How We Stay Connected On The Road

So, this post has been LONG anticipated.  We have been working out kinks in our internet set up for a while now, and finally feel comfortable with how the pieces are all working together.  Internet is almost as important to water for us.  Whenever we look for places to park the two questions are 1.) can we fill up with water? and 2.) will we have internet?

During the National Park tour we didn’t have this all set up.  And I REALLY regret not having this taken care of before we left.  We were forced to use limited cell service (which in most of the parks did not exist) and random wifi connections (most of these we could never get close enough to the building where the router was anyways).  Needless to say, it was a struggle.  I knew that if we were going to keep up life on the road, something needed to change!  So we started researching!

We had two problems – 1.) cell service was never good enough and 2.) we could never seem to reach wifi when we were parked.  Luckily, there are companies that make devices that help with everything these days!

For the first problem, we found WeBoost from Wilson Amplifiers.  They make cell service amplifiers.  The idea is, you mount a permanent antenna on the roof (to pick up the cell service – it works way better than your phone antenna), run a wire from there down into the RV, and an amplifier makes the signal even stronger so you can pick it up inside the RV.  This was perfect for what we wanted to do!

In order to diversify our cellular portfolio, we purchased both a Verizon Jetpack Hotspot and an AT&T Unite Explore Hotspot.  We bought ours outright so we didn’t have to have a contract.  That way, when we wanted to stop our service for a few months, we could without having to deal with an annoying contract.  Now, we wanted to get the best signal to these hotspots – bring in the WeBoost Amplifier!

So, we converted our book storage into a tech cabinet!  And yes, since having Theo our library has become quite sophisticated with the addition of Baby Beluga and Jamberry!

We went with the RV Kit that Weboost has all put together for RVers with one exception – we requested the external spring-mounted, truck antenna.  We mounted the antenna, ran the wire down the fridge vent, and plugged that into the WeBoost amplifier you see here (its the big square with the green light on).  From there the internal antenna (the thing that looks like a Hershey bar with rivets) was mounted between the pieces of velcro.  That way we can stick the hotspots directly over the internal antenna to get optimal signal.  We found out that if the devices aren’t directly over the antenna, that the signal doesn’t really work.  The devices that you hope to boost need to be as close as possible to the Hershey bar to have any real benefit.

When taken off of the antenna, the hotspot only got one bar of service.  When placed on the antenna, we got 4 bars!  Not bad, right?!

Now that our cell service is boosted, let’s move on to problem number 2 – How to catch that wifi!?  For that we turn to a different company – Wifi Ranger.  We set up a Sky Pro LTE model on the roof of the RV.  The idea behind it is that it can pick up wifi signals (up to a mile range!) and then run those into a router in your RV, run it past a firewall, and turn it into your own mobile network.  I don’t know how the magic technology works, but I am glad it does.  It makes life SO much simpler.  So instead of having to connect each device we have to the wifi when we roll into a spot, we can leave them all connected to “OurVie Onboard” and when our external wifi booster picks up the signal, we are in business!  It’s so nice!

Here you can see the wires coming into the Core Router in the top left corner.  This is the center of our whole system.  The wifi antenna runs into this, and the mobile hotspots that we have plug into it via USB tethering as well.  So all of our “upstream” sources of internet run into this router.  Then, and this is the coolest feature of the whole set up, it can combine all available sources to give us the fastest speed possible.  So what that means is, say we are connected to a Starbucks wifi down the road.  We also have a solid LTE connection on our hotspot.  We have it configured that the router will combine speeds from our LTE and the wifi, giving us the ultimate downloading/uploading experience.  It’s better than I could have imagined!

We have found that the tech cabinet tends to get pretty hot.  When we are powered up and using it hard, we plug in this tiny little USB fan to move air around.  It seems to do the trick of keeping things cool.

Here is the Sky Pro mounted on top of the RV.

So, there you have it.  The ultimate connectivity package.  You have boosted cell service, easy access to public wifi, and a way to combine whatever is available at the time.  We are very pleased with the way it has come together and look forward to many hours of surfing the world wide web!  Yeah boy!

We put together a little video walk through of the whole setup as well.  In the video I tour a bit of the user interface of the Wifi Ranger software.  Check it out!

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