As we intend managing our business (and doing this blog of course) during our mobile travels, it was very important to us to have fast, high speed internet access wherever we are as we intend visiting clients to discuss business in our motorhome and to communicate online using this system fitted into our mobile office (our Morelo).
To this end, I started to think about how we would do it long before we actually acquired the motorhome; and there are now many, affordable and effective solutions. The solution I settled on is now proving to be so good that I actually couldn't really believe how fast it actually is (see test data below).
Our system is made by Peplink and was supplied by Auqamare in Plymouth. It comprises the main mobile router and the Multi In Multi Out (MIMO) Wi-Fi & cellular antenna with GPS (see below).
It's not the cheapest mobile internet system
around but I reckon it's as good as any
Whilst away in Brighton a few weeks ago, I carried out a speed test using OOKLA.com (I always use this website as it has proven to be rock solid and gives reliable results). I was really impressed with these results on EE 4G. The upload speed is actually 6 times faster than my Virgin 100 Meg Fibre at home!
So why is this setup so good? The Peplink Pepwave system is actually designed for this very purpose; mobile high speed internet in luxury yachts, motorhomes and busses/ coaches/ trains/ferries etc. offering mobile internet to passengers on the move. It has two cellular SIM cards installed, one is a "Three" Pay As You Go (Feel at Home) and the other one is on a renewable contract with a 30Gb bandwidth monthly limit with EE for £30 per month.
This system sucks up internet networks like a hoover - with a range far in excess of smaller antennae, we will be able to access Wi-Fi networks from almost anywhere on a site.
It works by scanning the area to see if there are Wi-Fi networks available and will list them on screen (I have installed a Lenovo Micro PC (M900) connected to the HDMI input on the drop-down TV). If the Wi-Fi available is free, I will select it and enter the password provided to access the connection. If no free Wi-Fi is available (or I don't want to pay for it) the system falls back to the strongest available cellular 4G signal. Selecting this option will then tell the unit to connect to the network. If 4G is unavailable, then 3G will be used.
There is also an app (InControl2) so that you can manage this system from your smartphone or tablet/PC.
The antenna has 5 x 4.5m co-ax cables and connectors pre-fitted to connect to the Pepwave unit. It requires roof-top installation which meant that I had the stress of drilling a 22mm hole in a brand new motorhome roof. I couldn't use the threaded section to secure the antenna as my roof is 40 odd mm thick and the thread was only 30mm long so I knew I would have to use an adhesive (which I sought advice from Aquamare about). I removed the air vent on the roof-top to see if there was a suitable void below where I wanted to install the antenna. Bingo, there was one; right above the oven housing which is where I routed the cables, secured to the oven housing side wall to keep them away from any heat and into the back of the over-door main control panel (for connection to the router and to pick up on the 240v power supply).
To install the antenna I first cleaned the roof with specialist cleaners and drew a circle the diameter of the antenna with a pencil to find the centre. I then applied 4 concentric over-lapping circles of Sikaflex 221 White 300 ml One-Component Adhesive (£8.99 per tube) within the outer marked area onto the roof surface and inserted the 5 cables into the 20m hole I had drilled (I first wrapped the connectors with cling-film to stop the adhesive around the hole getting into them) and inserted them into the hole. I then pressed the antenna onto the roof making sure that I applied equal pressure to ensure a good water-tight fit. I covered it with plastic sheeting taped to the roof in case it rained and left it overnight to cure. The following day I applied a bead of the same Sikaflex sealant around the base of the unit and removed the excess (like you would with bathroom sealant). To date there has been no water ingress so it did the job just fine.
The hardest part was drilling that 20mm hole - getting my head around that took a little bit of time! I'm happy I managed to do it though.
At about £1,000 for the router and the antenna (I fitted and configured it myself so no costs for that) it's not the cheapest solution around but with 30Gb bandwidth per month in the UK and with European "Feel at Home" roaming, I am really happy so far. As soon as I have some more UK and then Euro test data to show you, I'll post an update.