Why internet in the trailer?
In terms of communication technology, not much happens without the internet nowadays. The following services all depend on data exchange and will not work without them:
Communication applications (Whatsapp, Messenger, Skype, ...)
Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, ...)
Getting information (blogs, YouTube, route planners, weather services, ...)
Who can do without all these tools? We don't, and many do.
Also, anyone who works in the trailer and processes customer orders, writes blog articles, answers emails, is much more reliant on the Internet in the trailer.
How to get internet in the caravan
Basically, you have three technical options for getting internet in your trailer:
Internet via WLAN
Mobile internet over cellular network
internet via satellite
All variants have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Internet in the caravan: cost
How much does internet cost in the caravan? This is very different:
Wifi is the cheapest and often even free, but it depends on what's available on the site.
Thanks to EU data roaming, mobile internet is now in most cases a cheap way to have internet in caravans. However, this usually only applies up to a certain volume of data, and cost traps lurk, especially at EU borders. With native SIM cards, it can be a cheap solution, however.
Internet via satellite still occupies a special position. It is the most flexible, but also relatively expensive and requires a satellite system in the trailer.
Most campers will get along well with a mix of WiFi and mobile internet and find a good compromise between cost and flexibility.
How do you use the internet in your trailer?
Most travelers today have at least smartphones, but many add tablets and laptops to them. Internet in mobile homes is important for these devices.
All modern devices (smartphones, laptops and tablets) can be connected directly to WiFi networks.
Only devices with cell phone chips and SIM cards (often referred to as the "3G version") can use a cellular data network. These are all smartphones, but also some tablets (more expensive then the WiFi-only versions). Laptops can also be made mobile compatible with 3G sticks. A cellular router makes it possible to set up a local WLAN, supplying local end devices with data over the mobile network.
No end device is known to me that you can use the internet directly via satellite . This always requires a suitable router and of course a SAT antenna.
WiFi in the caravan
Work with WiFi in front of the trailer
With WLAN, in some countries, WIFI is what is called wireless local area networks. These are served by so-called hotspots that you can simply dial with your device. Wlan in the caravan is basically not a problem, as wifi is supported by all modern devices. If a WiFi network is available, you can call directly with any smartphone, tablet or laptop. However, WiFi does not have a long range, which often leads to problems.
Advantages of WiFi in the caravan
WiFi usually has the advantage of being free. In principle, it is an operator's public internet line (campground, parking lot or similar).
Basic access to WiFi does not require any special technical equipment
For Netflix, video streaming and other applications with high data consumption, WiFi is always the first choice as the data volume is usually not limited.
Disadvantages of WiFi in the caravan
You are addicted to the local offer. You have to go where the WiFi is and you can't just park somewhere.
WLAN for freelancers is rarely a viable solution for the Internet in the trailer.
Frequent location changes mean frequent reconfiguration of devices.
Speed depends on provider
Where is WiFi available for caravans?
Many parking lots and campgrounds offer WiFi networks. However, WLANs are also available outside of typical caravan parking spaces, for example:
fast food chain
and even on the street in some cities and towns
It offers so-called public WiFi hotspots. Sometimes you don't need a "key" (password) and you can just search. Sometimes you need to ask the operations personnel to do this.
Reception issues with WiFi in caravan
In detail, there are often problems with WiFi in terms of reception and speed.
Reception is generally poor . You will usually find a parking lot at the campsite far from the WiFi router.
Sometimes you only get one access code per check-in. If you want to make calls with multiple devices, you can only do so one after the other.
WLANs used by many users are often very slow .
Problem #3 can only be solved by switching to another variant for Internet in the trailer. But there are the first two problems with the methods. The so-called "range extenders" allow you to improve the reception of the WLAN signal.allows. A distinction is made in detail:
Pure WiFi amplifiers that amplify the existing signal. Here you still have to search with the access codes you received and share the WiFi with all other participants / guests. In terms of security, you are on the same network with strangers.
WLAN access points that take the public WLAN but open your own WLAN for you that others cannot call without your permission.
From our point of view, access points should be preferred as they offer many advantages:
This means you can easily turn all your devices (and those of your fellow passengers) into your own WiFi.
Your devices are better protected as you don't share WiFi with strangers.
Since in this variant only one device (access point) calls the public WLAN, you only need one access code (and you can still use all your devices)
When changing parking spaces and the associated WLAN key, you simply have to enter a new access code at the access point (which can be very annoying) instead of logging all your devices into a new WLAN.
Are you using electrical retailers' WiFi amplifiers for your caravan?
In principle, normal devices from electronics retailers can be used to upgrade the WLAN. The problem with the mobile home is that these devices are designed for 230V operation. In the caravan this is only possible with shore power or an inverter. A conversion to 12V is possible, but should be technically savvy. Here are the instructions.
WiFi amplifier especially for caravans
By the way, there are also some WLAN amplifiers for 12V operation, specially developed for camping. These have advantages:
They can be run on 12V (and thus self-sufficient) in the caravan.
They come with the necessary cables and connections in the package.
Developed external antennas to meet the requirements of the mobile home roof
WLAN / LTE combination
Combined WLAN / LTE routers are suitable. They prefer to use (free) WiFi, but switch to LTE/cellular network if there is no WiFi. So there is always reception in the trailer and you don't have to worry about the reception variant. But Caution: If you forget to change the SIM card outside the EU, the high costs may go unnoticed!
Boost the WiFi signal with external antennas
If the wireless router cannot find or receive a strong enough signal, it is possible to improve reception with external antennas. These antennas
either fixed to the roof,
or install if necessary.
Both have advantages and disadvantages.
