Getting Better Wi-Fi – Selecting Long Range Wi-Fi Extending Gear (Antennas, Routers, CPEs)

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Every RVer at some point fantasizes about the possibilities of connecting via Wi-Fi.

Fast! Free! Unlimited!

But all too often they must come to face a disappointing reality - on most public networks, you may at best get just one out of three.

Even throwing expensive range extending technology at the problem can only go so far to improve the Wi-Fi connectivity situation. Better gear can help - but it can't work miracles.

The truth is that Wi-Fi just isn't well suited to long range coverage.

It takes a substantial investment to deploy even modestly fast Wi-Fi over an extended area. And it takes ongoing expertise to keep any network reliably up and performing well under load.

To better manage expectations and the insatiable demands for connectivity - many public Wi-Fi networks have turned to charging for access, or placing limits on usage to better manage the demand. But even paid for "premium" Wi-Fi all too often still comes up lacking.

Relative to cellular, public Wi-Fi often ends up being:

  • Slower - Real world public Wi-Fi is often just 1mbps to 10mbps, compared to increasingly common peak speeds of over 50+ mbps on cellular.
  • Harder to Use - Many public Wi-Fi networks have "captive portals" that force you to agree to terms, pay, or login with a password. Jumping through these hoops can often be a challenge - particularly if you want to go get multiple devices online at once.
  • Less Secure - On cellular, only your carrier (and law enforcement) can monitor what you are up to online. On public Wi-Fi networks, any machine connected to the same public network can attempt to snoop on you.
  • Less Reliable - Wi-Fi signals are broadcast on unlicensed spectrum that is subject to interference and overloading. In many places there may be dozens of Wi-Fi networks attempting to share the same limited broadcast channels! Cellular networks on the other hand operate on dedicated licensed channels, and are not subject to this sort of free-for-all interference.

It all adds up to Wi-Fi often being more trouble than its worth.

But if you understand the limitations and realities, having gear to take advantage of public Wi-Fi can actually prove to be a valuable part of any RVers connectivity arsenal.

Particularly in places where cellular may be lacking - having the capability onboard to tap into distant public Wi-Fi sources can prove to be extremely worthwhile.

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The Wi-Fi Worthiness Test

Ok – so you found a Wi-Fi hotspot to use – but you can’t get the signal while sitting in your RV.

How then can you get online via Wi-Fi - without needing to spend your days sitting at Starbucks and your nights lounging on the RV park’s office porch?

Wi-Fi was never intended to be used for long range networking, but it is often possible to push the limits of what Wi-Fi is capable of.

But first – do yourself a favor and test to make sure that it will actually be worth the effort!

A lot of people invest a small fortune in long-range Wi-Fi hardware, only to report back disappointedly that it hardly made any difference.

In a lot of these cases – there just wasn’t any worthwhile signal to work with in the first place. If the campground has slow and unreliable Wi-Fi in the front office or rec center near the hotspot, no amount of technology will be able to make things any better than that back at your rig.

Before you invest time and money in getting connected via Wi-Fi, find out if the hotspot you’re trying to connect to is actually worth the effort.

We call this the "Worthiness Test":

  1. Take your laptop, phone, or tablet up as close to the hotspot as you can manage.
  2. Run some speed tests.
  3. Try out some typical web surfing.
  4. Try streaming some video.

If the experience is a good one, then using long range Wi-Fi gear in your RV may benefit you.

If not –no amount of gear back at your campsite will make things any better.

Save yourself some frustration, and find another way online.

Product & Review Guide: Wi-Fi Extending & Repeating Gear

Here are the products we are tracking in the Product & Review Center that can help with long range Wi-Fi. Click on each for more information. Our in-depth reviews and member reviews are part of our member exclusive benefits.

Testing Notes & Updates:

We are currently testing a variety of Wi-Fi gear in the field.  Member's can follow along with the testing notes here:

[Current Testing] Mobile Router & WiFi Gear Testing (Winter 2016/2017)

Ubiquiti Bullet M2

Long range WiFi antenna by AirMax.

$79.99

Overall Review:

PDQ Connect AllPro

Long range WiFi antenna and router by PDQ Connect.

$449

Overall Review:

JefaTech WiFi Repeating Kit

Long range WiFi antenna and router by JefaTech.

$166+

Overall Review:

Alfa Desktop WiFi Extending Router

A basic and affordable option that only provides WiFi extending.

$159.98

Overall Review:

WiFiRanger Elite

WiFiRanger’s roof mounted long range WiFi antenna and router.

$359.99+

Overall Review:

WiFiRanger Sky2

WiFiRanger’s most basic roof-mounted system.

$199.99

Overall Review:

Rogue Wave

Long range WiFi antenna and router by WaveWiFi.

$360

Overall Review:

BearExtender PC Outdoor WiFi Extender

A basic and affordable option that only provides WiFi extending.

$59.99

Overall Review:

The Wirie Pro & AP+

Marine routers with WiFi repeating and cellular support by Island Consulting.

$399 - 799

Overall Review:

Panorama Low Profile MIMO

A line of low profile omni-directional antennas featuring cellular MIMO, WiFi and GPS.

$285 - 315

Overall Review:

PDQ Connect One Source

Long range WiFi, Cellular Booster & HDTV antenna kit by PDQ Connect.

$1495

Overall Review:

JefaTech WiFi Repeating XR

Long range WiFi antenna and router by JefaTech.

$199.99

Overall Review:

Alfa WiFi Camp Pro Kit

A basic and affordable option with an external mounted high gain antenna.

$159.99

Overall Review:

RedPort Halo Long Range Marine & RV Wi-Fi Extending System

Long range Wi-Fi extending setup, with claims of up to 7 miles.

$449.99

Overall Review:

Ubiquiti NanoStation M2

Long range, pole mounted WiFi antenna by AirMax.

$82.99

Overall Review:

Winegard ConnecT WF1 & 4G1

Winegard’s unique-looking Wi-Fi extender and mobile router solution is an interesting addition to the market.

$549-$749

Overall Review:
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