How to get Mobile Internet in a Caravan!

Since being in the caravan in the orchard I’ve always taken our access to the interweb for granted, but today I realised that the set up I have in the caravan is pretty DIY and not normal – meaning that some people wouldn’t know how to go about doing it.

So I thought I’d put up a post about setting up Mobile Internet in a caravan!

Currently I am with the provider 3 on a rolling contract that offers 7gb of data for £25 a month – I signed up to a contract 2 years ago and it’s just run out so I am about to upgrade to their improved tariff of 15gb of data for £21 a month over 18 months, which seems pretty good to me!

I’ll give you a brief overview of the basics of getting mobile internet incase any of you have never done it before – if you are well aware of mobile internet then feel free to skip this bit.

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So to begin with you need to find out which Mobile Internet provider is best for your area, visiting your favourite search engine should bring up a comparison site and from there you can visit each provider and use their ‘coverage checker’ pages to see which one will be best suited to your area.

Once you’ve chosen your provider and got your dongle all you should have to do is plug it into your laptop and you’ll be away surfing the interweb – the problems start to happen when you are in an area of poor signal no matter which provider you go with.  If this is the case you’ll need a signal booster or an antenna as they are more commonly called.

One thing I should say is that before you choose which provider of a dongle to go through, you need to make sure that you get a dongle that has a CRC9 connection – this connection piece is where the antenna will fit to the dongle, if the dongle you choose doesn’t have one of these you will find it very hard if not impossible to find an antenna that does a good job at boosting the signal very well.

To buy an antenna I used an excellent website called Panorama Antennas as they have a great website which is clearly laid out and easy to understand – it really is great for finding the antenna you will need for your dongle.

Once I received my antenna I set it up outside the caravan on a wooden pole and then wired it up and into the caravan and then plugged it into the dongle.

The improvement was pretty good – at most times I could get a decent speed from the dongle but the signal kept dropping, so if I wanted to download something I couldn’t because the connection kept failing.  But since I’ve had the antenna I very rarely lose the signal at all – sometimes when the weather is bad I do, but most of the time it’s pretty damn good!

So that’s about all you need to get internet in your caravan, however, if like me you want to be able to use your laptop away from where your antenna wire connection comes into your van, then you’ll need some kind of 3G wi-fi router to broadcast the signal.

I searched around the interweb and found a 3G wi-fi router that does just that, and I can now have my connection coming in through one end of the caravan, plugged into the wi-fi router and then be sat down the other end of the caravan still surfing the interweb, brilliant!

So that’s that, now I’ll move onto how I set it all up in my caravan.

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Setting up Mobile Internet in a Caravan:

So to begin with I had already signed up with the mobile internet provider ‘3’ like I said above and I was using it fine most of the time sat all around the caravan, except for in the bedroom area.

I searched around the net and realised that I needed a signal booster/antenna so that I could plug this into my dongle and get a better signal – seeing as though the mobile mast is about 2 miles away from where the caravan is!

I managed to find the Panorama Antennas website and soon enough found the right antenna for me.  They had a varied amount of antenna’s but I realised I needed one of the most powerful one’s they did, simply because of the distance to the mobile mast which is about 1.5 miles away as the crow flies!

One it had arrived I found out where exactly the mobile phone mast closest to me was via the Ofcom site finder website and then found the best place around the caravan to put the antenna.

I decided to put the antenna up on a wooden post because of being in the middle of the orchard I was wary of the trees getting in the way of the signal – the post only raises the antenna by about 8 feet or so, but it definitely helps with the signal!

As you can see in the picture above (click on it for a bigger version) I went with putting it at the end of the van – this was mainly because where it points to it has a clearer point of view over the trees then anywhere else around the van and therefore this is where the signal was strongest.

All I did was whack a round wooden post into the ground, got a big of battening and nailed it to the post to raise it up a bit more, and then fixed the antenna to this piece of battening.

I had to coil the antenna wire around the post to stop it from moving around in the wind, and then it went through the side of the window that you can see in the picture – I’m lucky in that the windows shut pretty close to fully even with this wire going through and it’s not crushing the wire at all either.

So with that all done and the antenna wire coming through the window I then set it up so that I had the wi-fi router close to the window so that the connection could be made to it without much wire running around the van.

I ended up buying an Edimax 3g-6200N wi-fi router as you can see in the picture below – I brought this one mainly because there were only a few on the market at the time and it was the best value for money too.

As you can see from the picture the setup is pretty easy – just plug the antenna wire into the CRC9 connection on the side of the dongle and then plug the dongle into the router via a normal usb cable!

Once I plugged the router into the mains I left it for about a minute and it had connected to the ‘3’ signal and was broadcasting my internet wirelessly – no set up issue’s, nothing!

I can now sit anywhere in the van and surf the interweb quite easily.

I should say that from what I have read around the interweb some people have had issue’s with getting the dongle to connet to their internet provider, but I’ve had no such issue’s, however, one thing I have noticed is that sometimes after a few hours of being on the net the connection just seems to stop working – and all I’ve done is just turn the router off and back on again and it’s sorted itself out each time.

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So there we have it – Mobile Internet in a caravan!

I should say a little bit about the speeds I get with it:

When it’s off-peak time I can normally get close to the dongles speed limit of 3.2mbps, and even during peak times I get around 1 or 2mbps aswell.

For some reason when it is raining really hard or cloudy and stormy the signal drops every now and then or slows down to just below 1mbps – but that’s still a decent enough speed to be surfing the interweb with.

I’ve had no problems watching live TV .. so that makes me well chuffed when it comes to watching footy that’s not on TV!! 🙂

Overall I think I spent about £120-150 in buying the antenna and the wi-fi router, which is quite a lot really, but then it’s worth it if you want decent and consistent surfing speeds – and as I like to use the interweb a lot to save money on shopping, get alternative news, connect with people around the world etc then it seems more than worth it to me!

Well, that’s that – if you need anything clarifying or have a question about anything to do with this post then feel free to ask me a question, I’ll be more than happy to try to help!

Until next time…

WeeMike

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