The first decision to make when thinking about installing campervan wifi, is do you actually need it. Because if it’s something you are only going to be using now and again, there are other camper internet options.
Such as just tethering off your phone, using campsite wifi or using wifi in public wifi in a coffee shop etc. Do ensure that you have a VPN to protect your data if opting for the later though.
If however, like us, you live in a campervan full time, and need a consistent signal this guide is for you. We work online, so installing a decent campervan internet connection was high on our list of priorities when we were designing our van build.
We’re super happy with our setup. So in this blog post we’ll be detailing the components of our self built motorhome wifi system, plus installation instructions and the current SIM card and data plan that we use here in the UK.
Our Camper WiFi Setup
So first of all we have a mobile wifi router. This is a small lightweight device that you insert a SIM card into which connects to that particular data network. Exactly the same as a wifi in a house, multiple devices can then be linked up to that internet connection with a password.
Next up, attached to our campervan wifi router is an external aerial that sits on the van roof. This isn’t necessary in order for the router to work, it just boosts your signal.
So we did initially think we would wait to see if we needed it. But as you really need to install it before securing your ceiling in place, we opted to do it before doing our campervan cladding.
Campervan WiFi Router
There are lots of different mobile wifi routers available. The one we have is the Huawei E5577 – 320 Mobile WiFi and we love it. Compared to costs of other wifi for campervan routers, at under £100, it is very reasonably priced.
How many devices can you connect?
You can connect up to 10 individual devices at the same time on this caravan and motorhome wifi router. Perfect for remote working.
Can I put any SIM card in?
Any data only SIM. In Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa. Yes. They are fully unlocked for any network in those regions. So ideal for switching the SIM card out for different network providers if needed when travelling between different countries.
More on the best campervan WiFi SIM cards further down.
Just how portable is it?
The dimensions are (L x W x H): 9.5 x 5.5 x 1cm and it weighs just 120g, so yeah it couldn’t really get much more portable. It does come with a bracket though so you can attach it to a fixed surface, but remove it easily. We have ours in a central location in the van.
How long does the battery last?
It has a Lithium Ion battery which lasts around 6 hours. Because we use it so much, we just always have it plugged into a dedicated USB port. But if we want to, we can simply unplug the mobile wifi router from the external aerial and USB port and take it out with us.
How easy is it to set up?
Very easy. It does come with instructions, but you basically just pop the activated SIM card in, plug it in & you’re got to go. The password is displayed on the screen along with signal strength, internet speed, data used and battery life.
But there’s also an app, HUAWEI HiLink app, to download so you can change the motorhome mifi router password and check any messages etc.
How fast is the internet speed?
Obviously it is dependent upon the signal strength for the particular network your data SIM is running off. But with optimum conditions this motorhome internet router can reach 150Mbps. We can stream Netflix and video call no problem.
Other Internet For Motorhomes Options
If you know you won’t want to attach an external campervan wifi booster there is a cheaper model (Huawei E5577). Which is also available in black too if that suits your van decor better. The difference being that they don’t have antennae ports.
Another option if you don’t mind not having a battery included either is the Huawei E8372 Wingle.
This internet for motorhomes option is somewhere in between a portable router and a standard dongle. So they need to be connected to power to work, but you can connect multiple devices and are unlocked for any data SIM worldwide.
Campervan Internet External Aerial
The campervan wifi aerial that we have is the Poynting LTE MiMo PUCK style antenna.
We just have it plugged in all the time because our van insulation impacts on signal strength. But we have tested it in weaker or no signal locations and it makes a substantial difference.
What is the size of the external aerial?
It has a small, low profile. Similar to the size of an ice hockey puck, hence the name. The dimensions are (W x H): 100mm x 36mm. It looks very neat mounted on a campervan roof.
How is the campervan wifi aerial mounted?
So it comes with a range of installation options including spigot mount, vertical pole mount, horizontal pole mount, magnetic mount, surface mount and wall mount.
We opted to permanently mount ours onto the van roof using the spigot and surface mounts.
It comes with a template, so you simply decide where you want it, drill a 22mm hole with a hole cutter, pop the 3M self adhesive pad on and clamp it in place with the supplied fittings.
We used a good quality primer to ensure the 3M pad stuck effectively and added a bead of sikaflex around the edge for extra protection. There’s also two different lengths of spigot mount to use (40mm/80mm) dependent on the thickness of your campervan ceiling.
Does it need to be mounted in a specific direction?
A huge benefit of the Poynting PUCK aerial is omnidirectional, which means that it receives signals from all directions.
How does the aerial connect to the router?
For the specific campervan wifi router above, you will need some of these aerial connector adaptors. They are however quite bulky and look quite ugly. We built a little shelf underneath where our MiFi router sits on the side of our wardrobe to hide them.
What is the PUCK antenna cable length?
The standard cable is 2m in length which should be plenty. But it can be extended if needed.
The maximum recommended extension is 10m, but the shorter the cable the better. This is because shorter cables have less losses. So the advantage of having an external antenna diminishes with excessive cable length.
Motorhome WiFi In The UK
Here in the UK, there are three leasing network providers when it comes to the best WiFi for vanlife. There’s Three, Vodafone and O2. Each has their own benefits and downsides, so we’ll run through the key points of each here.
Three PAYG data SIM – Internet With Legs
- 1/3/12/24 GB data plans available
- Data lasts up to 1/3/12/24 months respectively
- Top up when you run out
- Works in 71 destinations worldwide
- Europe roaming data usage is capped at 12GB
Vodafone No Contract data SIM – VOXI
- No contract, cancel anytime
- 8/15/45GB and unlimited data plans available for £10/15/20 and £35 per month
- Social media use, Netflix, YouTube Prime Video and Spotify streaming doesn’t count towards data usage
- EXCEPT outside of the UK where it does count
- Europe Roaming data usage capped at 20GB
O2 No Contract data SIM – giffgaff
- Recurring plan, no contract
- 9/25/100GB and unlimited data plans available for £10/15/20 and £35 per month
- Works in 37 destinations worldwide
- EU roaming data usage is capped at 20GB
O2 PAYG data SIM – giffgaff
- 3/6/10/15/80GB data plans available
- Data lasts 30 days
- Can change each month
- Works in 37 destinations worldwide
- Europe roaming data usage is capped at 20GB
The fact that social media use and streaming doesn’t count towards data usage on the VOXI plans means it’s perfect for us for making sure we have enough data for working online.
But on the flip side for the GPS tracker, because the device only uses a very small amount of data, having data that lasts for up to 2 years is super handy.
Best Data SIM For Europe
Although following Brexit it could change in future, as UK roaming providers are no longer bound by EU ‘Roam Like At Home’ legislation, they have stated they currently have no plans to reintroduce post 2017 roaming charges.
But as you can see, all the above UK networks also have caps on European roaming data usage. So in terms of using a UK data SIM in Europe, it all depends on how much data you use and how long you are going to be in Europe for.
One option for WiFi on the road, if you don’t need lots of data and aren’t going to be out of the UK for months on end, is to switch between different SIM cards each month.
If you’re going to be in Europe for an extended period of time and/or need more data that the roaming caps allow for, your best option will be to purchase a local data SIM in whichever country you’re in.
If you have any unanswered questions about we installed our campervan internet get in touch in the comments below. Equally if you have any helpful info to add about your experience wifi in a campervan, do share!
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