Antenna installation success!

Nov 11

It took a lot longer than expected, but I finally got both the WiFiRanger Sky and the cell booster antenna installed on the Tardis. As we learned in the previous post, there’s a lot of structure inside the Airstream so running wires doesn’t really work over any particular distance. In the end, the solution was to mount the Sky on an aluminum box so that the I can route the wire coming out of the bottom in a different direction. Then run the wire on the top of the trailer closer to the location of the roof locker and then bring it into the roof locker through the hole I drilled previously. For the Laird cellular antenna, I made a little stand out of some aluminum that raised it up a little so the wire could also go along the roof and go into the trailer with the wire from the WiFiRanger Sky. After some caulk and rivets, both units are firmly in place. The Sky is mounted over the hole that I drilled previously (hey, if the location was good then, it’s good now) and the caulk I used as adhesive and sealant fills in that hole.

I needed to mount the WiFiRanger Sky onto a sealed aluminum box so that I could run the wire out the side.

I needed to mount the WiFiRanger Sky onto a sealed aluminum box so that I could run the wire out the side.

I built a little aluminum stand for the Laird antenna so it could be mounted just above the roof of the Airstream

I built a little aluminum stand for the Laird antenna so it could be mounted just above the roof of the Airstream

I thought about building a similar stand for the WiFiRanger Sky as I made for the cellular antenna, but I worried that the extra size and weight of the box might be problematic.  Plus, I needed to patch the hole that I drilled previously, so win-win!

After running the wires into the trailer and completing the mounting on the roof, I hooked the Sky into the PoE (Power over Ethernet) adapter and checked our WiFi signal – sure enough the network SSID I had configured popped up.  Success! Next I plugged the antenna wire from the Laird antenna into the Wilson Sleek cellular booster and powered that up.  When I placed my Verizon MiFi into the cradle, the signal jumped from 2 bars to 4 bard (I didn’t check the actual db values, I’ll do that next time) but that is a significant increase in signal. Success #2!

 

With everything wired up and working, the networking cabinet is fully functional, though a bit crowded with lots of extra cable.

With everything wired up and working, the networking cabinet is fully functional, though a bit crowded with lots of extra cable.

I still have a couple more tasks to complete.  The wires are not yet taped down to the roof (I plan on using double sided automotive tape for that thanks to a suggestion from Rich) but I ran out of time over the weekend. Once that is done, I will seal up the roof hole where the wires enter the trailer. For now, duct tape is my temporary patch. If it can make a boat, it should be able to keep water our of this hole for a little while longer until I caulk it up.

This certainly could have been easier. It would be great if Airstream had some pre-wired connections from the roof into the A/V cabinet for antennas. I imagine quite a few customers need to install either cellular or WiFi antennas these days and the numbers will only go up in the future. There was an earlier version of the WiFiRanger Sky that was infinitely simpler to install but for some reason they stopped making it. As you can see from this video, all you needed to do was use a couple of cable ties to connect to the Winegard antenna, then use a simple cable to hook it up to the power from the antenna booster. No holes, no running wires, easy as pie. When I spoke with folks from WiFiRanger, they weren’t sure why that product was cancelled.  I’m sure the new model is more generally useful and running the ethernet does add the option of having a wired connection to our Pepwave router but I think I would have been willing to give that up to save the hassle of figuring out how to mount and wire the updated version.

As it is, though, I am very glad to have these units installed and I’m very excited to get out on the road to see how they work in the “real world.” I’m also very grateful for all of the tips I received along the way, particularly the masterful guidance from Rich Luhr. I also learned a lot about our Airstream in the process, much of which will probably come in handy in future projects so with that, I’m declaring victory and moving on!

One comment

  1. Does this antenna do a good job of picking up LTE cellular signals from VZW? Can you itemize out the equipment in a future post?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *