Selecting a WIFI service or HOTSPOT for your RV, and How WIFI Works.
The Evolution of Telephone Communications
One of the most significant technical advances that occurred around the world in the 20th century was the hard wiring of telephone lines to almost every home and business in the civilized world.
During the 20th century Telephone service became so prevalent in the developed world, that people expected to have access to telephones anywhere they lived or traveled to. It was everywhere, and people expected to be able to communicate instantly to anyone anywhere.
This international access to instant communications essentially shrank the world significantly.
This was accomplished via those wires coming from that “telephone pole” on the street, down to a telephone patch-box on the outside of your house or business.
Eventually, one was not enough and houses were pre-wired to provide a telephone connector in each room to that outdoor patch box..
You just had to plug your favorite telephone into the nearest connector and dial up your family, friends, and businesses; that is, if you paid your telephone bill to the telephone company.
How the WEB got started
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 generation 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, a reconditioned and decoded packet of this 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.
Now this is a very simplified explanation, and there are myriad technical details, and complexities that had to be worked out, but eventually there was a functional World Wide Web ( recognize that old www. in your addressing?) of communications available to everyone in the world.
A popular Wireless Router
The Personal PC and Wireless Service
As I mentioned, along came the Personal Computer, and in addition to revolutionizing the world of computing, these devices were designed to communicate over this Web, fast and efficiently.
At first there was what is called Dial Up service. This means that I could dial up your telephone number, and if we both had a "Data Modem" connected to the telephone line, the modems at each end would encode/decode my transmission, and allow the data to pass through the telephone lines, to the dialed up computer on the other end.
Thus, data was transmitted and received relatively easily between two computers. The problem with Dial Up, is that it was limited by the bandwidth of the telephone company’s telephone lines themselves.
And as your data got faster, it was distorted by the limitations of the wiring itself, until it reached a certain speed where the data was un-recoverable, and thus useless.
This, in turn, prompted the design and introduction of special high speed data lines for the homes and business’ of today.
Wireless Data Service and your RV
Finally then need for even faster data transmissions drove companies to the implementation of a wireless data communications design, or WIFI.
The default standard for wireless signal transmission is referred to as “802.11”. 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.
Suffice it to state that each newer revision can handle signals of the older revision, but not the reverse.
To utilize this wireless standard, the industry designed wireless routers to interface to telephone lines and modems, while most PC manufacturers 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 business’ like coffee shops, bars, restaurants, library’s, government buildings, and many more, began offering free access at their sites, in hopes of enticing you there so you might possibly buy their products.
Another thing you need to understand. All of these wireless devices are regulated by the federal government to only transmit signals at a certain maximum 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; the type and size of your wireless antenna, and, 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 they 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, especially full-timers, most-timers, and even some-timers, 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 business’, and 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
As mentioned, Wireless, or WIFI, is so popular and so prevalent today, that everyone expects it to be available wherever they go.
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 WIFI SYSTEM.
Considering that essentially ALL PC's have wireless capability built into them then once you purchase your own wireless Router and turn it on in your RV, then you can now operate with your own system in your RV.
The Wireless HotSpot communicates with your carrier, and you PC or PCs and your wireless Printer, and whatever 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 dozens of 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 am a techno-geek. I admit it. And, as such, I really want the latest and greatest toys to support my personal PC Freedom.
I want access, and I want ease of use.
To that end, after using a lot of different equipments over the years, I have a system in my RV that best suits my needs, with what is cheap and available, today.
First, I have a Wireless HOTSPOT that I purchased from Verizon that provides me with the fastest data throughput that they provide.
Ihave a SmartPhone that is has ATT Wireless data Service for not only Voice communications, but that can be used 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.
With this though you must take care not to go over your 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, also, 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), and communicate with the web, as well as print, scan and copy documents with ease.
And, the system requires no special wiring in our RV, is relative cheap, is securely password protected, and 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.
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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