I see a lot of posts and questions on wifi and data. Everyone wants to get online, and it seems people want more every day.
When we first started, what, 7 years ago? We were happy just driving around a nieghborhood till we sniffed out a hot spot without a password, and sit on the side of the road in front of someone’s house and check email.
Campgrounds started putting in wifi, but it was mostly up at the office, spotty or minimal service back in the campground. So I put in a Hawking HW2R1 router. This is a wifi repeater / router, similar to today’s wifi rangers and pepwaves. The input side connects to campground wifi, and the output side gives us our own campsite personal network. I particularly like being able to have our printer, Dish Hopper, and file server all connected to our personal wifi, and we connect to it with our phones, laptops, etc.
On the input side I put a 3′ antenna strapped to the TV Batwing. This thing will sniff out some wifi! Works great. Almost.
Problem is, campground wifi still sucks. Bandwidth is the problem, and every time a campground writes a 5 figure check to improve their wifi, 20 new campers try to stream video. Ever hear the term “herding cats”? For campground owners, trying to keep up with campers’ wifi demands is like herding cats.
And what if we are someplace where there is no wifi? State and municipal parks, wild areas, just rolling down the road? That’s when we would hotspot a phone, and connect our Hawking router to that. Still same “bus wide” personal wifi, but now it is drawing data from our Verizon plan. We had to watch for overages, and it seemed the Hawking would get lost sometimes and I’d have to reboot it, but other than the cost of Verizon data, this worked.
Prior to our last trip “out west” I decided we needed a cellular amp, to help pull in our Verizon signal when we were “in the middle of nowhere.” I got a Wilson Amp, with an antenna on the roof. This worked great, I’d get 3 bars instead of 1 on my phone with the Wilson switched on. Unfortunately the device is 3G. Technology went to 4G, and then LTE, and then xLTE pretty quickly, so this thing is basically obsolete, though I do think it will pull in a 3G signal from pretty far away, should we need it.
It’s on my list to replace, but due to new federal FCC regulations and such, good xLTE amps with external antennas do not exist yet.
Even with all the bases covered (or so I thought) I was spending a lot of time dealing with our internet connection. First thing at any campground was to get on the router and try to sniff out some wifi. And then try to keep it going. Certain things, such as those requiring a login, Jellystone’s, and Tengo Internet, were real hard to deal with on the Hawking. And I was hearing “I can’t get on the internet” way too often, rebooting the router too often, and messing with stuff too often. I went camping to get away from tech support. On top of that, our Verizon bill was approaching $350! For that kind of $$$, we should have seamless service, and I should be nursing a cold beer in front of a campfire, not rebooting routers.
So I agreed to bite the big one. We got a recommendation from a fellow “fulltime family” member on Facebook, and “rented” a grandfathered unlimited MiFi from a seller on Ebay. The first device we received was an older 4420, and it didn’t make me happy. It was slow, irregular, and I was still rebooting the Hawking several times a day. Cherie at Internet for RVer’s suggested I ask my vendor for newer hardware, and he sent me an MHS291. THIS THING ROCKS! It is xLTE, the fastest cellular technology available today. Our Hawking router gets a solid connection always, no rebooting required. Our computers and phones connect reliably. I cut our Verizon plan down almost enough to make up the difference.
The 291 has an external antenna jack, so that’s on my list before we go out west again, but for now, we have a fast reliable internet connection, always. Happy wife, happy life! 🙂