Caravan advice: Roam with WiFi
Advice: WiFi roaming in association with WiFi
Words: Will Hawkins
“I enjoy having internet access in my caravan, but the service on site is usually poor.”
“Getting a WiFi signal in my caravan is often unreliable or just intermittent.”
“I wish I could get good internet access so I can plan what we do each day on holiday more easily.”
You probably recognise these thoughts and feelings. Getting a reliable mobile WiFi signal is often tricky on a campsite.
Picture the scene... it’s raining, the kids are getting restless and the board games and books have all been rejected. You’d like to stream a film that you can all enjoy but you’re worried that it won’t be possible. And then what will you do?
The free WiFi provided by many sites only works when you’re next to the site office. WiFi dongles are good, but they often struggle to get a strong signal through the walls of your caravan unless you stick them on the roof, which isn’t ideal.
The other challenge is how many people you’re competing with for bandwidth on a campsite’s WiFi. The service you get is directly proportional to how many people are on the system and the data they are using on it.
For some people, having reliable internet access in their caravan is as important as having a reliable water supply. Checking the weather forecast, finding a campsite, route planning, downloading TV shows and films, or looking for things to do. Good internet access on site or on the move is essential.
That’s why Maxview found a solution to the problem, and created and developed ‘Roam’.
It’s a new system that fits onto and into your caravan. The Roam comes in two parts, namely an external antenna that fits on your roof, and an internal router which you fit to a wall in a suitable spot. And, it has two functions. The first function is to provide a reliable 3G or 4G signal. The second is to help you connect to a WiFi hotspot.
Having the option to use either 3G/4G or WiFi hotspots means you have flexibility from where you get internet access. And, using WiFi hotspots means you can save your data allowance. To be fair, you can get this from your smartphone or on some tablet PCs, anyway. The big difference is the stronger signal you’ll get from the external antenna used in the Roam.
The antenna sits on the roof (in a protective unit), so the signal you get (the so-called ‘gain’) is clear from interference from your caravan’s walls. It’s powerful and will get you a better signal than when you try to get a signal from inside your caravan.
The external antenna connects to the internal router (made by Teltonika). The router is secure to prevent anyone without the right username and password from using it. You power the router using either 12V or 230V mains power, so you can use it on or off the grid.
How much data will you need?
To get 3G/4G coverage, you insert a SIM card from whichever network provider you use. That gives you the flexibility you want to connect to the internet via the cheapest or most reliable service provider, whether in the UK or abroad.
How much 3G/4G data you need, when not using a WiFi hotspot, depends on what you intend to download. Streaming or downloading TV shows or films uses a lot of data. If you watch a lot of videos go for a bigger data allowance with your SIM.
Whereas, downloading emails without attachments on them, 12GB means you could download tens of thousands of them. Maxview sells data SIM cards from Three, which has good coverage in the UK, and across many European countries.
What about 5G compatibility?
You’ve probably heard of the next generation of mobile WiFi, namely 5G. It’s an exciting prospect to download videos or stream music almost instantly compared to 3G and 4G. But, 5G availability is low in the UK.
Coverage is in its infancy and it will be some time before the network providers roll out 5G infrastructure across the UK, let alone into rural areas. For the time being, 3G/4G will be with us and the norm for many years yet, so the Maxview Roam will give you many years of service.
How do you fit the Maxview Roam?
Maxview recommends you find an installer to fit the Roam to your caravan. Understandably, drilling a hole in your caravan’s roof is a daunting prospect for many owners. A professional installer will know where to drill the hole, how to install the roof antenna so it’s sealed and weatherproof, and the best place to install the
If you’re proficient at DIY, installing the Roam yourself is easy. The system comes ‘ready to fit’ with instructions. You’ll need some tools and a morning or afternoon to install it. To show you how to fit the Roam kit, see how we did it, step by step.
Where do you fit the Roam?
Maxview recommends you fit the router and the external antenna as close together as possible, and you use the supplied coaxial cables. Being close gives you the best performance possible.
Where you place the router inside affects where you install the external antenna. Take some time inspecting a good spot inside, but don’t start drilling any holes until you know if the position of the router is suitable for where you install the antenna. The external antenna should have a 30cm space between it and the next roof feature to give you the best signal.
The router can sit horizontally or vertically on a wall, but its antenna must be vertical to work effectively. Position the router so there is enough space around it for the antenna to be vertical.
