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Hi, and welcome!
I have been RVing Full-time since 2017 as an IT Professional, so I get asked frequently about internet while traveling. Here’s what I recommend!
Sometimes just a hotspot is enough. I recommend you get at least a 4G hotspot with MiMo capabilities, which often come in the form of “test” ports.
I use both a NetGear Nighthawk (MR1100 or M1 for AT&T and a Mifi 8800L for Verizon.) They all have Ethernet ports to connect to a Wireless Swich/Router like the PepWave Surf SOHO MK3 (which I use). The key here is dual antenna ports (sometimes called Test Ports) so you can take advantage of the MiMo features for fastest speeds and to be able to hook up MiMo antennas.
To improve your signal and potential speeds, I also have a Netgear 6000450 MIMO Antenna with 2 TS-9 Connectors. It has 2 TS-9 connectors to connect straight into your antenna ports. This is give you quite a boost for little investment, and with the included suction cups, you can stick it to a window in your rig facing the tower. Easy!
If the standalone hostpot or +NetGear Antenna is not enough, the next step is to add a pair of MiMo antennas on your roof.
I use a pair of Wilson Electronics Mini-Mag Stubby Antennas mounted on my roof.
The parts lists:
- 2x Wilson Electronics Mini-Mag Stubby magnetic Antennas with SMA Male Connectors
- 2x TS-9 Adapters
- Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant in the appropriate color for your roof
- A 1’x1′ steel plate from a hardware store or Big-Box home store (doesn’t need to be thick)
- Some kind of Entry Gland or Cable Port for the RV and a hole saw if you need to drill.
- A cordless drill if you need it.
It’s pretty simple to install:
- Go up on your roof.
- Find a spot and mount the plate using the Dicor as an adhesive underneath and a sealant around the edges. No need to screw it in.
- Inside your RV, find a way to route your wires to the roof.
- You might be able to do so by running it through the fridge vent, or drill a hole. I used a hole saw and drilled through my ceiling and then drilled a corresponding hole in the roof.
- Then I sealed with the cable cover and more Dicor.
- Set the Mini-Mag antennas on the steel plate, a few inches apart. This plate is required and acts as a ground plane.
- Connect the TS-9 Adapters to the antenna cables
- Connect the TS-9s to your MiMo-ready hotspot.
If you are very serious about being in the wilderness, you can try boosting your wireless signal. This can be a good solution if you’re in the desert, the mountains, or on a boat. There are some caveats:
- Not everything is boostable. Sprint is this way because it’s bands are too close to emergency frequencies. Not all bands will be available in all areas.
- Boosting will only help if you have a weak signal. If you have no signal or strong signal, it won’t help at all. It can make a weak signal usable (keep the kids/wife off streaming)
- Boosters tend to be expensive.
I use a WeBoost 4G-X OTR with the Trucker Antenna. The trucker antenna is omnidirectional, so it has less range but doesn’t need to be aimed.
For even more control and performance, you can opt for a directional antenna, like the Wilson Electronics Wideband Antenna with Coax (to plug into your WeBoost). You can point the directional antenna toward a distant tower- maybe even a tower that is farther away but less busy- and get better performance. If you have line-of-sight (like in the desert or on a boat), even better.
Both of these antennas can be mounted on a Winegard “Batwing” antenna, which many RVs have.
Distributing your internet signal
You can take advantage of a few devices that will allow you to set up a strong WiFi signal in your rig (and outside, too). It will be stronger than what your hotspot can put out.
I run a PepWave Surf SOHO MK3 to centralize my internet connection. I can plug in my Nighthawk via Ethernet and connect my other hotspots via Wifi or USB. I have also used the WiFi Ranger Sky Pro, but if I had to do it over, I’d get the Yukon Pack.
Have fun, and let me know if you have any questions!