Where to mount cell and/or wifi booster antennas?

luvwagn

Member
Few different options I'm considering:
  1. Can I re-use the cable run (I assume some form of coax) that is left over from my now missing TV antenna? (I need to un-tape the end and see if it is just cut off, or still a connection)
    • If not able to re-use that cable, i could potentially at least re-use that routing...? Looks like lots of sealant and unclear how to exactly fish things.
  2. Find a magnetic antenna mount and stick it on the rear door of the van, and then find a right-angle connector of some kind to mount the antennas?
    • Would still need an ingress point for the cabling
  3. Mount a ladder on the rear door and then use ladder-mount brackets for antennas
    • Anyone found a good ladder / storage-rack that would fit our rear door? I assume anything that fits a T1N would work?
    • Would still need an ingress point for the cabling
I assume if I end up going with #2 or #3 above, some form of bulkhead fitting and sealant would be required. Anyone have a preferred unit?

I did test the WeBoost unit by loose-fitting the antenna mast out of the AC unit (which further adds to the height of the van, not good), running the cable in through the skylight, and validating that I received a 1-2 bar boost. So that's a positive. Just trying to work out the next steps of permanently mounting.

Thanks.
 

Kiltym

'05 Westy
Just a data point, we live full time in our Westy, travel all over US, Canada, and Mexico. Boondock 99% of the time. Work from the road. And very rarely have been without internet service with AT&T. The places we have been with no service (Yosemite, etc.), a booster would not have helped.

Just before you invest a huge amount of time on install, you might want to see if it's really necessary depending on where you spend time. Might indeed be helpful in certain situations, but we have not found a need for one.

I don't believe the coax for the TV is the same impedance as needed for cell. I don't think you can use the same cable, but you would need to research further.
 

WestyTat

Member
About " magnetic antenna mount and stick it on the rear door of the van, and then find a right-angle connector of some kind to mount the antennas?"

We have mounted magnetic Sirius Antenna onto piece of metal that we secured nearby the vent on the rear passenger side of the van.
The same vent is your ingress point for cabling. I believe it has been already used for running the cable from TV antenna mounted in the front of the skylight to the TV connector nearby the generator switch/ closet door. Our TV antenna was connected that way.
 

luvwagn

Member
@WestyTat and @Kiltym - thanks for your replies! I did untape my coax feed and it is intact, male ended with a female-to-female adapter. Seems to be a power run of some kind on my van too, although the ends by the coax/12v-socket wall-plate were disconnected inside the closet. Can potentially run a small solar panel or LED lights or something off of that, okay.

I'll research the coax impedence and see if it would work or not (or i'll just try it :p) - the good spot about that location is it already has a wire run, and already has power for the booster. Anyone have any idea what size coax connector was used for the roof wiring? I need an adapter between that and the antenna wiring.

@Kiltym - what i've found with coverage (on T-Mobile, yuck) is that sometimes I'll get 1-bar on my phone (Samsung Galaxy S9+) but my wife will get zero on her phone (iPhone7). Having the booster get that to 2-3 bars (have tested that scenario, it worked) and then stuffing my phone into hotspot mode, will provide decent internet for multiple devices. At same time, likely to ditch T-Mobile and go with Spectrum or someone (who is just an MVNO and just piggy-backs on verizon's network)...
 

Kiltym

'05 Westy
Yes, would recommend moving away from T-Mobile to AT&T or Verizon. We had T-Mobile for the first year or so, and had lots of areas with no service. Was annoying. Once we switched to AT&T we have coverage basically everywhere.

What the booster may do is provide a slightly faster connection in some situations. But again, based on our experience, it is not really that necessary if using one of the better carriers. Obviously it won't hurt, just making some comments as a clean install will be some work and effort that you may or may not truly need.

Just another install idea. We installed a small router in the closet. We then can connect a phone via USB to the router and tether the cell connection. This keeps the phone always powered up and the internet is available to all devices via the router. Other benefits is that we have a router, which opens up things like shared hard drives on the network, and a WiFi signal for devices that require signals more consistently then turning the phone hotspot on and off. And the router can connect to WiFi networks when available and failover between the WiFi network and the Cell network for internet.

