Updated date:

What RV Owners Need to Know About Wi-Fi and Hotspots in Campgrounds

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.

How the Web Got Started

The word web refers to a group of things that are woven together such as a spider web. This word was adopted to refer to the enormous web of telephone lines already woven around the world.

Around the mid-twentieth century, some very smart engineers came up with a way to communicate reliable data around the world. Their concept relied on the fact that the world was already interconnected with what was an enormous web of telephone cables.

The telephone companies of the world got together and agreed on certain global technical standards for their hard-wired systems, to assure the clear and reliable transmission of voice.

Without dropping into a lot of technical jargon, these engineers saw the potential for the transfer of data over these same telephone lines. Simply put, they came up with the concept of assuming that the whole world was, as I said, a “web” of interconnected wiring.

Using this assumption, they figured that if they could connect a computer to this web, anywhere, and transmit specially coded data in multiple specially formatted “packets” from one computer; then another computer, somewhere else in the world could connect to this same “web” and their computer could receive and decode, this reconditioned and decoded packet of data via the same web.

If you knew what the “address” part of the data was, then you could even receive and decode, and then re-build the transmitted data from the received packets, for your own use.

Eventually there arose a functional World Wide Web (recognize that old www. in your addressing?) of communications available to everyone in the world.

A typical wireless router like the one I used in my motorhome.

A typical wireless router like the one I used in my motorhome.

Wireless Data Service Standardized

Eventually the need for even faster data transmissions drove companies to design and implement a wireless data communications design called Wi-Fi.

A default standard for wireless signal transmission was established which was referred to as “802.11 standard”. There are now several popular revisions of this standard that are in us and the most common are are 802.11B, 802.11G, and 802.11N.

Without going into technical details, this standard utilizes a very low power signal to allow multiple WIFI devices to communicate between each other.

To utilize this wireless standard, the industry designed Wireless Routers to interface to the internet via their modem, Most PC manufacturers then started building their PCs with built-in wireless transceiver chips, for the PC user’s convenience.

This WIFI method of “getting connected” became so popular that businesses like coffee shops, bars, restaurants, as well as libraries and government buildingsbegan offering free access at their sites.

All of these wireless devices are regulated by the federal government to only transmit signals at a certain maximum power level. All of them!

So, if you think one manufacturer’s device is going to work better than the other, remember this; they all have to send and receive signals within the same parameters, and the only real variable they are allowed to change is their antenna design.

So, the only two variables you, as a user have are 1) the type and size of your wireless antenna, and 2) where you place your wireless device, or PC with wireless built in, in relation to the antenna of the wireless system that you want to access.

Sorry, but these devices are all pretty much the same, by law.

Netgear Dual Band WIFI Router

Campground Wireless Systems

In many campgrounds, you will find that they offer wireless access, often this access is provided free at their main buildings, and some have even had wireless access installed around the whole campground, typically for a fee.

This service is not cheap to install and maintain, and there have been several companies who jumped into the market, such as TengoInternet to name one of the largest ones, that you will find around the country..

They manage the installation and maintenance of wireless systems at such campgrounds, and they charge a fee to you, the camper, for access.

This service can be very expensive, if you want to get online very often as you travel around to the different campgrounds.

To avoid these charges, many campers have moved to the use of data cards they they own themselves. These devices are manufactured and managed by the major communications carriers such as ATT, Verizon and others.. With these, you have access, via the data cards, for data communications, at any time, anywhere these carriers provide cellular or satellite service.

The other, and more expensive option for campers, is the dedicated Satellite systems that are available for RVers.

These systems provide broadband, high speed, direct satellite access to the world, anywhere the sky is clear, and you can pick up the satellite signals.

Most of the people that I know who have a satellite data system are generally full-time RVers who need the access and data speed to run their business.

At this point, I am going to jump over these technical fields, and go on to brief descriptions of the equipment options that are in use in homes and businesses and that you can also use in your RV.

Wireless Data Modems for Campers

You must have a data modem for access to data systems.

It can be built into your PC, or be a stand-alone box, but it is a necessary piece of equipment that encodes and shapes your data for transmission over the telephone lines of the world.

Today, almost all PCs will have a telephone line connector, and this is for relatively low speed data that can pass over standard telephone lines with an acceptable level of distortion.

