If you are thinking about changing vans in 2021 or just looking for a better way of keeping connected whilst on the road, what are the main considerations when choosing your Built in WiFi system.
Motorhome and caravan manufacturers are now in full swing building their impressive new 2021 vans, some of which you will find now come with a 5G Ready Built in WiFi system from Motorhome WiFi.
5G has been primarily released to improve throughput and capacity in built up areas such as cities, large towns, stadiums and such like.
4G frequencies often run at maximum capacity and become oversubscribed at peak times.
5G will be gradually rolled out across the more rural areas over the next couple of years, meaning not only city dwellers will be able to utilise the faster speeds. Up until now, 5G has existed in in 3.4-3.8GHz frequency meaning it has relatively short range from the mast. In 2021, an auction will take place for long range 5G in the 700Mhz spectrum and by 2022 operators will be allowed to re-purpose other 4G frequencies to use for 5G. It will become much more prevalent in the coming years, so its worth considering if you want an antenna which is ‘5G Ready’ to take advantage.
Motorhome WiFi’s new 5G antenna benefits from a 20% greater peak gain (the technical term for a stronger signal) across the 4G spectrum whilst also being fully compatible with all 5G bands.
The advanced antenna design and construction with patented technology is highly effective at receiving weak 3G and 4G signals using future proof technology. The antenna has a long list of accreditations such as being IK10 impact resistant and vandal proof along with being independently tested and certified to the highest water ingress rating of IP69K, thanks to its new sealing skirt.
We have a range of 5G Ready Built in WiFi systems to choose from which can be installed by your supplying dealer or fitted aftermarket by one of our approved accessory installers. We are also happy to give further advice on the best UK and European SIM cards which range from 12 month plans to simple, cost effective Pay-As-You-Go options with no contract commitment or cancellation terms. See our SIM card section for more information.
Getting you an internet connection in your motorhome or caravan is what we do best. Built in WiFi is straightforward and affordable; let us guide you through this process to get up and running.
Why not try out our new product configurator to get the best solution for you and your ‘van.
When connecting a mobile phone or laptop to your Motorhome Wi-Fi system, turn on ‘metered connection’ or ‘low data mode’. This can be found on the device you are connecting to under your WiFi settings. This prevents the connected device from consuming data in the background so only you and your actions will result in data being used.
TV streaming typically uses 0.5 – 1GB per hour. On most streaming applications you have the option to turn down the quality of the video, which will reduce the amount of data used.
For Netflix, log into your account using a web browser. Create / set the default quality for a given profile as low as 0.3GB per hour.
Digital communication has never been more important than during 2020. Many people found themselves cut off from regular contact with colleagues, friends and family and leisure activities. Others found themselves with the flexible home working arrangements they had always dreamed of. In many cases, a reliable internet connection was suddenly critical to being able to continue to work and maintain contact with loved ones. We spoke to countless people whose motorhomes had become home offices and, in some cases, self-isolation capsules for key workers or those at high risk.
As we reach the light at the end of the tunnel I’m sure that some will vow never to return to video conferencing, but it’s clear that the importance of a reliable internet connection will increase as time goes on. Netflix added over 4.6 million UK subscribers in the first 6 months of 2020 alone.
If your motorhome TV isn’t ‘Smart’ that doesn’t mean it needs to be replaced, many add-on devices are available to provide this functionality for very little cost. An Amazon Firestick is the most popular option as it supports most of the main services and is very easy to use. Once purchased for around £30 there are no additional costs unless you subscribe to a premium service. This plugs into a spare HDMI socket and takes power either from the TV’s USB socket or a nearby USB plug.
To stream TV reliably you need two things. The first is a strong enough cellular signal so that you don’t experience drop outs or buffering. The second is a data plan that supports your intended usage. Typically, streaming TV can use 0.5-1GB per hour, the lower the resolution you watch, the less data will be consumed. More on the cost of that later.
Most campsites have WiFi but in many cases there are supply and demand issues. Campsites set in the countryside often suffer from the same poor broadband connections that blight many people living in rural communities. This means that while site WiFi was fine 10 years ago for e-mail and basic web, it is unable to keep up with the current demands created by streaming TV and video conferencing.
A WiFi booster is a useful tool for increasing the range that a signal can be obtained and giving extra capacity that might be lost by the weak signal. However, on a site where the WiFi is operating at 100% capacity then the bottleneck is often outside of your control and a WiFi booster doesn’t have the desired effect.
