RV PRO

February '18

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rv-pro.com February 2018 • RV PRO • 201 the ladder or the side mirror. • Magnetic mounts are a third option, and a great way to mount an external antenna, offering a por- table solution that can be stowed when necessary, or easily moved to another location or vehicle. An important point about magnetic mount antennas: The vehicle's roof may or may not be made of a ferrous material that will allow a magnetic mount to stick. In this case, a metallic surface should be fabricated and attached to the roof for use with the magnetic mount antenna. A number of excellent adhesives are avail- able that make this task fairly simple, without the need to drill. A cookie sheet is an inventive and common hack for a magnetic mount antenna's base. Directionality. Directionality in an antenna refers to what is technically its "beam width," and indicates whether or not the antenna has a "face." (i.e., it performs better when pointed at the signal source, a tower). Antenna type. There are a few dif- ferent antenna types that are appropriate for an RV. Quality, industrial design, addi- tional features, and price are all elements that manufacturers add to differentiate their products (see related product photos above). Such products include: • Whip. The most common mobile antenna is called a "whip" and is typically 12 to 18 inches high, but can be much higher. These are normally rated to provide between 2 and 5 dB gain, but can range from 0 to 10 dB. High-gain whip antennas can be as much as 48 inches in length, so make sure to consider the dimensions. • Dome. A dome antenna is an antenna, or a collection of antennas, hidden under a single plastic radome. A radome is material that is transparent to wireless signals, so it doesn't interfere with them. Delivering a Signal Inside the Coach Cellular service and the antennas are used to capture the service at the exterior of the RV. But the point is to bring the coverage to the people and devices inside. How does one that? One way is to connect each cellular device directly to the external antenna. Of course, this will not work for mobile phones. Some phone boosters actually suggest or even require that the phone be placed literally on top of the booster to benefit from improved service. A direct connection from antenna to device can be an acceptable option for something like a cellular modem or cellular-enabled router. The issue with this approach is that nothing else in the vehicle's interior benefits from the improved service. There is a solution, however, that enables all the RV's occu- pants (and all the wireless-enabled equip- ment inside the vehicle) to benefit from improved cellular coverage: The cellular signal booster. In the cellular signal booster product category, there are a variety of options available. The first thing to determine is whether or not the solution needs to be usable when the vehicle is in motion. It's also important to be aware that signal boosters for a specific carrier can have up to 1,000 times more signal gain than a booster for multiple carriers (wideband signal boosters). A quick note about wideband versus provider-specific boosters: Wideband signal boosters have the advantage of boosting all the cellular services detected by the donor antenna. This is useful when the RVer has multiple carrier sub- scriptions. Provider-specific boosters are more powerful with higher gain, but they only boost one carrier at a time. There are provider-specific products, like Cel-Fi GO, that allow the user to switch the carrier being boosted, on the fly, to bypass this limitation for users with multiple accounts. Typically, the biggest challenge installing a booster is routing the coax cable from the exterior antenna through to the inside, wherever the booster is located. This will most likely require drilling and filling. Booster solutions typically use an exterior antenna (donor antenna) and an interior antenna (server, or service antenna). In a working system, both of these antennas are radiating. For best results, it's important to physically sepa- rate these units, and for there to be some sort of material separation, like a metal panel, a wall, or similar. The good news is that delivering good cellular service into the RV is no longer an expensive or daunting task. Under- standing the options is important for RV dealers to help their customers determine the right system is put in place to meet their cellular service needs. Receivers can include (from left) a dome antenna, a whip antenna or a whip antenna with a magnetic mount.

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