Improve RV Wi-Fi with A Wifi Extender
A review of the WiFiRanger’s SkyPro
It wasn’t too long ago that people went camping to get away from it all, to disconnect. Many RVers still do exactly that. However, times change, and recent studies by the U.S. Department of the Interior and Kampgrounds of America indicate that wireless internet and phone access is essential for many of today’s RVers, especially the younger generations. Indeed, internet access is no longer considered a luxury. It’s a utility. And, while the National Park Service and private RV resorts have recognized the need for better connectivity, the reality is that it’s tough to get a suitable connection in a busy park today.
Nothing frustrates people quite as much as seeing a strong Wi-Fi signal indicated on their device, and not being able to get a strong enough connection to use internet services. This happens a lot on the road. The cellular companies are providing improved wireless data service, but it’s still pretty expensive, and plenty of remote areas that RVers frequent don’t have good service, or the service is with an alternate carrier. So, connecting to public Wi-Fi is still the better option in many situations. Not only do many businesses offer free Wi-Fi for customers, but service providers like Comcast Xfinity supply local and even citywide hotspots for subscribers, and, in theory, get home-strength internet service.
WiFiRanger was one of the first to market a Wi-Fi repeater system for the mobile environment, and its products are now being included as standard or optional equipment right from the factory. Installing one in the aftermarket is a pretty straightforward affair, and, after extensive testing, we’ve found it’s definitely worth the effort and expense.
WiFiRanger offers several units, including the SkyPro Pack, which has a 1½-mile range, and the Elite AC Pack FM with a 2-mile range. We tested the SkyPro Pack, which supports multiple internet connections and is ideal for RV use. A SkyPro LTE Pack, with a built-in LTE cellular transceiver, is available for an additional charge.
The inside router is dual-band for the SkyPro and Elite models. While the Elite systems are gigabit transceivers inside and out, the size of the solid-fiberglass antenna makes rooftop mounting more of a challenge in an RV environment, not to mention the added cost. If you need the ultimate in speed (provided that 5.8-GHz networks are nearby), then an Elite system is preferred, and the antenna can be installed on the roof, ladder or TV-antenna mast. The SkyPro Pack has a 2.4-GHz transceiver, which offers the greatest distance and current compatibility with Wi-Fi systems but is limited to 450 to 600 Mbps. This is considered a good speed for most RVers.
The SkyPro Pack’s external roof-mounted transceiver is a small, attractive white box with a clear lid that supports the Flex-Guard antennas. LEDs inside the box indicate operational status and produce a cool glow at night, which can be disabled if desired.
The inside router is fully configurable and broadcasts on both bands, so connecting to it is simple, and is secure once the setup process is completed, creating a private Wi-Fi network. Setup is pretty well automated, and connecting to a new external Wi-Fi source is as easy as connecting to the router, logging on to and selecting and signing on to a Wi-Fi source. Of course, the system can be custom configured, if the user wishes, and mistakes can be undone by restoring factory settings.
If you’re in a campground or populated area, Wi-Fi will be your best bet. If you’re in a more remote area with good cellular service, a mobile hotspot or smartphone can be connected via USB to feed the system, using your data plan. And if you own a seasonal site that has cable TV and dedicated internet access, an ethernet port on the router allows that connection as well. As they say, all roads lead to Rome — or in this case, the World Wide Web.
The SkyPro’s rooftop antennas are resistant to branches but certainly not immune to damage. As always, care must be taken to avoid overhanging branches and other obstructions.