- Bandwidth is critical in campground WiFi
- Two things you can do to improve campground WiFi
- Cellular is a great option to help you stay connected
- WiFi and Cell Boosters increase your connection to the internet
Staying connected on the road is still one of the number one topics that we get asked about. It is understandable that this is a big deal as RVers can now get away from it all, but still stay connected digitally to friends and family. For some, this is the best of both worlds. I was speaking to some RV park owners recently, and they said that the number one amenity in an RV park is now good WiFi. Back in the da,y it used to be a swimming pool or shuffle board, but now we can entertain ourselves if you just give us WiFi. Of course, the problem here is that all WiFi does not seem to be created equal. If you have traveled enough, then I am sure you have had great WiFi experiences and really bad WiFi experiences. There are certainly things you can do to have better experiences with WiFi, and then there are things that you have no control over. Let’s get the bad news out of the way and talk about something called bandwidth.
Bandwidth in RV Campgrounds
I had a customer one time tell me he was 75 years old and was not technically proficient, and he wanted me to explain bandwidth to him. He told me to explain it to him like a 10 year old would understand it. I told him that bandwidth is the amount of data available to travel from one point to another point in a given time period. The man stopped me quickly and said, "How about you explain it to me like a 5 years old would understand?" I said, "Okay, let’s say the RV park has a pizza party for all of the RVers, and they buy enough pizza to feed 20 people but 50 people show up. Now everyone is going to be hungry and not be able to eat enough pizza. The pizza is bandwidth, or the amount of internet available to the RVers in the park." Finally, he understood what was going on. It is true; if the RV park does not provide enough bandwidth for its bandwidth hungry RVers, then speeds can slow down to a crawl. This is why you may find that early in the morning or late at night the speeds may pick up a bit, because less people are online. The good news about this is there are reports all across America that RV parks are scurrying to get their WiFi systems updated and filled to the brim with bandwidth, as they are finding out that this drives business. I suspect we will continue to see better results from RV parks and park WiFi should certainly be a part of your plan to stay connected.
Improving Campground WiFi
Now that we have bandwidth out of the way, let's talk about things you can do to improve your experience outside of bandwidth. WiFi is a radio signal, and there are things you can do to improve the performance of that radio signal. First, clear line of site is important for WiFi. The better line of site you have from your device to the access point you are connecting to the better signal you will have. If you have multiple obstructions between you and the access point, then this can be a real problem for WiFi signal. Sometimes the solution can be as easy as sitting next to a window in your RV that is facing the access point. Have you ever had bad experience with WiFi inside your RV, but then you stepped outside and had a better experience? This is my point: better line of site can really help. Sometimes the walls of your own RV can be a problem. Moving to a different part of your RV or even stepping outside for a bit can be a big help.
The next issue can be the distance from you to the access point. Have you ever been lucky enough to be parked right next to the WiFi antenna in the RV park? We have, but it does not happen often, and long distances to the access point is a real issue for WiFi. The device that you connect to WiFi with has something in it called a WiFi adapter. This adapter is responsible for sending your signal out and hearing the signal come back from the access point. These adapters are designed to pick up a WiFi signal from a short distance, and of course that is not ideal for RV parks. So if your WiFi adapter is not strong enough to communicate with the access point because of the distance to it, then this is going to be another problem. Sometimes you can request to be moved closer to an access point, but that is not always a real solution. In these cases you may be left with walking closer to the access point. As you get closer to the access point you can often times see your experience improve immediately.
So get closer to the access point, improve your line of site, and this will help your WiFi experience. These two tips do not cost you a thing and can often be the solution to better WiFi. Now, if you want to spend a little bit of money and improve your experience, then you can get a WiFi booster. As you know, we are big believers in WiFi boosters, and as such we sell a very strong and economical WiFi booster. Let me explain what a WiFi booster is doing. Remember the WiFi adapter that I told you was inside of your devices? Well, the short answer for what is a WiFi booster, is that it is a much stronger WiFi adapter. To send a WiFi signal you need a transmitter, and to hear a signal coming back you need an antenna. Both of these functions occur from your computer, smart phone, or anything that you connect to the internet with through WiFi. A WiFi booster can be 12-15 times stronger than the adapter inside your device, and therefore it can pull in a much stronger signal from much farther away. Line of site is still important, but a WiFi booster can also help with this as in most cases you will have an outside antenna that will go get that WiFi signal for you. Now with an outside antenna, this will improve the line of site to the access point.