Smart phones offer the chance for a connection via the 3G, 4G and as time goes on via the 5G network. Most smart phones have the facility to tether, that is to share the connection from a phone via WiFi to other devices. MiFi are stand-alone hubs that do just that, freeing up your mobile phone and allowing you to use an alternative SIM or a different network. While this is a good starting point and for some entirely suitable, for others in rural areas the speed or quality of the connection might struggle.
Increasingly motorhomes, like cars, are coming with WiFi built in as standard. In 2019 Auto-Sleepers became the first manufacturer to fit a 4G roof antenna and router into every vehicle at the factory. This was upgraded to a 5G Ready antenna in 2021 and joined by Auto-Trail who nowoffer it as a factory fitted option. Most motorhome dealers also offer an aftermarket fitted mobile broadband option.
So, what is it? A roof mounted cellular antenna about 6.5” (17cm) in diameter fits neatly to the roof of the vehicle. This antenna is far more efficient at picking up weak 3G, 4G and latterly 5G signals compared to a phone. This mean that even if a mobile phone has poor or even no service, an antenna could be picking up a useable cellular signal.
The antenna is than connected to a dedicated router inside the motorhome which produces a secure wireless connection for all of your devise to connect to. Mobile phones, laptops, tablets and Smart TV’s can connect and share an internet connection just like at home. This can be used stationary or in motion, in the UK or abroad.
If your mobile phone supports it, you could also benefit from ‘Wi-Fi Calling’ where your regular mobile calls are routed via the internet if you have no signal – effectively working as a mobile signal booster. If you don’t have this feature then WhatsApp, Facetime or other messenger audio or video calls could be used instead.
You can put any SIM card from any network into the router, a Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) SIM, a contract SIM perhaps if you are a heavy data user or a local SIM card purchased abroad. You could insert the SIM out of your mobile phone itself, but of course you couldn’t use the phone for calls with its SIM removed. It’s typically better to look at the data package on your phone and adjust accordingly to compensate for an extra SIM, if applicable.
Up until now, 5G has existed in in 3.4-3.8GHz frequency meaning it has relatively short range from the mast. In 2021, an auction will take place for long range 5G in the 700Mhz spectrum and by 2022 operators will be allowed to re-purpose other 4G frequencies to use for 5G. It will become much more prevent in the coming years, so its worth considering if you want an antenna which is ‘5G Ready’ to take advantage.
Anthony & Becky – Vanlife, travel & photography in a 4×4 Mercedes Vario.
See them on Instagram @land_roamers
Hello, we are Anthony & Becky and our mission is to travel far and wide, experiencing the beautiful and diverse landscapes this world has to offer in our 4×4 Mercedes Vario camper, affectionately known as “Big Red.”
Tell us about your home on the road. What sort of vehicle do you have, what are its best features and what sort of lifestyle does it enable you to have?
Our camper is a Mercedes Vario 814 4×4. It’s best features are it’s weight limit and it’s 4WD capabilities. Being 7.5 tonnes it has a super strong chassis which means we can load it up with everything we need and head off road. We built our camper interior from scratch to include everything we would need to be sustainable off grid – the fridge freezer, cooker, water tank, diesel heater, hot shower and compostable toilet allow us to live a minimalist and less impactful lifestyle while travelling.
Having good quality internet makes our adventures run so much smoother. Whether the internet is used for updating our Instagram account, booking a ferry in advance, checking our bank account or researching places to visit, it is an important tool to use while part of travelling. We spend a lot of time out in the wild when we travel, so before we had built in WiFi, we denitely ended up spending more money and time on campsites to gain internet access. The beauty of having WiFi in the van is you get the best of both worlds. You can watch the sunset in a beautiful location then climb back into the camper and watch Netix in bed.
The most unexpected time we received a connection was in the highlands of Iceland on the F26. This route is desolate, wild and uninhabited, and passes through the very heart of the country. We had some large rivers to cross en route and as we set off in the hope that we had enough fuel to make the 232k journey from one side of the country to the other, we were soon comforted and surprised by our Motorhome WiFi antenna.. which kept signal the whole time!
Would you like to share any comments about the advice or service given by the team at Motorhome WiFi?
Adam and Sophie have so much knowledge about their products and internet providers across Europe. Their advice and service is always spot on and they work hard to keep their products up to date. We have used their products for a few years now and love how easy they are to use.
Lisa & Jason – Travelling Cape to Cape in a Toyota HiLux.
Location-independent Lisa Morris and Jason Spafford are self-professed wilderness seekers, a freedom afforded by their successful content creating careers. Jason, a photographer with an internationally published portfolio and Lisa, an accomplished travel writer, told us about their transition to four-wheeled nomadic explorations and bacon-saving weather notifications in the ‘Land of Ice and Fire’.
