RV Experience Sharing our experience about RVing

August 8, 2005

Internet Access Anywhere

Filed under: Uncategorized — donwood49 @ 4:00 am

Why Do I Need Internet Access
Well, If you don’t miss it, maybe you don’t. In you’re an Internet or email junkie, then you’ll miss it when you’re on the road or in the wilds. The Internet can be invaluable for making travel plans and keeping in touch while on the road.
Types of Internet Access
There are four common methods of connection to the internet while on the road. Dialup, Cellular, Wifi, and Satellite.
Dialup uses a wired connection, usually not in your campsite, to connect at up to about 33k bits/second (kbs). This is OK for email but not too good for browsing the internet. Cost is about $10/month and up.
Cellular uses the digital cellular network to provide connection at between 10kbs up to 128kbs. Generally it wouldn’t be much faster than dialup and on most plans you pay by the minute. This may be OK if you have unlimited Nights and weekends.
Wifi is becoming available at many RV parks, Restaurants, coffee houses, truck stops, etc. It allows for a high speed wireless connection to the Internet. This can provide a good connection but there are many different providers. This may require having many service plans or changing plans when you move. Often there are hourly use fees.
Satellite can provide a high-speed connection anywhere the Southern sky is visible. There are three common services for satellite Internet access. Some only provide the high-speed downlink and require some other connection for the uplink like your cell phone. The Datastorm system provides a two-way link so access is available almost anywhere, such as your favorite forest service campsite near East Timbuktu. There are two types fixed and mobile. The fixed systems can be relocated by a qualified person but actually aren’t too convenient unless you’ll be staying someplace for an extended period. A mobile system from Motosat automatically acquires the satellite. The Motosat system costs about $7000 installed and the monthly service is $99. This is a little, possibly a lot, steep, but it’s currently the only high speed connection that is available anywhere. This is what we have on our RV.
Our System

I chose the One Touch system from Ground Control (http://www.groundcontrol.com). This system packages the control box, the two modems, and the Network Access Point Computer (NAP) in one box with a control panel making the system a simple appliance that provides the internet connection. I connected the RJ45 LAN connector on the back to a Belkin Pre-N Access Point. More information about the WAP setup. This provides a high speed wireless connection so we can use our laptop anywhere near our RV.
There are four buttons and thirteen indicators on the front panel of the One Touch NAP. That may sound complex but it’s not really. Actually, there is another switch. The system needs to be plugged in to a power strip. There are two power cords coming from the NAP. One powers the Modems and the controller, the other the Control PC. The front panel power switch only controls the Control PC so to control power to the rest of the devices you need to have a switch on the plug strip.
When you arrive at your destination (The Motosat system only works when stationary), apply power to the system by turning on the plug strip then pushing the power button on the face-panel. After a minute or so the system tested and antenna stowed lights will be on steady. Simply press the “Find Satellite” button. The antenna will align itself with the satellite and do some testing and then it will be ready for use with the “ON Signal, “Tested”, and “Tx Enabled” indicators on.
When you’re going to move, simply press the “Stow Dish” button and the dish will be returned to the stowed position. You can then turn off the system. The other switch is the stop switch in case you need to stop the dish for some reason.
The other indicators show status information not needed for normal usage.
When not needed for use, you can power down the system leaving the antenna up and when needed again, simply turn on the power and the connection will be available in a couple of minutes. The power sequence may be important. I always power off the NAP PC and then the rest of the system. Power up the system first and then the NAP PC.
The Motosat system provides a reliable Internet connection with downlink speeds of 200K to 4M on occasion. The uplink is much slower averaging 10-25k. This is fine for browsing the internet but uploads can still take a while. Most internet traffic is down so it is OK.
This is a sophisticated system and there are occasions when all does not go right, so, someone onboard or reasonable available should be able to check indications and readings and take other actions on the NAP to restore operation. Ground Control has 24/7 online and phone support in the event of a problem.
The installation of the system does take come cabinet space and requires a roof penetration.

(Note: The picture above shows our old Netgear WAP. We now use a Belkin Pre-N Access Point)
Our installation is in a cabinet above the dinette. In order to properly ventilate the cabinet, I installed a muffin fan in the side of the cabinet (another penetration) and installed a door stop such that the door remains open a ½” when closed. I didn’t want to destroy the door by putting in a grill. In addition, I replaced the existing dash mounted TV with a Samsung TV/Monitor. I used VGA and USB extension cables to the dash to allow use of the monitor and a keyboard and mouse on the NAP computer. This allows for internet access without the use of another computer and allows for easier trouble shooting in the event of a system problem.
The system is a bit power hungry. With the system and my laptop (power hungry itself) it consumes about 10 amps DC for the inverter. A 400 watt Xantrex inverter provides continuous power to the Motosat system, Wifi and network devices, Vonage phone adaptor, the Internet camera and the laptop. The inverter is on all the time and works like a big UPS system with 300 ampere hours of battery available so it could run for more than 30 hours.
If you have questions about our use of the Motosat system please use our contact form to contact us.
Power consumption:
Toshiba P25S609 Laptop = 45 watts typical. (.4a ac)
NAP Modems = 22 watts (.2a ac)
NAP PC = plugged in 33 watts, turned on 78 watts (.3a ac / .7a ac)
Belkin Access Point = 22 watts (.2a ac)(estimated)
Vonage PAP2 = less than 10 watts (

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