Mixing RV travel and work while on the road can be challenging, but there are big upsides as well. There are very few opportunities where one can see all the great places RV travel offers while your office is steps away from beautiful scenery and amazing places to visit. For us, we started day one with a small office in our 5th wheel and often share tips we’ve discovered to make working on the road easier and most of all more efficient so we can spend time enjoying RV life. To achieve these benefits, we must have good RV Internet. The next steps was installing a MIMO antenna using the Poynting Cellular Roof Antenna to our MoFi 4500 cellular mobile router.
Good high-speed RV Internet can be both hard to find and costly. There are a number of options for reliable Internet to run a business on the road. It is very rare to find Internet services in a campground that is capable of supporting anything more than a few emails. And in most state and federal campgrounds, park WiFi doesn’t exist. If your RV business needs require video conferencing, VoIP voice services, transferring large files to the cloud or any other intensive Internet requirement, then campground Internet isn’t an option. Plus if security is important, most campground Internet is a large open environment that may or may not provide safe connections for the user. Sure you can head into town and find a coffee shop or local business that provides free Internet, but for many RV work needs, you will need a space that is conducive to work similar to what you would find in a home office.
We were fortunate to obtain unlimited wireless cellular hotspot plans with Verizon and AT&T which have since been grandfathered. At the time of the release of the blog, we now have good news from both T-Mobile and AT&T offering reasonably priced 100Mb plans that work very well for those who work from an RV. With a cellular hotspot you can keep your cell phone free and have reliable, high-speed and secure Internet for the RV. But, we found an upgrade that has been a game changer for our RV Internet.
MoFi 4500 and External MIMO Antenna
We recently upgraded from a Verizon hotspot to a MoFi 4500 cellular mobile router that uses the same Verizon SIM card. More information about this update here. Devices such as the MoFi 4500 or the Pepwave offer high quality, enterprise cellular based Internet with many of the features you would find with a home router and local Internet service provider. These devices have improved cellular and WiFi radios to increase Internet speeds, bands supporting the major North American cellular data providers, and the benefit of adding an external antenna to improve the cellular signal outside of the RV.
There are a wide range of MIMO antennas to consider for these cellular based mobile routers. A multiple-input and multiple-out or MIMO antenna has two antennas to support multipath propagation. Simply put, that’s a fancy technical term for two cables coming from an antenna. For routers and hotspots that are MIMO cable, it is very important to use one of these antennas verses a single antenna feed with a slitter to maximize a hotspot or cellular routers reception from a tower. Some of these external antennas can offer high gains with direction capabilities to improve poor reception, others can be a flat antenna placed on the inside of an RV window and others can be an external omni-directional antenna that offers both an improvement in cellular reception and ease of set up. It’s this latter option we chose for our 5th wheel RV antenna installation.
Poynting Cellular Roof Antenna
We chose the Poynting Cellular Roof Antenna to improve the reception to our MoFi 4500. And the improvement was substantial. After a relatively easy hour and a half install, we saw our download speeds improve 600% and upload speeds improve over 250%.
Installation was very simple. We permanently mounted the MoFi 4500 router on a cabinet wall near the back of the 5th wheel. We then drilled a hole in the roof to a cabinet below. I ran the wires through the hole, applied the Poynting Cellular Roof Antenna to the roof with the attached the self-adhesive backing and added a small bead of self-leveling caulk around the edge of the antenna for good measure. I replaced the MoFi 4500 cellular paddle antennas with the two cables supplied from the roof antenna. That’s it!
We tested the newly installed antenna from a location where cellular reception was almost non-existent. We saw the download speeds increase from 0.9Mbps to over 6Mbps. While this may seem to be very low speeds, the improvement was substantial now making work from the RV possible for both video conference calls, and faster times for file uploads and downloads from the cloud. We also expect campgrounds where stronger cellular signals may exist, with the installation of the Poynting Cellular Roof Antenna to offer increased speeds and reliability.
Enjoying RV Life and Work on the Road
The reasons for a high quality cellular based WiFi router and external antenna are simple – we want to improve our workflow, shorten the amount of time at the desk moving files and working over the Internet, and leave more time to play. While other antenna solutions may provide higher gains, they also require more time to set up, find towers, and tune to maximize reception, all very important when camping in a location with poor cellular reception. We were willing to accept a little less signal gain from the cellular tower, but obtain improvements in reception with zero set up. We simply turn on the router and a couple of minutes later we have great RV Internet.
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