Computers &c.

When we first started motorhoming we were also running a small family history business so needed Internet access. At that time there was no such thing as site WiFi so we used a mobile phone linked by cable to either a Palm device or a laptop. Though the business has since been sold we still use technology in the van.

We tried site WiFi at a couple of CC sites when it first came out and were happy with it but it only, of course, covers main sites. It is expensive compared to home broadband contracts but not when one compares it to equivalent commercial services. However, by early 2008 the answer for us seemed to be a mobile dongle (then a relatively new thing) so we took out a 2 year contract with T-Mobile which seemed to give the best coverage for the areas we were likely to be in (and, at the time, they were publicising the fact that they were going to combine networks with Three).

The network combination never took place, of course and over the two years the Three network expanded to suit us better. At the end of the contract, therefore, we had the dongle unlocked by T-Mobile and started using it on the Three network with PAYG SIM. We then identified a wish to use multiple devices so obtained a PAYG MiFi device (Huawei E585) from Three, which we used for a number of years.

We now use a netbook, tablets and e-readers in the van, not because we have to but just because we like to and can (and e-readers save a lot of space which used to be taken up by books). We have 12v chargers for each device rather than using a mains charger through an inverter. Charging is no problem using a cable with either a cigar plug or USB plug through one of the multi-point adapters mentioned on the Electrical Sockets and Circuits page.

We have looked at WiFi booster aerials but found that the Three mobile network gives more reliable coverage than trying to find a public, free, WiFi service (we are not members of BT Fon). We have only failed to obtain a Three mobile signal twice - a rally at Thetford Rugby Club in 2011 and at the Western Motorhome Show at Three Counties Showground, Malvern in 2013 (most of the showground is covered but we were pitched in a spot which was fairly dead for all networks). At Malvern we tried a tip, given out by Jim Brown of Motorhome Fun, of putting the switched on MiFi device in a plastic bag and taping it to the top of a flag pole. That turned out to work fine (MiFi was about 4.5 metres off the ground). The same trick would probably have worked at Thetford but we didn't know of it at the time.

Towards the back end of 2014 we bought a 4G MiFi (Huawei E5372) from Three to take advantage of the faster network being rolled out. By that time all devices sold by Three were unlocked. One of the features of the device is that it has two ports for connection of an external booster aerial. At the 2015 Peterborough Motorhome Show we bought a window mount antenna from Motorhome WiFi. At Peterborough we were on the edge of a 4G area but the E5372 was receiving a 5 bar 3G signal. The 4G LTE boosted reception to a 3 bar 4G signal.

That experience has been repeated in other locations. At a THS in Brailes in Warwickshire, in June 2016, for instance we were pitched in an area where there was patchy mobile coverage on all networks but Three at least gave use voice coverage. With the aerial we had a very good Internet connection.

We didn't really like sticking the antenna onto the window as it left marks from the suction pads. The antenna comes with a pair of mounts for hanging it from a laptop but we realised that it could also hang from anywhere suitable. Whilst out shopping one day we spotted an adjustable tablet stand in Pound World and realised that we could use that - the photos below show how. For us it was convenient to hang the stand from a locker but it could be hung from anywhere required. It appears that Pound World no longer sell that stand but it is available (at a higher price) in their Discount UK and Bargain Buys shops. We've also seen them on sale in Yorkshire Trading shops.

Mifi Mount Mifi Mount Mifi Mount Mifi Mount
Always on the look-out for more convenience it struck me that we had a blank wall doing nothing so
(after measuring the MiFi and antenna) purchased a W4 Wallmounted Elasticated Storage Net and attached it to said wall.
We tested it on a trip to North Wales in April/May 2016 and it worked fine.
Mifi Mount

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Last updated: 25 September 2016