Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Endorsed Items

Our Top 10 products in use EVERY day while boondocking or gate guarding.


All ads other than Amazon have been removed. Thank you for using my Amazon links like the one above for your online shopping.



The Ultimate Internet Access Project – Footnotes and Updates – Part 7

I have gotten lots of feedback on my Ultimate Internet Access Series which has six previous installments.

My interent access "secret"

My interent access "secret"

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

This is Part 7

Part Eight

I hope the previous six installments have been useful. Now for all you loyal blog readers, I am going to let you in on a little secret.  See the picture on the right?  If you place a Miller Light bottle that has exactly two drinks removed from it within 3 inches of your aircard, it will boost your signal 40dBm!!!!!!

Serious?  Not even!  I am just making a point. People tend to believe what they read on the internet and unscrupulous people will take advantage of that.  What if I had left the above paragraph as is with no disclaimer, what would have happened?  I tell you what would have happened.  I would have read about it on the internet in a few weeks in one of the forums that someone read somewhere if you place a 2/3 full Miller Lite bottle close to your aircard, it would improve your reception.  That is how internet myths are born  My point is this, when I did my internet research for the Ultimate Internet Access Project, most of the info available was from wireless dealers and manufacturers.  Not very much unbiased info was available!  That is the main reason for my series.  I am not affiliated or connected to any of the manufacturers or suppliers and I do not stand to make a nickel off the whole deal.  The only thing Miller Lite cures is writer’s block 🙂 .

It has been raining here north of Newton,TX and it has given me a chance to catch up on emails.   One series from Mel and Ray is worth repeating here and I do so now with their permission:

Mel writes initially:

andyj,
I am fascinated with your descriptions and would like to ask you questions directly as I get into assembling this in my 40 ft Alfa See Ya motorhome. At 73, I still work full time and I have to have good communication. While I have a DataStorm Satellite, it is no good for voice communication. Skype to Skype seems to work marginally. Skype to a land line is terrible. I am going to purchase all of the items you recommend, but I am totally ignorant with electronic technical issues. If possible, could you sketch a schematic of how and where these components interact and should mount in the coach. I am using AT&T Blackberry Bold and Razor phones. both are dual band according to AT&T.
I have a “bat wing” TV anntena on the roof that I never use. I plant to attach the Yagi to the top of that antenna, and that will allow me to lift it and rotate it from inside to get a signal. Is there some type of commercial meter that I can use when pointing that will be more accurate and sensitive than just the bars on the phone? The bat wing antenna is five feet back from the front of the coach. I plan to run the cabling along the roof to the back of the coach and then come down to the inside devide back in the bedroom, which will give me about a 31 ft distance. However, I just don’t understand which components go where.
I contacted ATT and for my phones they tell me they use frequencies1900, 2100, 900, and 850, but that means nothing to me. Any direct advice you can give me, particularly a pictorial schematic will be greatly appreciated.

My sincere thanks, Mel

I replied:

Hi Mel

Just got your comment on Myoldrv.com

A couple of questions first please

Are you planning on just amplifying your phones? Or do you want an
internet connection as well?

Do you normally travel to extremely remote areas for extended periods ie

at least 20 miles from an interstate or town? Do you have cell phone
service in the areas you stay?

Andy

Mel wrote back:

Hi Andy,

I use an AT&T air card as my normal internet access. The Data Storm
Satellite is used when we are too far out. The whole idea of going to
the directional antenna is to hopefully let me pick up an adequate
signal when we are too far away from the highway, but still have a
chance of an enhanced signal for both cell and internet. I am a fly
fisherman and like to get back to lakes and streams for extended periods
that are often beyond the beaten path and can often be more than 20 mile
from the interstate, but I still have to be in touch with the company I
work with. The DataStorm is fine for internet and Email but no good for
voice communication. There is no “one place” we stay. Sometimes there
is no signal and sometimes a weak signal. Too, the DataStorm is
sometimes unusable because of trees blocking access to the southern sky.

In your opinion will mounting the Yagi to my existing Bat Wing antenna
likely give me the ease of pointing I think it will?

Last night, I ordered all of the components you listed on Myoldrv.com

Two years ago, I spent the summer in Iowa while working on a project.
We were in a slightly low area. I could go one mile in one direction or
five miles in another direction and get adequate cell signals. I
purchased the trucker cell set-up Wilson shows, but it gave me nothing.
A friend uses a Yagi and swears by it and he put me onto your website.

