Caravan internet – get a strong connection with a 4G modem and directional antenna.

This caravan internet video is for all the digital nomads out there. Go from no mobile signal at all to a strong RV 4G internet connection by just using an antenna and router. For just a data connection you don’t need a booster. A good directional antenna will get you decent internet speeds to run your website, make video calls, upload photos etc

In this video we explain the differences between omni antennas and directional antennas. An omni antenna usually needs to be set up once and it works equally in all directions, but it does not have the same range as a directional antenna. Depending on the type of traveling you are doing, the best RV internet option usually is a directional antenna. You will have to set it up each time you stop in a new place, but the setup only takes about 10- minutes.

We also show you how to set your directional antenna up in your camper van. You will need to know which way to point your directional antenna and we show you the basics in this video.

Caravan Internet Antenna options

Caravan internet – How to get better 4G internet on your caravan or camper setup? Keep it simple. Keep it real. Over the last weekend I basically wanted to demonstrate the options that exist for a caravan user to get an antenna or a 4G connection to their caravan. First there are two distinct ways that to me make most sense to get a connection going. It’s either having an omni antenna or a directional antenna.  I generally tell people a directional antenna is better. Directional antenna gives you better performance in a specific direction. It also has a disadvantage that it doesn’t work that well in other directions.

The other option is an omni antenna. Omnidirectional means it basically works in all directions which is awesome because you don’t have to think about what you’re doing. You just put it on your caravan or put it on a setup and away you go. It’s there, you can use it. There’s a lot of debate and online discussions where people would say yeah but this omni is better, that omni is better and so forth. It is true, you get better, and you get weaker type of omni antennas. You need to make a choice: you can either say “well okay let’s have a high gain antenna” or we have a MIMO antenna, we have a compact antenna, we have what else is there. The setup is easy high-performance antenna. But you need to pick a few, and you need to say this one is what I want. You know you can’t kind of get all of them, so you need to make a choice and that’s where the price you pay for performance is going. If you go too cheap the price will be paid somewhere else.

Motorhome Directional 4G Antenna Setup

The antenna can be mounted with a jockey wheel clamp.

A jockey wheel clamp is something you could buy from my local hardware store Bunnings, Mitre10 I think have these as well. Put that on your caravan – on the drawbar, bulbar or I have also seen, that some people also put it at the back of their caravan. This is not the only way, but this is a very easy way. Just telling you the whole setup that I made took me eight minutes. It’s not a lot of time.  That’s the first time when I also had to mount the bracket itself.

Two things I got caught on: first, the size of that hole there needs to match your aluminium pole. It probably won’t so just take care before you go camping, before you go away. Just check out the sizes and if you need to get some space in there. I set it up for the first time in Rapid Bay, in my camping site and I got stuck. So don’t get caught like I did. The second thing the actual screw itself because everything is so tight and everything is so small, my screw was too long. Again, same thing, just do some preparation and probably work on the setup before you go to your camp.

Use a regular metal pole

The aluminium pole – I mean this is just an example, but this is basically anything that you could buy from a hardware store – Bunnings, Mitre10, whatever. A pool extension pole or a paint extension pole or something. The antennas that we’re going to look here are specifically light enough that it doesn’t really matter how high it goes, how heavy it is. Just the aluminium pole is quite compact put it in the van when you finish or take it out and just set it up as I show in the photos there. It’s fairly simple once you actually get going.

Use the old TV-antenna setup

There are ideas I’m not gonna promote this because it’s obviously a bit of a hack but you sometimes you get the TV antennas on the roof that you can put up right down and a lot of people don’t watch TV anymore. And I’m just going to put it out there as an idea that I’ve seen, as people actually use that bracket to put an antenna on it and put an antenna down again. ‘Cause the beauty of that is that thing also from the inside can turn so you can rotate it from the inside of the van itself. And as I mentioned as well, there are ideas to basically have it mounted on the back of the van.

Good Directional Antenna

Then a choice of the antenna – the directional antenna that we use is the Poynting XPOL-0002 antenna – the thing by itself weighs only 900 grams. That makes it a pretty good candidate for this type of setup. It comes with the brackets at the back. I get this question a lot so I’m just throwing that in there again: you get all the the u-bolts and everything. So, out of the box this thing could be mounted to this aluminium pole like that. You don’t need to do anything more than just that. The simple one comes with cable and we use the five meter one in this case. Simple antenna, good antenna – has been very successful in the 4G setups here in Australia and overseas as well.


Caravan Internet Omni Antenna setup

The alternative would be to go for an omni and I’m gonna use the MIMO 3’s from Poynting as my showpiece just because they actually give you a few more mounting options. Now the first thing is you get a magnet mount and I like the magnet mount because it kind of gives me complete freedom. So, there are the magnets they’re mounted on there. And on this band that I have, you just plunk it on the roof and it stays there and its rock solid. So, it doesn’t doesn’t go anywhere.

What you do need to do, the two meter cable which is two meter cables that come out of the antenna, it’s always there. So it’s not like you need to add the two meter cable. That’s permanently available, will then run from the site. You need to find a way to get the cable into your van. Now I’m gonna step back. ‘Cause I actually missed an important point on the directional antenna as well, which is exactly that. A key question is, how do you get the cable from that outside antenna, which is now on a pole, either on the front or the back.

How do you get the antenna cable into the caravan?

There are many ways, the simplest way is basically to use a what we call a bulkhead connector. So, it is a connector or connector style that can be mounted into the caravan. The connector is a bit longer, so it can go through a panel or wall. So, you have two connectors that would permanently be there and you put an end cap on. So end cap would make it rain proof, all good and well all clear and you put on the antenna. Have the antenna plug it in or when you’re not, then you remove the antenna, take it down and just plug the seals off. And on the inside of your caravan, you can have permanent cable routing to where your motor is and that would work well. Permanent option that you can use whenever you have the need.

