Dora - Internet

During the 2018 winter in Brenda, AZ it became apparent we needed better Internet connectivity. In Brenda we had good WiFi through the park. There we mainly needed a secure connection for doing banking and taxes. But in most parks, and especially boondocking, the availability of good WiFi is spotty. With our intent to go Fulltime we needed a better solution.

We ended up with three chunks of hardware to hopefully accomplish this. First we obtained a WiFi Ranger. This is a WiFi booster with a built in VPN. Second we changed our cell provider from US Cellular to Verizon. US Cellular is fine in their region, but outside that they have problems. Verizon is reported to have the best coverage nationwide. We traded phones and obtained a hotspot (MiFi). Finally, we ordered a WeBoost cellular signal booster.

The WiFi Ranger and WeBoost were permanently mounted under the bed.

A bank of three switches was mounted near the doors under the bed. They were to control power to each element. However, I found out later that the hotspot doesn't have an external on/off switch, so only the top and bottom switches are connected.

The WiFi Ranger has an internal and external WiFi antenna. If there is a good signal the internal antenna works fine. But for weak signals, one reason for the Ranger, the external antenna can be attached to improve reception. The WeBoost receives cell signals on its external antenna and re-broadcasts them from an internal antenna inside Dora. It needs the external antenna to be located some distance from the internal. I brought both external antenna connections to the outside hatch under the bed. I didn't want to drill mounting holes in the shell before I know for sure this is the long term set-up. When the hatch is open the external antenna of interest can be attached. I may add a drip proof opening in the hatch rather than drill holes in the shell, we'll see.

The internal antenna for the WeBoost is under the bed towards the front, near the water heater. I left the extra cable there in case we need to bring it further into the trailer. It's loosely held in place with a zip tie.

The hot spot is connected through a USB cable to the WiFi Ranger. The Ranger treats the hotspot as another Internet source and through a computer interface to the Ranger the source can be changed, cell or WiFi. This is another advantage of the Ranger, all components (laptops, cell phones, kindles, etc.) connect to the Ranger, no reconfiguring needed. The Ranger deals with all the external connections. I brought this USB cable out to the door under the bed. The hotspot is plugged into this cable when needed and is close to the WeBoost internal antenna. My initial plan was to mount the hotspot with the Ranger and WeBoost but there is no external power switch on the hotspot. So, the USB cable just sits waiting.

The two external antennas, WiFi and Cell, are put on a mast to get them up a ways. The mast itself is a 16' flagpole from Flagpole Buddy. I built a bumper mount for it. When not in use it collapses to about 4' and stays mounted on the bumper.

I mounted each outside antenna to a plastic plumbing flange. So far the length of PVC pipe, about 12", is temporarily pressed into each fitting when that antenna is used. The PVC pipe then slides over the top of the mast.

Only one antenna is used at a time depending on whether you're looking for WiFi or cell.

Finally a picture of Dora with the mast extended.

Not enough real world testing yet to see how well it all works. So far the WiFi Ranger works well but have had little experience with either external antenna. Time will tell.