Here is an example of a standard WiFi boosting kit called the Camp Pro 2 kit, and of course, we have them at TechnoRV.com. In this kit is a outside antenna and a cable that will run from that antenna to a repeater that will sit inside your RV. This repeater will create your own personal hotspot inside your RV, and yes, you can password protect the repeater for added security at the RV park. Now instead of trying to connect your device to the park access point that could be 150 yards away, you just wirelessly connect your device to the repeater that is sitting inside of your RV. The outside antenna is going to do the work of getting the signal from a long distance so that your device does not have to. It is really a great solution to getting WiFi, but let me make sure you have the right expectation. If the RV park has horrible bandwidth issues, then a WiFi booster will not help. It would be like having a nice wide, clean pipe going from you to the water supply, but the water supply was trickling. The WiFi booster will make sure you have that nice big, wide, clean pipeline, but the amount of bandwidth traveling that pipeline is still the park's responsibility. What we hear more often than not is that without the WiFi booster the experience was horrible, and with the WiFi booster the experience is great. We have people that have gone from not being able to connect to the RV park to streaming video with the WiFi booster kit. The WiFi booster kits that we sell are all under $200.
Staying Connected Using Cellular
Another method to staying connected on the road is with a cellular connection. This is much different than connecting to public WiFi as you are getting your signal from local cell towers and using your data plan. Some of the same rules apply as far as line of site and distance from you to the local cell tower. If you start to get to far from the local cell tower, then your signal strength will start to suffer. Cellular connections seem to be more reliable than WiFi in a lot of cases, but a weak cell signal can be an aggravating fact of life while traveling. If you are trying to reduce your data load and cost, then WiFi is the way to go, but if you are looking for increasing your odds of a great experience and cost is less of an issue, then using a cellular hotspot along with a cellular booster is the way to go.
A cellular booster kit will have a outside antenna and a cable will run inside your RV and connect to an amplifier. The amplifier will boost the cellular signal and rebroadcast it inside your RV creating a boosted zone. As long as your devices are in the boosted zone, then you will be getting the boosted signal from the amplifier. The size of the boosted zone can vary, and is dependent on how strong the originating strength was. If you have a super weak signal to start with, then the boosted zone may only be a few feet, while if you had a bit more to start with you may get 6-8 feet. This is why using a dedicated cellular hotspot can be great because you can just set the device in the boosted zone and then wirelessly connect to the boosted hotspot from all of your other devices. This is the set up that we use most on the road. We need to stay connected to run our business from the road, so we have a dedicated cellular hotspot with AT&T and Verizon. If you want a great resource for sorting through the best cellular plans and cellular hotspots then check out RV Mobile Internet. Among other things, this site does a great job at making sense of the available cellular plans on the market.
We use and sell the WeBoost 4G-X RV kit and would not be able to stay connected like we need to without it. Then we have our Camp Pro 2 WiFi Booster for those times when we may be at an RV park that has WiFi and there are no cell towers to connect to. This happened to us just outside of the Grand Canyon in Williams, Arizona. We were in a KOA and there was no cellular data to be found (even with our cell booster), but the park had WiFi so we were able to connect with our Camp Pro kit to work while we were there.
We sell a kit that includes the Camp Pro 2 WiFi Booster, or you can get them individually.
Remember, all of our kits include the exclusive TechnoRV Learning Series and our phone, email, and chat support. We will make sure you are successful with your new technology!
Want more information about staying connected on the road? Check out our free informational guides on WiFI and cellular: