Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Hamilton. Ontario, Canada
Tips on Using WiFi in RV Parks
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Tips on Using WiFi in RV Parks
By Jonathan Miller (03/05)
Ed Note: We have expressed our opinion elsewhere at this site concerning the issue of “free versus fee” wireless internet at RV parks. Some parks are using outside providers to design and provide the service. One that we’ve used is RVWiFi, where we’ve found the support from the provider both timely and helpful. Based on that experience we asked Jonathan Miller, who operates the service, to review some of the questions RVers are asking about using wireless in RV parks. We appreciate his furnishing the following information that we think our readers will find helpful.
What is WiFi?
WiFi is short for Wireless Fidelity and is the catchall name for wireless Internet access using the unlicensed 2.4 GHz frequencies. It is also known as 802.11b or 802.11g. Radio waves are broadcast from an access point, usually on a tower, throughout the immediate area. Wireless devices are built-in or plugged into computers to pick up the signal. These devices contain a radio. The system works just like TV and radio -- transmitting a signal from one device to another through the air.
What's the difference between 802.11b and 802.11g?
802.11b operates at 11Mbps and 802.11g operates at 54Mbps. The difference relates to the amount of bandwidth in the frequency and how much data you can transfer between similar devices at that speed. If a "g" device is communicating with a "b" device, the speed will be limited to 11Mbps. Some manufacturers have proprietary methods of increasing the speed even faster, but the higher speed is only obtained if all of your WiFi equipment is made by the same manufacturer and has that capability.
Which should I get? b or g?
The universal standard for hotspots and RV Resorts is "b". The reason is due to the fact that "g" devices can talk to "b" access points. Though "b" devices can talk to "g" access points, the maximum speed will be that of the “b” device. An access point is the device at a hotspot or in a wireless network that broadcasts the signal. Only "b" devices, at this point, come with stronger radios. Stronger radios have greater power output and can pick up signals from further away and with more strength. We recommend purchasing at least the 200mW radios and our top choices can be found in the gear section at our website. We do not sell equipment. We test everything on the market and recommend those that operate the best and are user-friendly.
My signal is strong, shows 11Mbps yet the download speed is only 500k. Why is it not faster?
No matter if you have a “b” or “g” adapter, the primary factor limiting you Internet connection speed is the speed of the Internet connection to the resort you are at. Typically, the Internet connection to the resort is 1.5Mbps or less. The “b” or “g” adapter is capable of speeds ten times or more faster but, your Internet access speed will be no greater than the Internet connection speed at the resort. If the resort has a DSL 256k Internet connection to it, you’ll never download faster than 256k. Also, important to remember is that specific websites and the Internet itself can slow down at times due to congestion or carrier outages.
I've tried my internal device, in my laptop, at an RV Resort and the connection was intermittent and slow. However, when I was at Flying J it worked fine. Why?
It all has to do with your proximity to the access point at the location you’re at coupled with the strength of your device. Flying J and other turck stops operate hotspots and the signal is within a couple hundred feet of the pumps and restaurant. When you get gas or eat, you're within feet of the Access Point and your signal will be strong. At RV Resorts there will be more ground to cover with signal and you may be further away from an access point. This does not mean the signal is not there, just that your antenna is not strong enough to pick up the signal well. A stronger antenna will solve the problem.
I paid a lot of money for my laptop and was told that my internal card would work anywhere there is WiFi.
Your internal card will always work if you are close enough to an access point. All cards built into laptops and almost all cards bought in stores, whether they're "b" or "g" have 30mW radios built into them. They are purposely designed to work in homes, offices or hotspots and use lower power to conserve laptop battery bower. They will not work as well when you are more than 50 feet away from the access point and performance will worsen the further away you get. These cards have 14dB output. The 200mW cards have 23dB output. For every 3dB increase the strength of the radio doubles. Therefore the 200mW card is 8 times stronger than the 30mW card. The devices we recommend with external antennas make them 32 times stronger.
Why does the speed of my connection sometimes say 1Mbps and sometimes 11Mbps?
11Mbps happens with full signal strength, 1Mbps is barely any signal -- even when it says excellent signal at 1Mbps. A poor 11Mbps signal is much stronger than an excellent 1Mbps signal. The speed will get lower the further you are away from the access point or due to the amount of interference in the area.
How can I increase my speed/signal strength?
Get a stronger wireless device. At RVwifi, we have tested and continue to test all the devices on the market and put the ones we like on our website (see above). We do not sell equipment. We do get our customers discounts, if available, on the devices that have the best performance and ease of use. Since the primary applications of the more powerful devices are commercial, RV, and trucking, you likely will not find them in your local computer or electronics stores. They are readily available from many sources online. When you select an adapter, make certain that the package indicates that it is a high power, or longer range device. If it does not state that, it likely is a standard power device.
What causes interference with the WiFi signal?
WiFi uses the 2.4Ghz frequency and so do 2.4G cordless phones, 2.4G a and g wireless home networks and microwave ovens. From 4:30 to 6:00 pm each night at every RV resort in the country the WiFi signal is impeded the most. This is due to the concentration of RVs in a relatively small area preparing dinner and using Microwave ovens. The same is true in apartment complexes.
For the past several days, my Internet speed was great, and now it is very slow. I did not change anything. What happened?
Usually when all works well and then slows down suddenly, the cause could be a large RV moving in between you and the access point and blocking your signal. Also, make certain that your computer is protected against malware such as viruses and spyware. Anyone using the Internet is vulnerable and protection is essential. Malware will slow you computer and even prevent you from using the Internet.
What should I consider in selecting a site in an RV park to get the best WiFi signal?
Tell the registration desk that you would like to be parked as close as possible to one of the parks access points. If possible, make this request when you reserve your site. Other RV’s, buildings, and trees can block the WiFi signal even if you are close to the access point. Place your computer on the side of the RV facing the access point if possible.
I use a Firewall and am having problems connecting to the Internet or getting my email.
First, you should understand that our system provides a physical firewall between you and the Internet. Nobody on the Internet can see your computer -- they can only see our equipment. If you are using a firewall, you may have to configure it so that it passes the Internet data from the park WiFi system. We do not recommend firewalls as they are the source of major complications on customer's computers if not configured correctly and can be difficult to "unconfigure". If you do have a firewall and can't get on, try disabling the firewall.
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