Thank you for responding,

I responded at length:

OK Mel,

Now I know where you are coming from.

The sequence of equipment is, of course, like this:

Outside Antenna
Amplifier
Indoor antenna

The outside antenna and amp must have a certain degree of separation to prevent what I call feedback on the amp– that is when the lights turn red on the Wilson Amp. The more powerful the amp, the more separation required. The SOHO amp is good because it only requires 20′ or so of separation. You can even lessen that if you use a wireless indoor directional panel like I do. The KEY is you point the directional inside panel antenna AWAY from the outside antenna.

When I talked to the Tech guy at Wilson he said one of their VP’s actually used the 801245 SOHO amp in his motor home with good results. The Tech guys was very helpful so keep that in mind if you run into problems. You are using a quality American made product with with REAL tech support.

You said there was some confusion about just exactly how things all fit together and I am no good at schematics so lets’ take each piece separately and look at the limitations.

The outside antenna

A first note on signal strength. I tried indexing the yagi for signal strength using the cell phone and it was a no go– not detailed enough. My aircard has a Tools menu that shows signal strength in dBm. I use it now. Lotsa trips in and out of the RV but worth it. I turn the system on and go turn the yagi to where I think the cell tower is. Back in to the RV to check signal strength and then back outside to turn the antenna again. I have the marks on the flagpole base numbered 1-10 and I just spaced them out around the base– no exact measurement. I have an index mark on the antenna mast. All made with a Sharpie. I turn the pole to the next mark and go back inside and check dBm etc etc. I write down ALL the dBm measurements and EACH location 1-10 and then go back and use the strongest one. I keep that card for reference because sometimes you will find the second strongest position maybe your best bet.

I use a dual setup with two cable feeds. The antenna mast is the galvanized top rail chain link pipe clamped to the back ladder of the Old Girl. I can add 10′ sections to make it go all the way up to 30′. The yagi is clamped to the top pipe. It turns in the base which is an old flagpole mount and I have it “indexed” so I can turn it to get the best signal. The yagi is line of sight so if you are down in a hole or blocked by trees it will not work. The Wilson Truckers antenna is mounted on the PVC antenna brace which also carries the pipe antenna mast for the yagi. The Yagi is attached to the heavy LMR400 cable and the Wilson is attached to the thinner RG58 cable. I always try the Truckers antenna FIRST. If it works it is much less hassle to get it set up. One piece of equipment I am missing is a lightning arrestor. With that metal pole sticking WAY up in the air, I really should have one. I just disconnect the cable now when we have a thunderstorm.

I am sure you could use your TV antenna to mount the yagi. I have seen pictures of that on the internet. My concern would be when you lay the antenna down for transport is the yagi going to fold down as well? I would much rather detach an antenna system at the rear ladder than climb and walk all the way across your roof to reach the TV antenna.

Just remember cable run is critical in preserving your signal strength — even with good cable. That is a critical part of your equipment layout. Also, that LMR400 cable is thick (as big around as your little finger)and STIFF. It is really difficult to work with.

Amplifier.

The amp needs to be mounted where it can get good airflow and close to a power source. My amp is mounted next to the dinette and is powered off a 120 volt source from my inverter. That way I can use it whether I am hooked to a power source or running off the house batteries. They make a 12v adapter for the 801245 amp. That may be a good option for someone that boondocks quite a bit. Some people like to put the amp in a cabinet and hide it. I prefer to have it out in the open so I can see the status lights. I am a bachelor however, your significant other may find the “hidden” option to be more aesthetic.

Inside antenna

The 301135 panel antenna is a critical part. It is a DIRECTIONAL antenna. My outside antenna is at the rear of the Bus. My inside antenna faces the front of the bus– facing AWAY from the outside antenna. If I mounted the outside antenna at the front of the RV, my inside antenna would face the rear of the RV. This allows you to have a smaller amount of separation between the two antennas and consequently less cable. Wilson claims the 801245 will give you a good amplified signal in a small office or apartment. I have found it works pretty good within 20′ of the front of the antenna.

So my setup is laid out like this:

Antenna(s) at the rear of the Bus in the ladder area. Cables run across the roof and down through the refrigerator vent in the central part of the bus. Distance is about 20′ but it takes about 30′ of cable. The cables are secured with cable ties or dabs of silicone on the flat roof.
The amp is mounted in the dinette area. I just swap cables for the different antennas depending on the signal strength.
The inside antenna is mounted on the bulkhead behind the dinette facing the front of the bus. I get good signal strength from the dinette to the front of the bus. Wilson says the antenna must be mounted 7′ above the floor. Mine is not and still works. It also says there needs to be like 2′ between the antenna and a human. I looked for the exact specs but could not readily locate them on Wilson’s website. I am pushing the limits of that 2′ zone.

Mel, you say you want to mount the yagi on your TV antenna and run the cable to the rear of the RV. I see two problems with this. First it is a long cable run. You say 31′. By the time you run it down inside it will probably be closer to 35′. Second, if you mount the panel antenna in the bedroom, It will be facing toward the yagi. With this much separation, you might be ok and then maybe, you won’t. Wilson says 25′ of separation is adequate with the SOHO amp.

I would think about three scenarios.
Mount the yagi on the batwing. I assume you have cabinets along the sides of your Alfa? I would drill a hole from the roof down into one of the overhead cabinets and run the cable through it. Mount the amp there and face the inside panel to the rear of your RV. I bet there would be less than 15′ of cable.

Mount the yagi at the rear of your Alfa. Drill a hole in one of the overhead cabinets in the bedroom and face the inside antenna forward. The signal *should* reach the front of the RV. Keep in mind what I said about the 15′ -20′ range I found to be usable.

Use my installation scenario. You will have good signal strength everywhere except the bedroom.

Andy

And Mel, being the gracious, polite man he is, said:

Andy,
This is GREAT information. I really appreciate the time you have
taken with me. I still have a couple of questions, but they may be moot
after I receive the components so I will wait. I will let you know when
I get the installation set up.

Certainly, by all means post this exchange, I am sure it can be a great
help to others.

My kindness regards

Mel

Well, later on today I heard from Mel’s friend Ray who had initially directed Mel to my Blog.

Ray wrote:

Hi Andy:

This started with Mel and I discussing internet & phone connections in the wilds, at a Seattle RV campground where we met recently. After some email exchange with Mel, I did some internet research, found your posting and forwarded that to Mel.

I have a system somewhat similar to yours. I was first using an omnidirectional antenna (with direct connect booster amp), but discovered it was disappointing in how little extra range I got. (but it sure is convenient — I normally use it from INSIDE my RV) With some encouragement from a ham radio friend, I decided to try a Yagi antenna and chose the same one you have. I’ve tried it in several moderately remote places and it has worked well each time. I’ve yet to find a place it hasn’t worked (but that isn’t yet too meaningful, since I haven’t been back to the wilds of Wyoming, etc. yet). But interestingly, I was in moderately heavy trees on a ridge about 25 miles from the nearest known cell towers (Boise, ID) and got 2 bars on my cell phone and made a call. And this worked even with aiming the antenna 90 degrees away from the towers and into thicker trees. Not sure what it means, but suspect reflections off of something.

Another reflection story comes from outside of Phoenix, towards Kingman, where I went down into a creek canyon. I was able to call out to Phoenix by aiming the Yagi at the side of a nearby mountain side. I wondered if it was reflecting off the mountain.

Unlike you, I’m using direct connect and I’m using SmoothTalker equipment. Everyone says direct connect gives better performance, so I figured I would need that for remote usage and would just have to put up with the inconvenience. I have a cradle interface for my phone (it is actually a short range radio connection) and a real direct connect to my air card (USB 727 for Verizon).

I had a lot of trouble getting any reliable information to compare brands, but in the end concluded that SmoothTalker and Wilson were probably the brands to choose from and Wilson is USA and less hassle to work with than the Canadian company (lots of import/export paperwork and logistics issues/costs and proprietary connectors). So, if I were starting over, I’d go with Wilson. At the time, SmoothTalker provided a better sales interface and offered me a clear path. Wilson offered a blizzard of products and no clear way for me to make a known good choice for an RV for a complete system.

I understand that you’ve deciphered spec’s and user comments and decided on Wilson as the best and this 50 dB amp as the best. Thanks for that research. Do you have reason to suggest that I would get any significant improvement by switching to this amp? (My ham radio expert says that antennas usually make for a much bigger difference than that from a better amplifier)

I haven’t seen anything by you saying how well your system actually works (like how often you need the Yagi and how much further out you can be and get a connection). Can you comment on that? Any suggestion that direct connect would give noticeably better results?

And have you made a cell call and used an aircard simultaneously off the Yagi and your repeater from a remote location? How did that go?

