloaded.
We still rely on Verizon for our MiFi hotspot and our iPhones and tablets but have realized that having access to another cellular network would be a good idea in those congested areas or when Verizon signals are marginal.
Similarly, as we learned in episode 244 of the RV Podcast from mobile Internet experts Chris Dunphy and Cherie ve Ard, from the Mobile Internet Resource Center, cell boosters are not always the answer. For one thing, it can be a bit challenging installing a cell booster on smaller Class C and Class B RVs because the outside and inside antennas tend to self-oscillate and greatly reduce the usability of the boosted signal unless they are 10-12 feet apart. And that's a distance hard to achieve on some smaller RVs.
For another reason, cell boosters can actually hurt, rather than help.
Here, let Cherie and Chris explain:
“When you’re really remote from a tower, (a booster) can be what actually gets you connected,” says Cherie. “But a core technology of LTE, which is what the cellular carriers are currently using, is a concept called MIMO, which stands for multiple in, multiple out and that just basically means that our cellular devices, your smartphone, your jet pack, your routers, they have at least two antennas inside of them, so that they can hear. It’s kind of like us having two ears.”
Explains Chris: “And when you use a booster, it’s like plugging an ear and putting a megaphone in one. There is actually a lot of situations where a booster will slow you down. We’re always trying to give people kind of a booster reality check of, don’t use your booster all the time. Use it only when you really need it, and you probably don’t need it nearly as often as you think. It’s actually hurting your performance in a lot of cases.”
So while I always want a booster because we tend to boondock in remote areas far from cell towers where we need that amplification for a connection, I realize it's not the key thing.
The booster I just installed is from a Canadian company called Solid RF. The unit I installed is a prototype of the new RV Pro model, Commercial units will be available on Amazon starting June 15, 2019 at https://amzn.to/2YUJfJt
What makes this unusual is that Solid RF found a way to get around the self-oscillation problem on smaller RVs by mounting the amplifier itself outside, on the roof of the RV, with the main outside antenna attached directly to it. And if the main inside antenna is located directly below that outside antenna and separated by a vertical distance of at least four feet, the self oscillation issues disappear.
I installed the unit in our 2019 Leisure Travel Vans Unity FX and had some very successful test results, as seen in the video above.
The RV Pro works very well with our Jetpack Mi-Fi hotspot and I will keep this system.
But I also want access to another cellular network. And I'd like a WiFi booster, too, to help improve wireless connectivity when accessing nearby Wi-Fi networks.
My solution is the Winegard ConnecT 2.0 system. The ConnecT 2,0 is a Wi-Fi booster AND it also has a cellular antenna which allows 4g LTE connectivity. It is a not a cell booster, per se, but the cellular antenna has those MIMO receive capabilities that Chris and Cherie just explained above and a MIMO antenna is like hearing with both ears, where as Chris explained, a cell booster is “like plugging an ear and putting a megaphone in one.”
Fortunately, I already had the Winegard ConnecT 2.0. It came pre-installed by Leisure Travel Vans with our Unity FX, roof mounted in a weather-sealed dome enclosure and already wired up. All I had to do was activate the system.
But the ConnecT 2,0 will work with any RV. Winegard will tell you how to install it yourself, or you can have it done professionally for you at most RV dealers and by many mobile RV techs.
By climbing up on the roof, you can swap out a SIM card on the ConnecT 2.0 to allow you to tap into whatever network you currently subscribe to and it will work great. I opted to stay with the card already installed, which Winegard uses to allow users to purchase data on a month-to-month basis, instead of being locked into a long subscription as most of the carriers require. It's expensive. I paid $80 for a month's service.
But that works in both Canada and the US. In Canada, where we'll be next week, it works on the Rogers cellular network. In the U.S., it works on the AT&T network, which has greatly increased the number of cell towers it has across the U.S. and is now a very close second to Verizon. Verizon also works in Canada, by the way, for a slight additional monthly fee.
So, I have now redundant cellular services – either Verizon through my current MiFi and aided by the RV Pro when needed, or AT&T, through the Connect 2.0. I will now be able to choose whichever works best in the area where I happen to be traveling.
But something else that the ConnecT 2.0 does that I really appreciate. It boosts Wi-Fi signals. Take a look at the video and you'll see how many Wi-Fi networks it discovered around me.
So there you go. I'm ready for the road.
I also urge you to listen to that full interview we did on the RV Podcast with Chris and Cherie. We also talk about the future of Satellite Internet and lots more. If you'd prefer watching a video of the interview, just click here, or on the image below: