Network Redesign

Why is the Internet so bad? A question that I am asked many, many times in our travels. Yes, there are many parks where the underlying WiFi is indeed awful. But a number of parks have invested significantly in improving their WiFi service and yet it doesn’t seem to make much difference for many users.

Getting the best possible Internet does begin with the basics: a good external antenna, a good router and a wee bit of technical knowledge.

I had been running two systems in our coach: a Winegard ConnecT 2.0 and a Ubiquiti AirCube and NanoStation Loco M5. The Winegard provided cellular and 2.4 GHz data. The Ubiquiti provided 5 GHz data. Between the two systems, we were able to keep well connected to the Internet wherever we travelled.

We have over 30 devices in our coach that connect to the Internet and we routinely use several hundred Gigabytes of data a month. The Internet is very important to our lifestyle.

I can live with speeds as low as 7-10 Mbps but prefer to get as much speed and reliability as possible.

I had been planning the redesign of our network in the coach for a few months. Last week, I received all of the new equipment. The equipment will replace the Winegard and Ubiquiti platforms.

One network platform to rule them all.

The router is a Pepwave Max BR1 Mk II. The Pepwave is an advanced mobile router that provides cellular data and WiFi connectivity. The antenna is a Poynting 5-in-1 rooftop antenna. It will receive cellular, 2.4 and 5 GHz signals. I purchased these items from MobileMustHave Mobile Lifestyle Solutions.

In our coach, we have two cabinets for AV equipment. This is our front cabinet:

The cabinet from top to bottom:

Winegard satellite dish interface, Sony Blu-Ray player, Logitech Harmony Remote Hub (for our universal remote), Wally satellite dish receiver (we use Dish TV), video splitters for the two front LEDs, Pioneer AV receiver and an Apple TV.

I will have to rearrange the front cabinet to install the Pepwave router, a Sonos booster for our Sonos speaker systems and a network switch.

I have the Pepwave out in the coach right now along with one of the switches. I have to wait for the installer to come in and mount the rooftop antenna before I redo the front cabinet. Here is that equipment:

When we built the coach, I had Newmar run an Ethernet cable from the front AV cabinet to the rear AV cabinet located in our bedroom.

I have completed all of the new wiring in that rear cabinet. It looks like this:

There are three components in the rear cabinet: an Apple TV, a Playstation PS4 and a Synergy DS916 with 16 Terabytes of storage. There is also an IR extender to control the components in the cabinet with a Logitech Harmony universal remote. You can make out the eye of the IR extender at the top left side of the photo — it is the small black box with a green light.

All of the components are hardwired to a network switch. That switch will be connected to another switch in the forward AV cabinet and that switch which will be connected to the Pepwave.

The forward cabinet network switch will be hardwired to another Apple TV, a Sonos booster, our Wally satellite receiver, and our Pioneer receiver.

The rest of the devices in the coach will connect to the Pepwave over WiFi.

And the Pepwave will get data from at least three sources: WiFi as Wan over 2.4 GHz, WiFi as Wan over 5 GHz and cellular data.

I haven’t settled on a cellular provider as yet largely because we are currently achieving high-speed Internet on the existing WiFi source and I am not in a rush to implement the cellular portion of the new network.

I have done an initial systems test. I wired everything together to test all of the components. And everything worked as expected. Once the antenna has been installed, I will go to work on rewiring and reinstalling the components in the front AV cabinet.

I have the new router programmed to my liking and I am very impressed with the Pepwave router. I have decommissioned the Ubiquiti network and I will decommission the Winegard within another two weeks or so.

Even though I am waiting on the antenna to be installed, I have been using the new router with the paddle antennas.

Seems to be doing well so far.

3 replies
  1. Eric LaRock
    Eric LaRock says:

    Hello Richard,
    I truly enjoy following your posts and enjoy following your modifications. I do have several questions however if you don’t mind. I am under the understanding that Sonos systems will not function with wifi provided by a hotspot or typical campground wifi. I have a Sonos Move that I am unable to do the initial setup due to use of a hotspot or campground wifi. Sonos states that the wifi must be a dedicated system. I have asked if additional components would be affected in a similar manner to which that have said that is the case. Second question is regarding your new pepwave router. I see you went with the router that was not recently upgraded to cat 12 vs cat 6. Do you not feel that the cat 12 components add additional speed and connectivity?

    Reply
    • Richard
      Richard says:

      Hello Eric,

      Great to hear from you!

      In our coach I have five Sonos Play 1 speakers, one Sonos Beam and one Sonos boost. The Sonos speakers need to be connected to a dedicated local area network and that can be done via a wired or wireless connection. I have all of them managed by the Sonos boost — a specialized wireless network for the Sonos speakers. In turn, the Sonos boost is connected via an Ethernet cable to the router. Sonos never sees a hotspot or camp WiFi. It only sees the local area network managed by the router. And Sonos does not care whether the router has access to the Internet via a hotspot or Camp WiFi. One of many advantages to using an external antenna and a dedicated router is that ALL of your Internet-enabled devices remain connected to your dedicated local area network. Whenever we are changing locations, all I do is reconfigure the router to point to the Internet source and none of the other devices need to be modified.

      There are multiple protocols for LTE Advanced. On paper, LTE Cat 6 yields 300 Mbps down and 50 Mbps up. Cat 12 is roughly 600/100 and Cat 18 is about 1200/150. In practice, most users will not obtain the higher speeds over cellular that Cat 12/Cat 18 theoretically provide. I have never seen the theoretical maximums for Cat 6.

      I am after a good and stable — low latency — connection. Chasing after a theoretical cellular speed improvement above even 50 Mbps would force me to ask the question: why do I need to have that much bandwidth?

      Future proofing is exceptionally hard to do with technology purchases as many products — from digital cameras, to smartphones and cellular modems — live on a rapid obsolescence curve. Carriers actively manage tower congestion with traffic shaping and de-prioritizing data connectivity. And they are constantly changing plans and costs and infrastructure. New innovations, like 5G cellular and Low Earth Orbit Internet, will disrupt existing technology models.

      I expect to get several years from the Pepwave on Cat 6. If something more compelling comes along then our network will see another redesign.

      I hope the comments are helpful.

      All the best,
      Richard

      Reply
      • Eric LaRock
        Eric LaRock says:

        Thank you for the response. As I mentioned I had purchased a Move for use in our Dutch Star and outside. I have been unable to connect it via wifi which is required for initial setup. Following initial setup it can be used via Bluetooth. I had attempted multiple time to connect it to wifi through my wifiranger GoAC router unsuccessfully. Sonos told me that it would not work with a jetpack as the source or likely any campground wifi. This was my experience also. After reading your write up I purchased a Boost today and connected via Ethernet cable to the router. The system worked perfectly and I am now listening to the move via wifi. I would like to thank you for your assistance. I still do not understand why the Move would know the source of the wifi as I was connecting through the router. Either way I am pleased to be listening to the Sonos component. They make a great product. I have a Play 5 at our S&B and it is very good. I can imagine that five one’s fills your coach with excellent sound. Thanks again and keep up the good work.

        Reply

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