I have seen other Yagi antennas (dual band) rated to as much as 24 dB gain. My ham radio guy thought I should stay with the lower gain for a more robust aiming process and didn’t think the extra gain would prove anything but a hindrance. Why didn’t you choose a higher gain one? Note that I am skeptical about the ratings on some of these others. This antenna just “looked good” to me.

I think it might also be useful to know if you use several segments of LM400 wire with connectors at the roof or if you run one continuous line from outside straight to the amp. Using a right angle connector gives some option for better handling making a right angle turn and some better repair/maintenance options in case of cable damage (not having to reopen the roof interface). It also provides an opportunity for a shorter cable run (if Mel finds he can put the amp pretty close to under the Yagi, he can go with a shorter cable, but without knowing, a single cable has to be long enough to reach the furthest possible mounting point — possibly then using a 50 ft cable). Purists will insist that a connector leads to signal degradation. But I don’t know if the amount of degradation is important compared to simplified logistics, shorter cable lengths, etc.

Regards,

Ray

Well, I could tell Ray was no novice at hard core internet boondocking so I replied in a more technical fashion:

Hello Ray,

Thanks for the detailed note. There is SO much sales hype from the companies on the internet that it helps a great deal to actually talk to someone who is actively using the technology.

Before i get started here are two great reference sights I used alot during my research.

http://www.jackdanmayer.com/communication.htm

Jack has lots of input from many readers and the website provides information on many different systems. Not a lot of hard core systems but good info none the less.

http://www.boxcarcabin.com/

This little known website is the KING of hard core usage. This guy has been doing amazing stuff for YEARS and I enjoy his down to earth, no frills approach.

See below for the answers to your specific questions
> Another reflection story comes from outside of Phoenix, towards Kingman, where I went down into a >creek canyon. I was able to call out to Phoenix by aiming the Yagi at the side of a nearby mountain side. >I wondered if it was reflecting off the mountain.

Reflections are very usable. I learned that from the boxcarcabin website. He uses topo maps to set them up when line of sight is not feasible

> Unlike you, I’m using direct connect and I’m using SmoothTalker equipment. Everyone says direct >connect gives better performance, so I figured I would need that for remote usage and would just have >to put up with the inconvenience. I have a cradle interface for my phone (it is actually a short range >radio connection) and a real direct connect to my air card (USB 727 for Verizon).

Verizon probably has a better network than At&T overall. If I had more than one user (me), I would consider one of those cradle routers. I agree with the direct connect being better statement. We have two vehicles with direct connect Wilson amps and smoothtalker phone cradles on the dash. I can sometimes go out to the truck and get a signal when all the fancy RV stuff is falling on its’ face. One of AT&Ts severe failings on its GSM network is what they call the Time Slot. GSM requires a “handshake” from your device within milliseconds of a connection for it to be a good, usable connection. At long distances, the latency of the signal prevents this timely handshake. Consequently, any connection over a distance of 30 miles or so is most likely not possible.
> I understand that you’ve deciphered spec’s and user comments and decided on Wilson as the best and >this 50 dB amp as the best. Thanks for that research. Do you have reason to suggest that I would get any >significant improvement by switching to this amp? (My ham radio expert says that antennas usually >make for a much bigger difference than that from a better amplifier)

The 801245 amp is the strongest amplifier available that does not require many feet of separation between the antennas. Wilson is also the only company that submits its’ equipment for independent evaluation and then publishes the findings. I have been more than impressed with their honesty and quality. Whether it would work better for you is something I cannot say. 90% of RVers will never require anything more than an external antenna; much less the setups we have.

> I haven’t seen anything by you saying how well your system actually works (like how often you need >the Yagi and how much further out you can be and get a connection). Can you comment on that? Any >suggestion that direct connect would give noticeably better results?
I am working off the yagi as we speak. I am about 23 miles away from the big cell tower at Burkeville,TX. Without the amp and the yagi, I get zero and sometimes one bar which equates to a signal > 100dBm. Using the Wilson Trucker antenna and the 801245 amp will give me a signal in the low 90s – upper 80s which is somewhat usable. I just checked and the signal with the yagi is 69dBm. That is 4-5 bars. See my comment above about the GSM networks and the usable range. Keep in mind I am in the rolling terrain pine forests of Deep Southeast Texas.
> And have you made a cell call and used an aircard simultaneously off the Yagi and your repeater from a >remote location? How did that go?
I do that ALL the time with no problems.
> I have seen other Yagi antennas (dual band) rated to as much as 24 dB gain. My ham radio guy thought >I should stay with the lower gain for a more robust aiming process and didn’t think the extra gain would >prove anything but a hindrance. Why didn’t you choose a higher gain one? Note that I am skeptical >about the ratings on some of these others. This antenna just “looked good” to me.