This is the router we bought: https://www.amazon.com/GL-iNet-GL-A...&keywords=glinet+router&qid=1605976712&sr=8-7

And we bought this 12V to 5V USB adapter and wired it into the 12V power in the closet: https://www.ebay.com/itm/DC-DC-Conv...344726&hash=item2cbc9e99fa:g:F4AAAOSwCU1Y23sm

And one of these to provide additional USB ports at the router: https://www.ebay.com/itm/293256923033

Have been happy with this setup for 1+ year so far.
 

luvwagn

Member
Just another install idea. We installed a small router in the closet. We then can connect a phone via USB to the router and tether the cell connection. This keeps the phone always powered up and the internet is available to all devices via the router. Other benefits is that we have a router, which opens up things like shared hard drives on the network, and a WiFi signal for devices that require signals more consistently then turning the phone hotspot on and off. And the router can connect to WiFi networks when available and failover between the WiFi network and the Cell network for internet.

This is the router we bought: https://www.amazon.com/GL-iNet-GL-A...&keywords=glinet+router&qid=1605976712&sr=8-7
Don't mind this idea, but I might lean towards something that supports external WiFi antenna, and perhaps even has cellular built-in (although then you have yet another SIM-card and subscription)...


Originally had looked at something like this, but seems a bit overkill - https://www.rvmobileinternet.com/gear/cradlepoint-cor-ibr/
 
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Kiltym

'05 Westy
From someone who invented, manufactured, and ran a company selling long range wifi and cellular systems to the marine (and RV) industry, I can tell you that you are over engineering a solution to a problem that does not really exist within land based N America (especially the US).

Dealing with proper external antennas (cell and especially WiFi) in a Westy is not going to (physically) work, and anything less is not really worth the effort. Yes, getting an antenna outside the metal shell will help a bit, but nowadays most WiFi networks you deal with are not worth the hassle when a LTE unlimited plan can be had. Just putting your phone on the roof is apt to work as good as a big install with multiple external antennas.

Again, do whatever you want to do, but cellular connectivity within the US is not a big problem when on the road, and with a good carrier.

Cradlepoint makes good equipment, but yes, pricey. But you get what you pay for. If investment does not matter, I would go with Cradlepoint over generic stuff. But if you are technically savvy, anything with OpenWRT is a good bet in that it can do just about anything. The nice thing about the router I mentioned previously is the manufacturer put a simplified UI over OpenWRT which does about 95% of what you normally do, but also allows access to the full UI for more specific work if needed.
 

luvwagn

Member
@Kiltym - do you have bandwidth issues due to data-throttling when "tethered" and such? Or does the plan you're using on AT&T allow for unlimited data, including when physically tethered or when doing wifi hotspot mode?
 

CaptnALinTiverton

T1N Westfalia
I agree with most all above. We had AT&T hot spot router for years of cross-country and used land line Global Phone in remote locations. I didn't like using phones for hot spots unless an extra phone is dedicated for that. Outdoor directional antenna never worked and PIA to locate towers. Coax wire in Westy is 75 ohms; cellular uses 50 ohm cable; I used impedance converter but it introduces loss without a booster. All such tech is too expensive for what you get out of it.


AL
 

SSTraveler

2014 LTV Unity Murphy Bed
Few different options I'm considering:
  1. Can I re-use the cable run (I assume some form of coax) that is left over from my now missing TV antenna? (I need to un-tape the end and see if it is just cut off, or still a connection)
    • If not able to re-use that cable, i could potentially at least re-use that routing...? Looks like lots of sealant and unclear how to exactly fish things.
  2. Find a magnetic antenna mount and stick it on the rear door of the van, and then find a right-angle connector of some kind to mount the antennas?
    • Would still need an ingress point for the cabling
  3. Mount a ladder on the rear door and then use ladder-mount brackets for antennas
    • Anyone found a good ladder / storage-rack that would fit our rear door? I assume anything that fits a T1N would work?
    • Would still need an ingress point for the cabling
I assume if I end up going with #2 or #3 above, some form of bulkhead fitting and sealant would be required. Anyone have a preferred unit?

