After winter tyres, motorhome wifi is one of the most talked about topics in our Facebook Group (and probably the whole internet) so this blog is long overdue.
Search Google – you’ll find a lot of reviews and user guides to various motorhome wifi products and solutions to getting internet reception on the road. We don’t often say this with absolute conviction, but the reason you should read this is that we are DEADLY serious about wifi. And we mean deadly. Like – one or other, or both of us would certainly have perished on our season long road trip without the kit and support we received.
So let’s rip the plaster off. We know there are lots of products on the market that claim to do a similar job to the gear we use; we know you can get something that looks similar from China for a ‘too good to be true price’; and we know that there are some seemly magical motorhomers who claim to be able to stream Netflix in 1080p high definition, only use 12MB of data and do it all through their phone.
So this is written with the following people in mind:
- People who would sacrifice their first born child for banging internet in their motorhome
- People who haven’t got the time or inclination to hunt down ‘a bargain’ on aliexpress
- People who are DEADLY SERIOUS about motorhome wifi
Why we’re so fixated on motorhome wifi
We work on the road. Not just a bit of upload and download – we have Google-scale internet use in our jobs and the sheer idea of being without it causes stress. A lot of stress.
Our usage is astronomical by even the standards of a teenage Fortnight streamer. But, more significant than our usage is our reliability and speed.
We both upload huge amounts of data and whilst download (which is probably more significant to you if you’re on your holibobs), is lovely, it’s upload that is our focus.
If that’s the case – why do I care what you think?
…we hear you cry.
Because if you’ve got good upload, you’ve probably got banging download, that’s why.
Here’s the extent to which we go, to ensure we have decent motorhome wifi.
- Our data budget exceeds our fuel budget
- The very first thing we do at any park-up is check for wifi connections and mobile signal (like those that position their satellite dish before putting their ramps out, and then move their motorhome for better Corrie!).
- We overstay at places because we are terrified of getting SIC (shitty internet connection).
Let me explain
You may be reading this thinking we’re a bit pathetic.
If they can’t go away, and be without internet then there’s something wrong
Nope – being able to work on the road is what enables us to BE on the road. Being without internet for us is like anyone else turning up to work and not having access to their principal tools. You’re a chef without any food to prepare; an Uber driver without a car; or a customer services person without a bitter resentment of everyone who seeks your help – see, just totally debilitating.
When it comes to stuff like this we don’t mess about and when we met Adam and Sophie from Motorhome Wifi at the NEC in the October before we left for our motorhome ski trip, they gave us all the confidence we needed. In fact, unlike every other aspect of van life that we research to death, we simply handed control over to them. Why would we do this with something so important? Because NOBODY KNOWS HOW THE INTERNET WORKS. It’s witchcraft and sorcery and we keep out of that stuff. Adam and Sophie are wizards, versed in the dark arts.
They hooked us up with a box of some stuff and another box of other stuff. It’s so simple to install I can’t even be bothered to explain it properly.
Box of stuff one: Motorhome Wifi iBoost
Stick it in the window; pretend you’re in the secret service trying to intercept enemy radio transmissions until you get a green light and connect your phone/laptop/smart tv or whatever.
Box of other stuff: Motorhome Wifi 4G Roof Antenna, MiFi & Quick Mount Fitting Kit
I’ll be honest – I gave this box to James and 20 minutes later, he and his BFF Rueben (automotive electrical dude) had come back in and it was working. They drilled a hole in the roof of the motorhome (which isn’t nearly as scary as you might imagine) stuck the pretty discreet antenna through the hole, plugged a bunch of cables in and slapped it on using the 3M super sticky adhesive attached.
I then stuck a sim card in the mifi and we were connected.
So in the spirit of not reinventing the wheel, or giving sketchy fitting advice – you need to take our word for it and know that you have two options – get someone to fit it professionally (takes about 20 minutes) or fit it yourself using the very straight forward instructions.
So that’s the hardwear. Onto real life testing.
How did we use each device?
Using the iBoost
The iBoost is always going to be our preference (until unlimited data plans hit Europe) because free wifi is free wifi. We’ll caveat this by saying crap free wifi is worse than no wifi at all so the 4G antenna got used pretty extensively too. You remember that Uber driver without a car? Well terrible wifi is your Uber chap with a push bike, collecting 4 passengers. Capiche?
There were a couple of resorts and ski stations we visited where the aire was close enough to either the wifi provided by the ski lift company or to the tourist office. In this case we simply used the iBoost to connect all our devices through one portal (my MacBook Pro) to benefit from the free wifi – albeit a bit slow from time to time but ace for a spot of social browsing and the odd YouTube video. However, there were places where the free wifi on offer, teamed up with the iBoost, was awesome – Montgenèvre for example.
The best thing about the iBoost for us is that it allows you to reach wifi hotspots that others can’t, so you don’t get the ubiquitous slow-mode, glitchy streaming at 8pm when everyone’s trying to watch Game of Thrones in bed!
We also used the iBoost when we stayed at campsites. They are tight with wifi in France with a bunch of campsites only allowing 1 or 2 connections per pitch – access code controlled…. Unless you have an iBoost!
There’s a full review of the iBoost coming soon in Tested by Winterized so check that out for a more technical specification and details.
We’ll follow up with a wifi-hacks post so if you’re interested in finding out more, you can sign up to receive the Winterized blog in the box below, and once a week throughout the summer, you’ll get a summary of the blogs we post and you can pick and choose what you dip in and out of.
Using the Motorhome Wifi 4G Antenna with Mifi
There was nowhere on our pretty extensive tour of the Alps over the entire winter period that we failed to get 4G. If you do know of a resort or park-up in the mountains where signal is really bad, can you please post a comment below detailing where so we can prepare with 37 different sim cards!
When we used the 4G antenna with the mifi, we had ridiculous speeds of connection on a variety of networks and this will only get better as the 5G network spreads. Despite advancing technology, hotspots and tethering, we will still be fitting a Motorhome Wifi system to the Winterized campervan conversion and here’s why:
There were a number of occasions when we were massive idiots and had to call in for assistance – once mortifyingly because I had put a bracket on the iBoost upside down… the shame. The long and short of it is, if for some reason you can’t get on the internet, how the heck can you consult YouTube for a DIY fix. You can’t…. so that’s one of the main reasons for choosing Motorhome Wifi. Real live internet wizards right at the end of a telephone.
Hardware wore hard. This is something that not everyone thinks about when installing bits and bobs on their vans, camper conversions and motorhomes. If your main intention is to pro actively seak out places to stay below 0˚C then you better take note. Plastics, sealants, paints, coverings…. Everything performs differently when subjected to the warming and viscous cooling of deep winter alpine life. Particularly in relation to the antenna, the fixtures and fittings as well as the antenna casing itself were still in perfect condition on our return….pretty much the only plastic thing on the van that was! No tempering or cracks which was very reassuring because the last thing you want to be doing when winter motorhome skiing is making unnecessary trips to the lid of your van.
Even last week, I messaged Adam to ask for advice on our ‘no internet in the field where we live’ conundrum. We had an immediate response that was corroborated and verified when we did exactly as suggested, getting the best data deal for our needs and now we’re recklessly abusing our unlimited internet package from a waterfront location in Cornwall!
So there you have it… like spoiled teenagers, the thought of ‘login out’ is enough to send one or both of us into a frenzy.
We strongly suggest that if you’re in the market for a motorhome wifi solution that’s a bit more robust that simply using your phone data, you check out the Motorhome Wifi website here or alternatively, give them a call.