I’ve expanded an earlier blog on this subject here in case anyone else is interested in installing a similar system.
My wife and I like to retain both broadband and mobile ‘phone access whilst touring.When we first toured I subscribed to the CMC WiFi site system, but found it somewhat slow and unreliable with patchy coverage.
We then stopped on a C&CC and found that they used a different WiFi provider, and guess what, they wanted paying for their system too.
Soon after I found that I could use the internet service on my mobile phone to create a hotspot in our caravan. It’s slow on the weaker 3G network, but where a 4G service is available it is actually very quick and usable, but too expensive for regular use. In areas of a strong signal it’s actually quicker than the fibre broadband feed we have at home that provides about 35 Mbps.
The drawback with using the mobile phone network is that reception can be patchy, or even (horror of horrors) totally absent; so it closely matches the average site WiFi system in terms of availability!
Deciding to try the mobile ‘phone system, and in order to avoid using my mobile-phone tariff I bought a TP-Link router which takes in the mobile data signal and retransmits it as a password protected local WiFi signal that all our digital appliances can connect too. The router has it’s own sim card so I was able to fit a 24GB sim card for the Three network, I bought it via Amazon for £28.40. It’s marketed as “Internet with Legs”. Unfortunately, when I needed another two year later I found that the price had increased to £45.00! However as I only need it while touring it I still think that it represents reasonable value. When placed close to a window our router worked well on most occasions, but it had to be set-up and plugged in each time, which was a bit of a chore. Ideally I wanted it permanently set-up and always available so I could peruse the news over morning coffee.
I believe the reception inside a caravan is worse because the signal has first to get in through the caravan’s aluminium skin. It seemed to me that a roof mounted aerial would be unobstructed and therefore be able to provide the strongest signal, so the hunt was on for a suitable aerial.
I eventually found a reasonably priced multi-band MiMo puck amplification antenna, whose specification looked promising, on eBay (not that I’m an expert on such matters) and I bought one. It looks like it will do the job and tests at home confirmed that it worked well with my router, providing up to 60 Mbps download speeds on the Three network.
Its installation would first require a 20mm hole drilling through the roof, but what’s another hole between friends! For those interested, technical details of this aerial may be found on the Connex Technologies website.
As anticipated, the hole drilling was quite easy. I selected a position that would bring the aerial’s twin leads through the roof into the corner of our wardrobe. The down leads were fed down through the hole and the aerial was plonked on the roof with lashings of Sika 552 sticky stuff, after first having cleaned the area with Sika 205 fluid to ensure maximum adhesion.
It was whilst connecting the TP-Link router that a problem arose. I failed to check the polarity of the 12v circuit I had connected to and soon found that it hasn’t any reverse polarity protection resulting in a blown circuit. Drat!
As the current range of TP-Link router doesn’t have the removable antenna necessary to connect to the new puck antenna down-leads that make was no longer suitable and a replacement had to be found.
The Huawei E5577s portable router receives good ratings and has the necessary double aerial sockets so was selected as a replacement even though the input sockets are much smaller than those on the puck aerials down-leads, so adaptors had to be purchased; more expense. The down-leads were enclosed in a length of self-adhesive mini-trunking in the wardrobe and out through a hole to a position just below the wine cabinet, close to a 12v socket where the router was mounted on the wall using a strip of self-adhesive velcro.
Switching the router on and powering up my lap-top quickly allowed an internet connection to be established, which was a bit of a relief. I must explain here that this was taking place on our storage site where a mobile phone signal is non-existent, at least on my iPhone, so I was happy to see the router indicating a signal, even though it was only on the 3g network, 4g has yet to reach that part of rural Lincolnshire. Carrying out a download test gave a speed of 6Mbps, usable for internet use even if well below what I receive at home.
I’m happy to report that the Huawei router works very well, and is very easy to set-up; in fact the set-up procedure consisted of charging its internal battery, inserting the sim-card, switching it on and then entering its password into my computer. The most difficult part of the procedure was removing the back, not the best design.
The one oddity that I did find is that the router’s password is displayed on the front LCD screen at start up for all to read, not the most secure arrangement.
I will update test results through the year as we try the system on different sites.
I had the opportunity of further testing during a recent visit to the Sandringham CC&C site in Norfolk where a mobile phone signal was very hard to come by, in fact on the 3 network all but non-existent. The data system pulled in a signal of about the same strength as that recorded at our storage site as detailed above.
This compared with the site WiFi signal that gave a download of 1.5Mbs.
I found it necessary to switch the Huawei router off and then on again to establish a service when I turned my laptop on, something I had expected it to do automatically. I shall investigate that aspect further for it’s possible that I haven’t set it up correctly.
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