Network Reboot

The Internet. A bunch of tubes as Senator Ted Stevens infamously put it and seems to mirror my experience with the Internet at many campsites. Here was Stevens’ explanation as to how the Internet works:

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially…

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck.

It’s a series of tubes.

And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

In a campsite, if there is WiFi, it will get all tangled up.

We need a better solution for our coach.

Three years ago, I purchased two items for networking our coach: a WeBoost Drive 4G-X RV Cellular Booster for cellular data and a Winegard ConnecT 2.0 WiFi Extender for WiFi data.

Both are pretty useless now.

Not to say that the WeBoost doesn’t boost the cellular signal. It does. Provided you place your hotspot device an inch or two from the booster antenna, it will provide a better signal. Any further, and it doesn’t really boost anything at all. For serious Internet access using a cellular service, WeBoost is slightly better than nothing. And I emphasize the word slightly.

The Winegard WiFi extender? Might be fine for casual use in those areas that provide some decent WiFi but so outdated now with a single-band router that it is only slightly better than nothing.

Over the next few months, I will be redoing the network in our coach.

For now, I have rigged a temporary WiFi extender in the coach, the Netgear AC1900 dual-band WiFi extender. Why? Because the Winegard only operates at the 2.4 GHz band. And there is a lot of contention for the 2.4 GHz spectrum. Where we are, the WiFi is offered on both bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 5 GHz band is typically less crowded and faster assuming that the signal is within range. The Netgear allows me to distribute the 5 GHz band within the coach which will, hopefully, provide a robust enough Internet.

Our site has the WiFi connected to a 1.5 Gbps fibre service although some network engineer gated the Quality of Service to 5 Mbps for each connected device. Even then, last weekend the 2.4 GHz band became unusable with roughly 150 occupied sites. Something wrong with the design if the network became saturated with so few concurrent devices sharing such a big network pipe. I suspect too many devices were trying to use 2.4 GHz.

Even within our coach, if we use the microwave, the WiFi goes south.

With the scan that I performed on the wireless networks within range of my computer in my coach this morning, 24 networks were using the 2.4 GHz band and only 9 on the 5 GHz band.

The first long weekend that denotes the informal start of what passes for a Canadian summer begins tomorrow. We might see the temperatures rise to a searing 12 Celsius or a sweltering 54 Fahrenheit. Thank heavens we have air conditioning in the coach.

The park will be at capacity. And I will be able to see if my 5 GHz connection holds up.

Gating each device to 5 Mbps is not great Internet. However, there are no unlimited data plans on cellular in this part of the world. A better solution would be to have a router that can combine WiFi and Cellular with configuration parameters that ensure that monthly caps are not exceeded.

Given that we pay almost $300 a month for a measly 15 GB of data on our cellular plan, we have to be able to use less costly WiFi bandwidth.

What will I be putting in for release 2.0 of the coach’s network?

The Pepwave MAX BR1 Mk2 router.

Definitely not an inexpensive option. This router will wind up costing us around $1,100 CAD and we will source it from the 5G store in the states. I haven’t been able to find a Canadian dealer for the Pepwave.

For the antenna?

This antenna provides two cellular MiMo antennas, two dual-band WiFi antennas and a GPS element all in one housing. We will get this from the 5G store.

The Pepwave offers a number of features to significantly improve our Internet experience. It can function as a cellular modem. It provides redundant SIMs. It can operate with WiFi as WAN. It serves as a WiFi access point. It operates on both 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. It is a commercial grade product. You can download the product data sheet right here.

That design, with just two products, should provide a very robust solution set for the next few years. Perhaps, whenever the low earth orbital Internet services come online, or whenever 5G cellular becomes ubiquitous, this setup will also fall by the wayside.

Such is the case with the rapid change with technology.

5 replies
  1. John Madill
    John Madill says:

    Hi Richard.
    So you’re going to use the Pepwave device and the cell network for your internet use? Using your Bell or Rogers acct here in Canada? The 15 gigs is still the main constraint, isn’t it?
    Or do you mostly use provided WiFi at the sites you visit and this fills in when you don’t have provided Wifi.
    I’m looking for a viable internet solution for our cottage property. Bell/Rogers seem to have no interest in extending their infrastructure, govt sponsored projects are very slow to get going and I hear mixed reports on existing satellite based services.

    • Richard
      Richard says:

      Hello John,

      Peplink supports VPN bonding which allows the router to bond multiple cellular and WiFi sources to improve bandwidth. VPN bonding can be also be done through software using an application like Speedify. In effect, the Pepwave router would connect to one or more cellular networks and one or more WiFi networks on either 2.4 or 5 GHz bands. Those connections can be managed separately, as automatic failover or as a bonded packet stream.