I did test the WeBoost unit by loose-fitting the antenna mast out of the AC unit (which further adds to the height of the van, not good), running the cable in through the skylight, and validating that I received a 1-2 bar boost. So that's a positive. Just trying to work out the next steps of permanently mounting.

Thanks.
I just installed a Weboost Drive Reach and used the Satellite coaxial cable prewire stub on my roof to hook it too. Works great see post#51, https://sprinter-source.com/forums/index.php?threads/75337/page-3#post-950899. I stuck my antenna to an 8"x 8" galvanized piece of sheet metal for a ground plane and attached it to my Ultra Breeze fan cover box so it sits above everything else on my roof. I am getting just over 25db gain in signal strength!
 

pfflyer

Well-known member
Again, do whatever you want to do, but cellular connectivity within the US is not a big problem when on the road, and with a good carrier.
You must travel and camp in urban areas. I have experience with both AT&T and Verizon in State parks in both Alabama and Georgia and find this statement funny. Maybe not a big problem if You don’t need connectivity for work.
 

Kiltym

'05 Westy
You must travel and camp in urban areas. I have experience with both AT&T and Verizon in State parks in both Alabama and Georgia and find this statement funny. Maybe not a big problem if You don’t need connectivity for work.
We work and live full time in our Westy. We are on BLM land right now in NM with fine service from AT&T. We spend very little time in urban areas.

A cell booster will not help take 0 signal to something. It will boost a weak signal to be a better/faster connection. If you are in a state park (or anyplace for that matter) with no service, a booster will not help, as I wrote previously. A high gain antenna might help, but as I also wrote, an install of this on a camper (vs a boat), is not really practical.

I am not debating the ability of a booster, I am simply pointing out that throughout our travels for 3 years in our Westy, we have very rarely wanted one (except when we had TMobile), and not worth the installation hassle when our phone gets the job done almost all the time.

Not wanting to get in an argument, so obviously do whatever you want to do. I was simply trying to provide more data for people to make a decision. If someone is sold on the benefits of a cell booster in the US, by all means install one, it will never hurt.
 

Kiltym

'05 Westy
@Kiltym - do you have bandwidth issues due to data-throttling when "tethered" and such? Or does the plan you're using on AT&T allow for unlimited data, including when physically tethered or when doing wifi hotspot mode?
We have an unlimited data plan from AT&T (we have had it for 2+ years so unsure about current plans). Data only (no voice) as I use google voice for phone service. AT&T can slow down the connection after 22 gig of use, but unless you are in a congested area, they don't.

The sim is installed in my phone which I connect/tether to the router mentioned before. No speed difference when tethered.
 
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pfflyer

Well-known member
We work and live full time in our Westy. We are on BLM land right now in NM with fine service from AT&T. We spend very little time in urban areas.

A cell booster will not help take 0 signal to something. It will boost a weak signal to be a better/faster connection. If you are in a state park (or anyplace for that matter) with no service, a booster will not help, as I wrote previously. A high gain antenna might help, but as I also wrote, an install of this on a camper (vs a boat), is not really practical.

I am not debating the ability of a booster, I am simply pointing out that throughout our travels for 3 years in our Westy, we have very rarely wanted one (except when we had TMobile), and not worth the installation hassle when our phone gets the job done almost all the time.

Not wanting to get in an argument, so obviously do whatever you want to do. I was simply trying to provide more data for people to make a decision. If someone is sold on the benefits of a cell booster in the US, by all means install one, it will never hurt.
I agree a booster will not create something from nothing and like you am not trying to get in an argument. I just found your opinion that cell connectivity is not an issue in the US is, in my opinion, funny. This has not been my experience. I have had connection issues with AT&T even with a full signal shown on the phone. Not saying a booster will help in that situation just relaying my experience.
 

