February '18

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200 • RV PRO • February 2018 rv-pro.com B U S I N E S S devices to connect to the Internet wirelessly. A popular option is the portable mobile hotspot, or MiFi, which connects to cellular data and acts like a Wi-Fi hotspot locally, offering a Wi-Fi connection to nearby devices. • Connected Things: Increasingly, a new class of devices under the Internet of Things called "con- nected things" are embedding cellular connectivity to offer entirely new kinds of features and benefits. Devices such as cameras, moisture sensors, tank sensors, security devices, and alarms are all including cellular connectivity to allow for remote monitoring and control. Mobile or Stationary (or Nomadic) An important consideration for the RV cellular user is whether the ser- vice is to be used on the road, while in motion, or only when stopped. Solution vendors offer products that can work in the mobile context, stationary context, or in some cases, both. FCC regulations drive some of these technologies, so it's important to be aware of the use the solution has been designed for. Cellular Service for Coaches Cellular services can vary quite a bit from one provider to the next. They may overlap in many areas, including the choices offered to customers, but they also have regional strengths and weaknesses. Some providers' services may work fine in town, but perform poorly in rural areas. Broad coverage remains a massive challenge for service providers, and only increases in difficulty as RVers' appetite for service expands. For this reason, many RVers will have multiple cellular accounts, or SIM cards, to increase the likelihood that they will find usable ser- vice wherever they park. Antennas: Capturing Cellular Signals Outside of RVs To capture the cellular signal (some- times technically referred to as a "donor" signal) to get the best reception and ser- vice, one needs to employ the best pos- sible antenna for the desired application. Some antennas are designed for use while the RV is in motion, but may compro- mise on overall performance. Others may be higher-performance, but need to be aimed at a fixed point, so are not suitable for a non-stationary application. Regarding antennas, there are a few criteria that must be reviewed: Frequency. Antennas support a variety of frequencies; it's critical that the selected donor antenna match the cel- lular frequencies required by the devices used inside the RV (e.g., cell phones, tab- lets, laptops). All antennas will indicate which frequencies they support. Antenna Gain. Antenna gain is a key performance measure that indicates how well a given antenna performs. It's typi- cally a number ranging from 0 decibels (dB) upward. Consumer-grade antennas for mobile (RV) applications are typically in the range of 0 to 7 dB. Antenna quality and specifications. One important note about antenna quality and specifications: Many antenna manufacturers stretch and warp their published antenna performance met- rics, including gain values. An antenna may purport to have "5 dB gain" when in reality that gain is only achieved in a small fraction of scenarios, and the rest of the time it is much worse. It is rec- ommended to check the reviews for any given antenna, and to purchase from a trusted supplier. Ground plane. Some antennas must be grounded to a surface to function properly (above). Grounding properly reflects the antenna's waves in a useable pattern. Many antennas include a ground plane as part of their design, while others do not. A ground plane can be made of any conductive material. Grounding for a given antenna will be noted by the manufacturer. Mounting. There are three main types of antenna mounts. Normally, some sort of mounting is included as part of an antenna's package. • Antenna mounts can be "screw in" or permanent, requiring drilling into the coach's exterior surface. The antenna's cable is threaded through a hole in the mount, through the surface of the coach, to whatever it is servicing on the interior. • Bar mounts are another common antenna mount. These are designed to attach to one of the circular bars on a coach, such as For best performance, antennas must be grounded to a surface. The antenna can be mounted with screws, attached to a bar, such as a ladder, or use a magnetic mount.

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