      15 GB is not the constraint for our cellular data in Canada. Cost is the constraint. For example, Telus offers an 80 GB data plan, for a mere $345 per month!

      While in Canada, we really have no choice but to maximize our use of public WiFi where we can. The cost for an all-cellular solution is too expensive. I currently use an encrypted VPN on my devices (Speedify) to ensure a more secure networking experience when on public WiFi sources.

      When we lived in the country, we used Xplornet. There really wasn’t any alternative for us. The first five years or so were absolutely awful with Xplornet. Such a terrible service back then especially once the towers became oversubscribed. Xplornet moved to a new generation service which resulted in a significantly improved experience with a consistent 25 Mbps download. That was for the fixed wireless service. It worked well for us. We had a monthly data cap of 500 GB which we never hit.

      Their satellite service is definitely limited, expensive and slow. Xplornet have entered into an agreement with Hughes to provide access to the Jupiter 3 Ultra High Density satellite which they claim will provide rural Canadians with 100 Mbps download speeds. This will launch sometime around 2021. Not sure how much data will be available at those download speeds.

      Others are making a mad dash to offer robust satellite Internet (Starlink, OneWeb, Samsung, Telesat, Amazon amongst others). It is only a matter of time before we have better coverage of robust Internet for mobile travellers like me and people living in rural areas. Could take another 5 years or more.

      Whenever robust and high-speed satellite Internet becomes commercially available, assuming a reasonable price point, then we will do another network redesign. Until then, we will make do with a combination of cellular and WiFi sources.

  2. Joe Stachecki
    Joe Stachecki says:

    Hi Richard,
    We’ll be picking up our Dutch Star this fall via factory pickup. We ordered a conduit be placed through the roof for setting up an antenna and question where do you plan on putting yours? I’m concerned with clearance issues if placed on the roof. Should I be? This will be our first Model A.

    • Richard
      Richard says:

      Hello Joe,

      Congratulations on your new Dutch Star! Great idea to order a conduit for the roof-mounted antenna. I wish I had done that with our coach.

      On our roof we have the following antennas:

      1 GPS antenna for the in-dash navigation system
      1 Satellite antenna for the Sirius XM radio
      2 radio antennas (AM/FM)
      1 Cellular booster antenna
      1 Winegard ConnecT 2.0 dome antenna (WiFi and LTE)
      1 Winegard Travler Satellite Dish
      1 Winegard Digital OTA dome antenna

      Lots of antennas up there. I will be placing the new antenna as close as I can to the access area for my router. In our coach, the router will be in our audio/video cabinet which is located on the front driver’s side so the antenna will be mounted coach forward, driver’s side. Important to keep the cable runs for the antenna as short as possible.

      The dome antenna is a low profile design, less than 3 inches in height, so it will be well below the roof line of the coach. The edges of the roofline on these coaches are there to hide the services mounted on the roof. The actual roof sits about six inches below the outer edges of the coach roofline. All of the heat pumps (air conditioners), fans, etc are on the roof hidden from view by the roofline edges.

      The dome antenna will be lower than the height of the air conditioning units so absolutely no worries about clearance.

      When you take the factory delivery, make sure you have the techs show you the roof. I know many people are very cautious about going on the roof of their coach and some avoid it altogether but I find that I have to get up there to clean it, seal it, clear out drains and debris, maintain antennas and inspect for any issues with roof sealants or other damage. You probably want to carry a ladder in the basement of your coach if you intend to travel for long periods of time. A telescoping ladder that can extend to at least 15 feet is a good choice and it makes it very easy to get up to the top of the coach.

      You could ask the techs at Newmar to measure the height of the coach when the coach is up on the air bags. Depending on whether you go back and forth between the United States and Canada, have that number handy in both measurement systems. When we picked up our coach to drive it home we encountered a bridge with a clearance on the low side of 4.1 metres. Was it enough room? I didn’t know as I only had the U.S. measure. Turns out that 4.1 metres is 13 feet 4 inches. Thankfully I went into the centre lane and we avoided a potentially close call!

      You should have a wonderful time at the factory. We were there in April and we really enjoyed the great customer service.

      • Joe Stachecki
        Joe Stachecki says:

        Great info Richard! The conduit will be placed up front going through the middle cabinet above the windshield. I thought the Cradlepoint antenna had to be placed above the roof line and it’s great to know it doesn’t need to be! Just received our Rand McNally Deluxe Motor Carriers Road Atlas was looking through it yesterday and also thought we should have our height posted in meters for our Canadian visits. We’ll be full timing so we will also carry a ladder and via your comments above will bring it with us during factory pickup.

        I enjoy reading your posts! Thanks for taking the time to produce them.


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