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Phones, Modems, Antennas & Wi-Fi – Information that every RV’er really needs to hear…
And I mean let’s talk; over the Phone, Facebook, Text and Wi-Fi and a multitude of other methods available to us to engage with others not sitting next to us (although in a teenager’s world that still requires a phone!) 😉
The outcome of my four-day fight with Telstra will benefit us all when it comes to our choice of communication requirements whilst travelling, including Wi-Fi in your RV. It will surprise you!
In case you have not been privy to my previous discussions on ‘keeping connected whilst in the bush’ I’ll briefly summarise what works best and does not cost the earth.
As we all know as soon as we leave town, big or small, we also leave our means to communicate via the phone and tablet.
Due mainly to the lack of mobile coverage in rural areas, although Telstra is putting up more towers as we speak, focusing on high traffic areas, such as major highways, so we can at least contact someone should we get into difficulties whilst driving on major outback tourist routes.
But what happens when you free camp some distance from a tower?
If, like me, you still need to be able to access emails, and text to keep a business running or be in touch with loved ones back home, then you need more than just a ‘blue tick’ phone.
That’s where antennas come into play. I carry a compact antenna that sucks in the signal from miles away, it also doubles download speeds when in cities or close to towers – so watching HD movies is not a problem.
Until now the only option available was to own a phone (and a modem) that had an external antenna port which we could plug the antenna directly into and watch with glee as the signal strength bars grew instantly.
The Telcos have now in their wisdom decided we rural travellers & residents need to catch up with the rest of the world and no longer sell phones with antenna jacks. What they don’t tell you is what the alternatives are for those of us not living within visual sight of a tower (they seriously don’t believe such a species exists!). I never got an answer despite constant questioning and arguing with my Telco on this subject.
What to do?
I went in search of answers and spoke to the man in the know – Dave, from G-Spotter Antennas makers of the brilliant True Blue MiMo LTE G-Spotter antenna which I have been using for years. It has proven to be far better than my other ‘Yagi’ Antenna and a lot easier to use. Here’s what he had to say…
‘No need to worry as the technology has moved on and you no longer need to tether a phone directly to an antenna, as mentioned previously.
The key now is that 4G 700Mhz service can be accessed at great distances using external antennas. This enables both internet and mobile connection.
Now that Telstra, Optus & Vodafone have enabled ‘Wi-Fi Calling’ over their networks with late model smart phones, you can utilise Wi-Fi antennas to get even greater access.
So, if you cannot get signal where you are camped at the prime spot on the lake, just hunt out some a distance away and connect phone and internet via Wi-Fi.
The trick is to have a 4G 700Mhz modem plugged into an antenna to get fast internet. it does not matter if its Telstra or Optus. You then use’ Wi-Fi Calling’ enabled on the late model smart phone to make & receive calls, hence no tethering required.
You can share data across your mobile plans with both carriers as well, so if you have 10gig on a phone plan, you can share that across a data card. It won’t work with pre-paid plans though’.
There you have it.
I’m now in the process of researching the best type of ‘blue tick’ phone that has Wi-Fi Calling capabilities for a reasonable price – the latest Samsung 9 is way out of my price bracket and has more features than the Nasa Space Station, none of which I will ever use. More on that later.
Let’s now look at your antenna options and associated modems.
As mentioned I use a G-Spotter (slightly larger older version, as shown in photo below), which I fix to an extendable swimming pool cleaner pole and can be put up in minutes. It also fixes to a camera tripod for use inside the van or apartment.
The latest G-Spotter version is much slimmer and comes with an optional suction magnetic mount, so you can either just sit the unit inside your caravan or motor home, or on top of the vehicle with the super strong magnetic base. (it was designed for NSW firefighter and police vehicles).
To find out more about which is the best antenna to suit your needs send an email to Dave at:RV@gspotterantennas.com.au , mention my name and he’ll ensure you get the right advice and the right product.
Other options, are the bull bar mounted antennas. They draw signal from 360 degrees which is handy but not as efficient as a directional antenna like Yagi or G-Spotter. For ease of use consider attaching one of these to your wind-up TV antenna, gives more height & reception without the hassle of erecting mounting poles.
I’ve also seen Marine Antennas being fixed to the side of caravans that fold up & down (as they would on a boat) with reasonable coverage.
Just keep your eyes open at remote freedom camps for creative ideas on how to erect antennas and stay in touch.
For Mobile Broadband Wi-Fi Modems, you have a few choices.
I use a Netgear 4GX Advanced 2 (I had the Advance 3, but it won’t connect to a wireless printer, so I returned to the older model which works brilliantly). Sadly, these are no longer available via Telstra, but you can find them online (E-Bay, Gumtree or just Google search).
The Advanced 3 has been replaced by: Netgear Nighthawk® M1 and the Telstra 4GX Wi-Fi Pro.
This unlocked pre-paid unit is good value and takes sim cards from all carriers. Go to: https://amzn.to/2MHpKBv
These types of units are also known as Pocket Wi-Fi Modem, Dongles, Mobile Hot Spot Routers, Mobile Wireless Wi-Fi Routers. Titles you can use to search on Google.
Just ensure the one you chose has an antenna socket, which only needs to be utilise if the signal is weak and operates 4G 700mhz.
Pocket size means, you can take them to coffee shops or anywhere you feel like sitting whilst connecting to the world wide web. They take up no room in your RV and do not require installation as some fixed units do. Battery is re-charged via a USB port just like your phone. So simple, inexpensive and Wi-Fi Calling compatible.
I’ve seen the ‘so called’ latest fixed Wi-Fi units at the Caravan shows which are totally over the top, expensive and unnecessary when a portable one will do the same job and you can use it once back home or take on holidays with you.
There you go – your communication problems fixed in a single article and an email to G-Spotter Antennas.
This article is an extract from Chad’s RV Newsletter ‘Aussie Life On Wheels’
- Sign up for the October issue: oncludes, RV Master Chef Series. Tips on Motorhome rental overseas. Phones, Modems, Antennas & Wi-Fi – Further Information that every RV’er really needs to hear… Go to: www.AussieLifeOnWheels.com
An entertaining read and a useful tool for all Caravan & Motorhome owners and would be owners.Chad and his partner are veteran caravaners. (10 years into a 2-year trip around Australia!). Chad has spent years researching vans and equipment, knows most of the ins and outs of living on the road and how they earn a living from their van