The antenna is usually conveniently located at the top of the roof and does not require any work steps before using the internet in the caravan . However, antenna alignment is not always ideal.
Then a need-based antenna is an advantage, because you can easily align it and change its position. With the suction cup brackets, you can also provide a stable grip on the caravan.
The size of the antenna determines not only the range of the antenna, but also at what angle it can receive signals. Basically, there are two types of antennas available:
Omnidirectional "anywhere" / "omnidirectional" antennas and
Omnidirectional antennas can receive signals from any direction.
Directional antennas only receive the signal in one direction, but they can do this better than omnidirectional antennas. Directional antennas are generally less recommended for mobile homes as they need to be aligned much more precisely than omnidirectional antennas. Exceptions prove the rule.
By the way, it is not absolutely necessary to drill a roof duct in the caravan roof to use an external antenna: Some solutions also allow for temporary use, where the antenna is exposed only when necessary (for example, from a skylight). caravan). This saves a complex assembly and avoids wind resistance of the antenna. Of course, a fixed installation is more convenient.
By the way, putting together an antenna and router set is much cheaper than buying a compatible ready-made set for the motorhome. But of course you are more free in the choice of components than buying a full package.
Internet over the cellular network in the caravan
WLAN is not always available and then comes the time of mobile data networks.
Getting internet over cellular network is a viable solution nowadays because cellular network is very strong nowadays. You're also relatively flexible with it. If the coverage of the mobile network is sufficient, you can also be online. In much of Europe this is much easier today than in the past, but there are cost pitfalls lurking. Therefore, when using the internet over the cellular network, it is recommended to purchase a local SIM card for the country you are visiting.
2G, UMTS, 3G, 4G, LTE, 5G
First a few terms related to mobile data network:
Second-generation (2G) cellular standards are still really lame: with GPRS if possible, with 55kbit/s, EDGE 220kbit/s. Neither is absolutely unsuitable for today's applications. However, devices sometimes fall back when reception is very poor.
UMTS, third generation (3G) is a cellular standard. This was the generation when mobile internet became fast enough for most apps and hence became really popular. For this reason, 3G is still used today as an identification code for devices suitable for mobile communication.
The speed, which is up to 384kbit/s as standard, has been increased tremendously to 42Mbit/s with the HSPA+ standard. Also, LTE is one of the standard versions, coincidentally, it's still the third generation of mobile phones, but often even referred to as 4G for marketing reasons.
Finally, we reach the fourth generation (4G) with LTE-Advanced (LTE-A or LTE+). It gets really fast here, up to a few hundred Mbit/s.
For 5G, infrastructure must be built first. Data rates of up to several Gbit/s should now be possible here. Networks have prepared for this as of 2019, but tariffs and devices that allow 5G operation are still sparse.
Which standard is available depends on the network infrastructure and your cellular plan. In addition, the standard must of course be supported by the end device - this applies to all modern smartphones up to 4G.
What all mobile radio standards have in common is that the data rate is shared with other network participants. So speeds are not guaranteed. It may be slower if coworkers in the same transmission tower want to watch Netflix in 4K at the same time. In general, of course the speed always depends on the received signal strength.
LTE is cutting edge today so we prefer to talk about LTE routers below. However, these devices can also handle UMTS if no better standard is available.
EU data roaming
Internet via mobile phone was not an option for many caravan passengers for a long time – fares abroad were very expensive. Thanks to the EU roaming rule (in effect since mid-2017), there are no roaming charges in any EU country besides Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. This means you can continue calling and surfing abroad just as you would at home.
But the devil is in the details: There's a fair use rule, and network operators don't want you to experience the same comfort abroad as they do at home. Your data volume is usually limited abroad, and exceeding this amount incurs additional costs. There are also tariffs that do not allow data roaming at all. You can find the details in your mobile phone contract.
By the way: After Brexit, EU data circulating in Great Britain will initially be available until the end of 2020.
Close attention to the EU border
Particular care should be taken when traveling at the external borders of the EU, near Switzerland and of course outside of Europe. Because your smartphone can search for a third country's network even near the border. And if you are unlucky, then, first of all, your mobile phone comes up with the idea of updating a few applications. In a few minutes, hundreds of megabytes are downloaded and you get a huge bill.
Tips to save costs:
Rely on WLAN first and actively enable mobile data networks only when needed
You can disable data roaming on your phone and only use it actively if you want.
Local SIM cards help you save costs
Many network providers allow you to configure an alert SMS that you will receive when you exceed a preset limit.
Use local SIM cards
It is recommended to use local SIM cards to reduce costs abroad and not be bound by the (usually very low) data volume limits of your own mobile phone contract. You simply buy a SIM card from the country you are visiting and use it during your stay. Most countries have convenient prepaid solutions for this.
For example, we know and appreciate the so-called "tourist SIM cards" from the Balkan region (Bosnia, Albania, Croatia before EU data roaming). These are special offers for tourists at weekly or monthly prices on reasonable terms.
If you have a smartphone with several SIM card slots, you can use the additional, local SIM card there. Of course, you can replace your own SIM card instead (only for smartphones with a SIM card slot), but you can no longer be reached at the regular number. In general, changing the SIM card is an annoying thing on modern phones, so I always prefer a mobile router.
Note: Very modern phones no longer have a conventional SIM card, but an "eSim". Then you have to conclude a contract electronically over the internet and you cannot simply buy a SIM card on the site.
Set up hotspots with your smartphone
If you don't want to buy any additional devices, you can set up a "hotspot" with your smartphone. Then you can connect to WiFi, which is now available on other devices (tablets, laptops). However, this means that neither reception nor performance is optimal and you will quickly drain your smartphone's battery. Also, accidentally