My High-Performance WIFI Setup


For Internet connection on the road, I rely primarily on a 4G USB cellular modem from Millenicom. Although the cellular modem almost always produces a usable connection, its available bandwidth is very inconsistent. Some cell towers seem to have a strong signal but very limited data throughput. To provide additional options, I’ve built a high-performance WIFI setup. The equipment includes a Ubiquiti bullet CPE with an 8DB omnidirectional antenna mounted on a 16ft antenna mast. The antenna is intended to be used while parked and is attached to the rear ladder on the RV. The Ubiquiti (which can be configured for a variety of functions) is set up to function as an external WIFI antenna it is powered by a power-over-ethernet (POE) device. The installation required running cat5e cable from my existing Cradlepoint router to the POE adapter at the rear of the coach. To provide a reliable ethernet signal to the front of the coach over some the 60ft of cable, I also installed an Ethernet switch in the rear electric bay (along with the POE adapter). Both are sharing the 110volt outlet being used by the coach’s AC-to-DC converter. My intent here is to illustrate the construction and installation of the antenna mast. Configuration of the Ubiquiti is a little geeky, but not that hard. Instructions can be found at Michael Wright’s site (http://www.mfwright.com/wifi/ubiquitibullet2.html). The routing of the cat5e cable will vary according to your RV. In my case I used PVC electric conduit zip tied to the under-carriage of the coach to provide a protective armor for the cable. The receiving end of the cable was routed through a hole drilled next to the wall in a curb side cabinet used for my computer desk (also the location of the Cradlepoint MBR1200 router).


To build the antenna mast I used a telescoping broom shaft from Home Depot. PVC plumbing parts were used to construct the ladder mount. Note the antenna pole collapses to fit in the pass-thru storage of the RV. It also multi-tasks as my RV cleaning brush.



The upper mount was designed to allow the mast to be installed and remove on the coach without having to climb the ladder. For the upper mount a short section of pipe was glued to one of the PVC tees and then cut lengthwise at a slight angle. This allows the mast to be placed in the tee at an angle and then be locked into the mount once the mast is vertical. This was inspired by a commercial RV flag pole.


The lower mount is simply a cup in which to place the lower end of the mast.


Here is the completed upper mount. Both mounts were glued together with PVC cement, and spray painted to match the black ladder. Foam weather stripping was added to make a no-rattle mount. Both mounts are fastened to the ladder with stainless steel sheet metal screws. Although plastc pipe fittings are not that strong, not a lot of strength is needed since the mount is not intended for in motion use.


To fasten the Ubiquiti on the antenna mast, I used the handle of a cheap paint roller (made to fit the mast). Parts include epoxy glue, a bolt, wing nut, a mounting bracket included with the 8DB antenna, and some scrap aluminum from a discarded step ladder. Letting nothing go to waste, the paint roller frame was mounted to a discarded broom handle and used to paint my deck.
 
Here is the completed antenna mount for the top of the mast. Not that when traveling it can easily be removed and stored in the coach’s electric utility compartment.


Shown here is the antenna mounted on the coach. The antenna is a nearly 8 feet above the roof of the coach. The whole setup can be quickly disassembled, the wire coiled, and stored in the utility bay.
As for performance, I have not yet in a location where there is marginal strength WIFI. In my driveway it easily detects at least 30 neighborhood routers with signals strong enough to provide a stable connection. Tests with a neighbor’s router (with permission) has been rock stable for several weeks. The wireless bandwidth through their Verizon FIOS router is as good as if I were sitting next to the router with my laptop. The Ubiquiti, which is really a high power router, optimizes its effectiveness since it is connected directly to the 8DB antenna. Other Ubiquiti users have reported usable connections at 1 mile range.

Signal acquisition could undoubtedly be improved even more if connected to a directional dipole antenna.