In 2014, Jason Spafford and Lisa Morris shelved their love of scuba diving for new ventures above the waterline. They sold their country cottage and pared down possessions to a few boxes to embark on a four-year, once in a lifetime trip from Antarctica to the Arctic.
Hanging up the panniers
With minimal ride time under her belt Lisa took a giant leap of faith into the unknown but soon realised how the bikes defined their adventures, proving a magnetic source with people along the way and helping to define who they really were. Lisa says: “It’s the gruelling satisfaction of big-distance riding that made the journey hard but euphoric; the hard is what makes it so great.” But despite the euphoria the bikes brought, two-wheel travelling posed obstacles and curtailed some of their travelling freedom.
A lack of secure storage while trekking, nowhere to secure their valuables and thrice stumbling into Death Valley, California sans water and at the mercy of four-wheel travellers proving momentous. Lisa says: “Will I miss rain-obscured vision as we made a beeline toward a bank of swollen clouds into a coming storm? Or leaning into raging Patagonian winds on Argentina’s Ruta 40, while making the grunts of a professional tennis player? Probably not.”
A four-wheeled welcome
Although it was not a decision they took lightly, Lisa and Jason took the plunge with a Toyota Hilux 2.5L turbo diesel, 4WD as their new ‘live-out-of-vehicle’. Lisa says: “We wanted a self-contained base from which we could comfortably live without needing to resupply for days if not weeks at a time.” They took 11 months to kit it out, with every inch of the ‘build’ being hugely important to them. Replete with solar and lithium power, unfolding kitchen, four berth bedroom, rooftop tent, shower, generous storage, refrigerator, awning and opening skylight the vehicle and its interminable features was affectionately named the ‘White Rhino’ – all ready to take them on their next mission: from Northern Norway to South Africa.
In June 2019, they began a new photographic expedition setting off from the UK, across Europe to northern Norway, over to the Faroes and mooring in Iceland the following October for what Lisa describes as ‘sublime craziness’.
One night in Southern Iceland, they faced the White Rhino into a light wind for protection but were startled awake by an incredible 100 mph gust that blasted the supporting ladder connected to the hinged floor, clean off the ground, throwing it back at an awkward angle. This took the tension out of the canvas around the supporting steel bar, which collapsed and crashed down on them as they slept. Lisa says: “From then on, we were dialled down to weather notifications and when bad weather is afoot, we take refuge in the double cab.”
On their penultimate day in Iceland, 170 miles away from the ferry crossing they were headed to that day, they awoke to a frightful stillness and pink neon skies, the likes of which they’d not seen throughout their 10 weeks in the ‘land of Ice and Fire’. A series of urgent weather notifications pinged through their phones and a sailing update broadcast a 24 hour move forward of their crossing time. A 10-year bombogenius cyclone was about to hit Iceland in the North as they were due to set sail in the east. Consequently, the mountain pass to get them there was due to close and was the only route leading to the port.
Lisa says: “There really is nothing like a cyclonic weather fest gone freak to round off one’s Icelandic adventures! Being able to keep an eagle eye on the weather from a remote part of the island to reach the port was a godsend. It removed all trace of background stress in fairly tense conditions.”
Luckily, they managed to stay 30 miles ahead of the storm by staying vigiliant for three days to get back to Danish mainland, along with unwavering online access to the local met office and sites devoted to road conditions, they are hugely grateful.
Next trip – Africa!
Pretty fly for a Wi-Fi
Lisa adds; “In this digital age when it’s as easy to chew through data like you’re Homer Simpson chowing down a box of donuts, what, do I ask, is better than not just enabling one’s Wi-Fi connection, but enhancing it in virtually all corners of Europe and beyond? Thanks to Motorhome Wi-Fi, we’ve transitioned into tech savvy nomads. No longer a battle of the bandwith, it’s pretty fly for a Wi-Fi!”
Theo & Bee
Documentarians and film makers with over 250k YouTube subscribers and 100k Facebook and Instagram followers , living the van life dream.
See them on Instagram @theindieprojects
Jason & Julie
Inspirational bloggers, ourtour.co.uk is an unrivaled resource for those planning a European tour.
‘Turn right at Calais’ was the only plan they had, but 10 years after setting off on a motorhome trip of a lifetime, Julie and Jason Buckley have changed the course of their journey altogether. They spoke to us about ditching their day jobs, life in lockdown and staying connected in some of the world’s most awe-inspiring locations.
Let’s go back 10 years. What were you both doing?