Kiltym

'05 Westy
I agree a booster will not create something from nothing and like you am not trying to get in an argument. I just found your opinion that cell connectivity is not an issue in the US is, in my opinion, funny. This has not been my experience. I have had connection issues with AT&T even with a full signal shown on the phone. Not saying a booster will help in that situation just relaying my experience.
You should travel the south pacific on a sailboat and then you will experience what poor cell connectivity looks like :). I guess I have worked with much worse then anything I experience in the US, so it's hard for me to complain while travelling here.
 

luvwagn

Member
It is difficult to unplant an idea.
It is true that an idea can become embedded, especially once purchases have been made and planning well underway. But there are a few points of correction/opinion to provide here, which also somewhat backs-up what @pfflyer is saying:
1. The coax which runs to roof on the Westy is 75ohm, correct.
2. However, the coax for many of the cell-boosters are *also* 75ohm, as they use a much thinner wiring and connector-type than what you're thinking of in the 50ohm variety. Therefore, with the right adapters (like these: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CVTRTUC/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) you can reuse the outside coax run to mount a cellular antenna, and it enters to the closet area (where there is also 12V power) perfectly. This then allows for the existing hard-wired coax run to stay intact from side of van, but you can repurpose the roof-top run entirely, as well as hard-wiring in a small fuse and 12V feed to the booster.
3. I've measured significant strength boost off of the booster under my testing (going from 1-bar to 3-bar). Yes, this may be a symptom of me being on T-Mobile. And yes, you can't make something from nothing. But anywhere that you're getting 1-bar of signal can often be increased by 1-2 bars. I'll have to do more testing to see how well that benefits anything, or if the 1-bar was already as good as you're going to really get anyways.
 

CaptnALinTiverton

T1N Westfalia
Again, assuming the above are questions:

1. Yes, Westy coax is 75 ohms.
2. Coax for many boosters is not 75 ohms, rather 50 ohms. Kiltym can confirm this as he used to sell them.
3. I was not successful with external antenna, Kiltym said he doubts significant results and is most expert as he was in the cell com business.

As previously stated, I have a 50 to 75 ohm impedance matcher if you want to go through the Westy cable to an outdoor 75 ohm antenna like I tried. I'll give it to you to play with. If you incorporate a booster, it will help compensate for loss of matcher.


AL
 

Jan M

Active member
We live in Sweden so our experience may not be comparable to the US.

This year we installed a LTE router and an external MiMO antenna, mainly because we wanted our van to have an easy, full time internet connection. My wife and I have different providers (the LTE router uses my provider) so it was quite easy to follow and compare the connection status on our phones (and the router).

On our vacation we mostly traveled quite far from civilization. During driving my cellphone lost connection at places and my wife's most of the time. She then connected to the vans network and gained acceptable internet connection throughout our whole vacation, even when my cellphone had lost connection. I finally also had to connect to the vans network and was then able to make IP phone calls and do some work. For us it was clear that the vans network with external antenna had better connection than our cellphones.
IMG_5582.jpg
 

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luvwagn

Member
Again, assuming the above are questions:

1. Yes, Westy coax is 75 ohms.
2. Coax for many boosters is not 75 ohms, rather 50 ohms. Kiltym can confirm this as he used to sell them.
3. I was not successful with external antenna, Kiltym said he doubts significant results and is most expert as he was in the cell com business.

As previously stated, I have a 50 to 75 ohm impedance matcher if you want to go through the Westy cable to an outdoor 75 ohm antenna like I tried. I'll give it to you to play with. If you incorporate a booster, it will help compensate for loss of matcher.

AL
No, it wasn't a question actually. The 75ohm westy coax is a straight match (via adapter) to the RG-6 coax that is used on most RV/truck boosters sold from popular brands/retailers today (WeBoost, etc.). So it is a straight fit and no need for impedence matcher. The only question becomes one of mounting the antenna now.

@Kiltym and yourself may be referring to beefier boosters that use RG-58 cabling at 50ohm.
 

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