The 12V and 230V leads are long enough to give you some flexibility on where you mount the router. But, play around with the router and its closeness to its power source before you commit to its final position.
Mounting the external antenna
When you’ve found the best position for the router and the external antenna, check the surface where you plan to place the antenna. The external antenna needs to sit on a clean, flat surface. If you don’t have a suitable spot for it, don’t worry. Maxview has a special fitting kit (sold separately).
If your roof has ridges on it, that’s no problem. Use the kit to mount the antenna over the ridges, and secure it with the supplied screws. You might already have a point in your roof to thread the coaxial cables (supplied) through. You can buy an extension cables to give you more options on where you fit the antenna. The fitting kit includes screws to secure the mount on the roof and cable ties.
If you have no need for the fitting kit, the standard external antenna has a pre-installed sticky pad on its base, and a clamp to fix it to the roof. The combination of the sticky base and the clamp means the antenna will stay on the roof like a mussel does to a rock by the sea. It’s tough, and it’s not going anywhere.
The standard installation is suitable for roofs up to 50mm thick, which is fine for most GRP roofs on caravans.
Ready to get connected? Follow our easy-to-use picture guide below and you’ll be hooked up in no time at all.
The Maxview Roam 3G/4G is straightforward to fit for many owners. And, it will give you internet access that’ll be the envy of other caravanners on site!
Installing the external antenna
1. Take the supplied template, place it on the spot you identified earlier, mark out the centre of the 25mm roof hole and the outside of the template to show where you’ll put the antenna.
2. Use the power drill and 2.5mm drill for the pilot hole for the main hole. Next, use the 25mm hole saw to drill the main hole out. Get rid of any debris and sand off any rough edges (to prevent chafing on the coaxial cable).
3. Put the antenna clamp through the hole in the roof from the outside, so you can measure the depth you need before trimming off any excess length. Mark it off. You must go inside to measure it.
4. Take the clamp out and, using your hacksaw, cut off the excess 3mm in from the marked position. This means you’ll get a tight fit and prevent water ingress.
5. Before you do anything else, clean the surface where you’ll mount the antenna. You need to get rid of any grease, algae or dirt.
6. The next stage is when you stick the antenna down. Thread the coaxial through the hole. The 3M sticky pad is strong. Don’t fix it to the roof until you’re happy it lines up correctly with your markings.
7. Now, go inside the caravan, thread the cable through the centre of the clamp, insert the clamp into the hole and tighten it up. Tighten it firmly, so you get a perfect seal.
8. Finally, take the no6 screw, put it into the hole in the clamp and screw it in to stop the clamp loosening up.
Installing the router
1. Use the black plastic router bracket to mark the screw holes using a pencil. Then, drill two pilot holes for the no6 screws.
2. Take the SIM card holder out using the pin provided and put in the SIM card you want to use.
3. Now attach the coaxial antenna cables to the ‘mobile’ connectors on the bottom of the router. And, connect the internal WiFi antenna.
4. Turn the router over to see the SSID and password and make a note of them. (You can scan the QR code to connect to it, as an alternative).
5. Insert the router into the bracket. Tidy up the cabling between the units, plug in the 230V or 12V power and get your devices ready to connect to the 3G/4G signal.
6. Now, search for the SSID of the router (with the information in step 4) with your phone, connect and then type in the password. That’s it! Hello internet!
It is so easy!
The Maxview Roam is an excellent system. It’s simple to fit (if you’re handy with DIY), easy to use and transforms your internet experience on site. We’ve used 3G/4G dongles on site for years.
But, the Maxview Roam takes internet access in your caravan to a new level. The dedicated antenna high up on your caravan gives you a massive advantage over your neighbours when connecting to the internet.
Once installed, it’s as easy connecting to the Roam as it is to your router at home.
If you spend a lot of time in your caravan, and rely on your internet access, the Maxview Roam is a must-have accessory and it sits beautifully within a caravan and on the roof.
The Roam costs £349.99 (if you fit it yourself). An installer adds to the cost. Once you’ve used the Roam in your caravan, you will wonder how you managed without 3G/4G internet access like this!
Tools for the job
2.5mm drill bit
25mm hole saw
Contact Maxview to find a professional UK installer. Call 01553 811000 for more details.
Maxview Roam 3G/4G WiFi system
Part no MXL050