It will also, typically, have an Ethernet connection. The connector is wider than a typical telephone connector, and it is designed to connect to an Ethernet home or office connection for data communications.

For higher speed data transmissions, your local Telephone or Cable company, requires that you use a special modem. They are not going to let you, just buy a modem, and use their lines for free.

So, the modem you usually get from them also includes their security information that tells them that you are a paid high speed user, on their lines.

Wireless Data Cards for RV Use

Today, many Rvers, as well as people that live in remote areas where high speed data cable is not available, will purchase a Wireless Data Card. These cards are sold and supported by the major cellular service providers around the country, and are relatively small with a USB connector for hooking to your PC.

You simply plug them into a USB port on your PC, and load the software package they provide, into your PC, and you have intermediate and high speed data capability over the national cellular provider’s system that you have signed up with.

These cards are generally sold with a service contract, similar to cell phones, and provide a limited maximum amount of data transfer capability per month. This is usually 5-GB (giga-bytes), per month. That is, of course, unless you want to pay for more or less data throughput.

These are a good alternative for a traveling RVer who wants reliable and fast data access wherever they travel. And, generally speaking, if you have cellular service, then you will have data access.

Wireless Hotspots for Campers

One of the powerful new gadgets available today is the availability of cheap wireless transceiver systems, commonly known as wireless hotspots, that allow the user to have their own personal Wi-Fi system.

Considering that essentially all PC's have wireless capability built into them, once you purchase your own wireless router and turn it on in your RV, you can now operate your own system in your RV.

The wireless hotspot communicates with your carrier, and your PCs, your wireless printer, and whatever other wireless devices you might have, are all managed and allowed access to the world via your wireless carrier.

These hotspots, can allow up to several dozen users, to access the web at one time via one set of data lines. Today, they are available for use in almost every home, and are just as available in the world of RVs.

Wireless Satellite Services for RVs

Then, there are the myriad designs of available personal satellite data systems you see today. Not only are they used by people working from home, or running a business, but some are even set up for the RVer to use.

Generally, these systems are designed for the person, who is running a business and works from home. Their home just happens to be an RV, and they require more data input/output than the normal person, and at higher speeds than usually required.

These systems are relatively expensive to purchase, install and maintain than what the normal retiree who needs email, and web access, are willing to pay. But, you do see a lot of them in the world of RVs, even though they come with their own set of problems and unique requirements, for reliable use, when traveling.

My Wireless System in My RV

I have a wireless hotspot that I purchased from Verizon that provides me with the fastest data throughput that they provide.

I have a SmartPhone that has ATT Wireless data service for not only Voice communications but for use via my HOTSPOT.

I have an iPad that has wireless access via my Hotspot. And, my wife has both a SmartPhone and an iPad for her communication needs.

I purchased a cheap HP printer that uses the ePrint (or iPrint) protocol which we can both access with our iPads via our HotSpot.

And, I have an Apple TV Box which gives me the capability to wirelessly download movies from NetFlix and other providers to our TV.

With this setup I have to take care not to go over my data limit. Movies and any streaming video can really eat up a lot of your allocated data throughput.

But, I also have the flexibility, say while on the road, to just plug the data card into my PC and have direct access to the web at any time.

I also have a wireless Printer/Scanner/Copier made by one of the popular rpinter manufacturers, which automatically connects to my wireless router, whenever it senses it as being on.

Put all of this together with the fact that both my wife’s PC and mine have built-in wireless capability, we have a nice RV wireless home system that allows us to work anywhere inside or outside of our RV (within reason), communicate with the web, and print, scan and copy documents with ease.

And the system requires no special wiring in our RV, is relatively cheap, and is securely password protected. To top it off, when we come home, and store the RV for a few weeks or months, we just pull the gear from the RV. And then we connect it to our cable service provider’s modem, and we are back on the air, until we need to make our next trip in our RV.

How to Use a Spare Router as a Range Extender

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Don Bobbitt

Comments

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on April 15, 2020:

bodylevive - I am so glad that my article was of use to you. Most of my articles exist because I couldn't find a decent source for the same information I put in this article, hoping to help others.

Have a Great day,

DON

BODYLEVIVE from Alabama, USA on April 15, 2020:

Thank you for this article. We're about to purchase a RV and find this info very useful. Thank you so much for taking the time to share.

Related Articles