At the start of 2011 we were both working in ‘corporatesville’ – Jay in IT and Julie in marketing. We had owned a camper for several years that we used for holidays and weekends away, but we knew there must be more to life.
Later that same year, we took a chance by grabbing the career break we both needed, swapped our camper for a slightly larger motorhome and planned a 12- month trip to Europe. We say ‘planned’, but our intentions were not that defined – our only plan was to turn right at Calais! We moved location daily, and because we had discovered so many affordable places to stay, we were able to stretch our year away into a two-year adventure.
What was life like when you returned to the UK?
When we drove off the ferry coming back into the UK, we both had tears in our eyes, we didn’t want to go back to how we were – commuting and working long hours – we’d realised there was more to life! We sat down with a large sheet of paper and drew out where we were financially, and where we wanted to be – then set about working out how we would get there.
We sold our motorhome and went back to corporate life for a few years, but with a difference, we had a goal. That goal was to become financially free. We worked all hours; normal day jobs, side gigs and renovating a property. It took its toll on us, but eventually we reached our target of financial independence which meant no more work, so we could travel whenever we wanted. We gave up a lot to achieve our freedom, far more than most people would find palatable, but to us it didn’t feel like we were making a sacrifice any more than it feels a sacrifice to give up a high calorie diet to stay healthy.
What motorhome do you have now?
In 2015, we bought our Hymer B544 and named him Zagan, after the town in Poland close to Stalag Luft III, the real-life scene of prisoner of war camp featured in The Great Escape. It’s the same model as our previous motorhome, but just slightly newer. We really love the layout with the dropdown bed over the cab seats, it’s ideal for the longer and slower trips we now enjoy as everything feels so spacious and is perfect for socialising.
Do you still work?
Yes, we do. We started a blog when we first set off on our travels, the main idea was just to keep in touch with friends and family and keep it as a diary to look back on. This has since grown and we now also write books. These both generate a small income for us and give us a focus.
How have you been able to stay connected for work?
Back in 2011, we had a SIM card and a dongle plugged into our laptop which cost £20.50 a month and provided 25MB a day. The signal was not great at all, we didn’t have enough data to upload photographs to our blog, and we spent lots of time gazing at an egg timer.
Sometimes we had to literally stand on top of hills and buildings for a signal!
Now, we have fast unlimited wi-fi in the motorhome which we use across several devices for less than was paid for 25MB a day. We also have a roof mounted antenna that provides a connection just like you would get at home. It’s always on and we don’t have to think about it.
What’s the most unusual place you’ve managed to get a connection?
There’s been some really surprising locations! So far, it’s worked from the top of Nordkapp in Arctic Norway, the Sahara Desert in Morocco and a mile high on the side of Mount Etna on Sicily. One time, we were parked below the Stone Glacier in Switzerland, at the end of a private road and 2,000m above sea level surrounded by glacier-covered mountains and were still able to stream UK TV through our Amazon Fire TV Stick. (To see just how ‘remote’ you can get with your wi-fi watch Julie and Jason’s YouTube clip setting up the Fire stick in their motorhome).
These days 4G is pretty much everywhere. The only places we’ve not been able to get connected were in a very remote village in the French Alps (there are signs up all around the town saying you need to walk to Italy to get a phone signal!) and the desert in the far south of Tunisia.
Have you needed any wi-fi advice along the way?
We were originally supplied with a mifi and roof antenna from Motorhome WiFi, and the Amazon fire stick they provided for us to test for them a couple of years ago. These have all worked well where we are at the moment in Southern Spain, as our satellite system does not pick up UK TV this far south. We’ve been able to easily stream UK TV using an unlimited UK SIM in the system.
The team at Motorhome WiFi always give us the best support and advice – not only do they stay up-to-date and also develop the latest technology, but they always know the latest offers from telecom providers and which are suitable for us abroad. For us, the best thing about Motorhome WiFi is their amazing aftercare, they’re knowledgeable and honest, and always answer our questions.
Where are you now?
We’re currently back in Nerja, Spain where we were in February last year just before the pandemic lockdowns began. We drove back from Southern Spain in four days in mid-March 2020 and then spent most of the year either at our home in Nottingham or, when it was allowed, exploring parts of the UK in our motorhome.
Last summer we made the decision to return to Spain to spend the winter staying put on one campsite, a totally new experience for us. We’ve been here since October, when foreign travel was still allowed, but have to return to the UK by the end of March due to the Schengen rules which now apply because we are no longer part of the EU. 2021 will see us doing more touring in the UK hopefully, and maybe even a trip over to Ireland.
Visit here to catch up with Julie and Jason’s travels.