The other technique for the same antenna and that is option that is permanently or that’s always part of the antenna when you buy is to have a, what they call spigot mount.  Just go on the inside. You’ll see there’s a screw on the inside. Important there is the cable runs through the actual hole. So, the cable runs through the hole on the inside and then you can just run the cable to wherever you want your antenna to be. As I mentioned the cable is part of the antenna, so you don’t have to worry about it. It’s there. And the connector on the antenna, is the same connector on the other one which will be the SMA connector that is connected onto your, directly onto the modem. If it’s a Teltonika or a similar modem.

Where to point the directional antenna to get 4G internet ?

You just have this nice directional antenna on your van. What do you do? First of all will put it high enough. So, definitely make sure that you completely are clear of the actual obstructions that you would have on your roof. And if you have any immediate obstructions, maybe there’s somebody with a much higher caravan right next to you, obviously try to get as high as possible. These poles allow you to go higher up.

That’s quite handy, but how do you know where it should go? How do you know where to point?

I think the easiest way is just ask the locals or look for the local obvious clues. In my case, we went to Rapid Bay, I know Normanville is the only place where there is a tower. There’s only one direction for me to go and that is north for me, same could be for you. Either check where the local towers are just by looking at it or ask somebody.

The second option is actually just guess and just test and just go for a complete, we call it a sweep. Sweep all around 360 degrees to see if you could find the actual best direction for your stronger signal. You need to look at the received signal power. Okay, so the thing there to remember but this is not a laser point. This antenna is it’s about 30 degree beam with even more actually 60 degrees. There’s a lot of tolerance you can really move and see if you get something and move again to another direction and see if you get something. Once you get to a point where you say this is better than the previous one, go back and then just find a spot that works for you.

How long should I wait for 4G signal at each sweeping point?

Most 4G modems (especially the Teltonikas) have 2 buttons on them. One is a refresh and the other is a complete re-registering on the network. So you can just move the antenna, press and refresh. On the the Nighthawks I think give it a few seconds. Probably three to five seconds I would say just make it move. You really would settle somewhere. Have a look, see if it changes. If it changes, what does it do? You can go the full 360 and see where is the best signal, settle there.  And I would say five seconds to sounds like a good number, but probably patience is a virtue here.

The last one is probably more technical and let’s look at the database. Now looking at a database could give you a lot of precise information like X degree, north or X degree south or whatever the case maybe. You do need to have internet access. You need to know where to look for the stuff. So ask towers, cell mapper, look at your local Network operator on their database. Look at the local regulatory database. ACMA in our case, that could all give you information that you need. It’s good when you’re in a desktop in the comfort of where you are at home to do that. But when you’re out in the field I personally would actually either look for it knowing where it should be or just hunt for it. It’s gonna cost you five minutes more. So, it’s not that crazy.

How much signal improvement can I expect with a 4G modem and directional antenna?

My phone was on SOS only. It was a good test but it was also risky because by the time it’s that bad you actually really already quite far away from anything that that’s reasonably sensible. The first test was, I just basically took the Teltonika RUT360, put it in my van, again not doing the aluminum fall test that I would’ve done in the past. And I connected it with the cigarette lighter a 12 volt supply, which is available on this for this device to get it connected. That’s something that you would use in the caravan as well. Remember that this kind of unit, the 360 is actually able to operate from nine to 30 volts, so you can use it on quite a wide range of power supplies.

I got this router in the van, and I got a 3G connection. But it’s pretty basic, I couldn’t really do any browsing with that test either. So it was bad. I got a connection better than my phone but it was still not usable or for anything like this, for instance, a proper Teams meeting. The next step was really just to Connect those white cables into the modem itself. Now, on the NightHawks you would have special adapters, on the Teltonikas you would just remove your 4g connections, which is one of the awesome features.  You have those two ports you just straight plug the antenna into that. There’s nothing more to do. It’s that antenna, is this modem and you see what you get. You get an internet connection, where otherwise my phone was an SOS. It definitely shows that there is an opportunity here to make this work well. The directional antenna is, from that perspective my favorite, but it’s not always the most practical one.

Advantages of an omni antenna

Major advantage of an omni, first of all is I can bring this thing back but the thing is with an omni antenna, it’s working in every direction. The directional antenna it’s better in a specific direction and always will be superior in that direction, but in other directions it will be inferior, it will pretty much suck. Omni antenna if it’s a good antenna like this one, I would dare say is a pretty good antenna. It works in all directions, no matter where you are, no matter how you parked, it’ll always have a similar performance. So, and if you are moving, like in this case specifically if you’re traveling from A to B, you can have a mode connected, you can actually have this thing always operational, always on. There are other omni antennas that you actually have to set up and set and take down every time you travel. The work gets more and it’s not going to give you that option to actually travel from A to B.

What is the best antenna for caravan internet?

The perfect answer would be, you need to have an antenna for both options or scenarios. An omni antenna is going to give you a more constant option that you could use and you don’t ever think about getting connection every time, which is awesome. But the performance won’t be as good and specifically my experience in Rapid Bay is probably a perfect example. I just noticed I could get 3G or better connection between nothing and having the omni. When I switched over to the directional antenna, I got a 4G connection. If you are town to town it may be that the omni is good enough but you have to expect that there might be places where you won’t have a connection. And if you’re one of those people that really need as much connectivity as possible, the directional antenna would be a better option. It actually only takes you five to 10 minutes to set up.