The performance of the Yagi is directly related to its’ length. Add dual band and the gain is further decreased. These antenna salesmen remind me of vultures sitting on a fencepost. I expanded specifically on unsubstantiated claims re: yagi antennas here: http://www.myoldrv.com/?p=329
> I think it might also be useful to know if you use several segments of LM400 wire with connectors at the >roof or if you run one continuous line from outside straight to the amp. Using a right angle connector >gives some option for better handling making a right angle turn and some better repair/maintenance
I measured before hand and ordered the cable exactly as long as I needed it for the install. I am from the school that believes any extra cable, connectors etc degrade the signal. period.

Ray, I enjoyed your questions and you sharing your setup with me. Please feel free to contact me again for any reason

Best Regards,

Andy

So there ya have it!

Read the previous installment in this series.

Read the next installment in this series

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (4 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
The Ultimate Internet Access Project - Footnotes and Updates - Part 7, 10.0 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...






3 comments to The Ultimate Internet Access Project – Footnotes and Updates – Part 7

  • Bill

    Hello Andy,

    I found your site after reading the blog’s on the RV Forum.

    I thought I would pass along my success of installing a Wilson Electronics System in our motorhome with the following equipment:
    Wilson P/N 801245 SOHO Wireless 50dB/50dB Dual Band 800/1900 MHz Smart Tech Amplifier w/ FME Male P/N 971108 Connector
    Wilson P/N 859913 DC/DC 6V Power Supply (Dual Band Wireless Amplifier)
    Wilson P/N 301133 RV / Trucker Spring-Mount Cellular Antenna – w/ 10.5′ Coax w/FME Female Connector
    Wilson P/N 301135 Dual Band Panel Antenna w/ Wall Mount
    Wilson P/N 952330 30′ WILSON400 Ultra Low Loss Coax Cable (Equivalent to LMR 400 – N Male – N Male)

    We were in Pacific City, OR where cell phone reception was very poor (no bars to 1 bar)
    I set up the outside antenna using a PVC mast strapped to the roof rack ladder, than ran everything else loose through the coach . When I plugged in the amplifier, using the 110 volt transformer supplied with the amplifier, and turned on the cell phones the reading went to 4 bars and stayed there the whole time we were at the campground.
    A friend stopped by with their laptop and Verizon Air Card and got 4 bars as well. This setup allowed broadband communication throught the internet which brought bright smiles from our friends. Note: Our friends were also in the same campground and were unable to get anything but a single bar of reception on boith the cell phone and their laptop.

    I am also including a link to Picasa showing the hard install I did the moment we returned home.

    Thank you for your information and postings.

    Bill
    http://picasaweb.google.com/bivatodd/WilsonElectronicsCellPhoneSystem?authkey=Gv1sRgCLWKtuDL6P7L-gE#

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
  • Cj

    I stumbled on your blog at hitch-itch. Merry Christmas to me…it may just be a happy new year after all…..thanks to you. The last 6 weeks of agony and defeat …must have been the same cyfre salesman. Followed by a desperate regroup and “safe” first step I hope.

    The link to Jack (I had already read) in part led me to purchase the Super Trucker Antenna and needed adapter just this morning. But…………he also prefers the cyfre amp over the wilson amp………..and I, like you, could not document the numbers enough to spend that hard earned cash for an unknown.

    So baby step omni dual band antenna, if still not improved enough I do believe you have made a wilson buyer out of me. Only time will tell but thanks from the bottom of my pocketbook for a great account of experience – still the best teacher.

    Especially liked your share of Mel and Ray – learned so much tonight!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
  • Marcus Gitterle

    I sure enjoyed your article. Thanks for putting in all that extra work and time. We had a Wilson 801245 system for a time in our off-grid home, but we switched to a WiEx510. I don’t know why I couldn’t get the Wilson to work, in spite of numerous optimizations, excellent cable, great separation, an excellent Yagi … The list goes on. The WiEx, after a 1 hour setup, works far better. Still scratching my head on this one!

    Best,

    Marc

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>