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 Might be fine for casual use in those areas that provide some decent WiFi but so outdated now with a single-band router that it is only slightly better than nothing.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