We use the internet. A lot. Whether it’s for social media, blogging, uploading photos, deciding where to go next or watching videos and relaxing, we are both heavily dependent on a good internet connection. However, we soon discovered that being in the middle of nowhere and inside a metal box does not always help with 4G mobile reception…
When we bought the van, it had a small TV that hinged down from the roof in the cab. We rarely watched the telly, but I frequently bashed my head on it and it drove me nuts when we were driving and it rattled and squeaked on it’s mounting. There was also an aerial on the roof that was 10cm taller than anything else, which took us over 2.6m, which leads to slightly higher ferry tickets. They were both sacrificed for the internet gods.
The main device is a 4G mobile WiFi hotspot, also known as a MiFi. This is a lot like your home internet router, but instead of plugging into the wall, it pulls the internet from a 4G mobile signal. Much like at home, your laptops, tablets and phones can then connect to the device over WiFi. After a bit of umming and arring, I got us a Huawei E5577:
Some people find just a MiFi is good enough for them… but I wanted to make sure we had the best possible chance of getting a connection. To do this, I connected the MiFi to an external antenna. The old TV aerial was delicately unglued from the roof with a big knife and a Poynting 4G antenna was Sikaflex‘d in its place. The antenna It is specifically designed to be stuck to the outside of a vehicle’s metal bodywork.
The leads from the aerial come down into a cupboard. You want to keep the wires as short as possible to reduce signal loss. The wires go into a nice neat mount sold by MotorhomeWifi. The MiFi magnetically attaches to the mount, and is provided with a nice USB power feed and the antenna connections.
So what is the result? If you’ve already got a strong signal then the external antenna won’t really help that much. However, if you are in an area with a sketch connection, it can make all the difference.