Internet connectivity and internal network

One of our challenges even before transitioning to a full time lifestyle has been how to stay connected to the world.  Unlike most people with a sticks and bricks, we can't be dragging a really long cable or telephone cord around behind us.  That means we have to do everything via the cellular networks or public WIFI.

Unlike the US, cellular plans in Canada are still in the relative dark ages and data plans with significant amounts of data, very expensive.

For the first few years, we used a Telus plan that gave us about 30 GB of data per month. This data was sharable between our 2 phones and a Huawei Hot Spot/router. This data was also available when we were in the US although not on the hot spot; that was restricted to Canada only. This worked OK for the first year although we did have to be careful about how much data we used. Of course, we supplemented our cellular data with WIFI whenever we were at a location that provided it.
When we were in the US we switched over to a US based third party vendor and a MIFI with true unlimited, unthrottled data. The first couple of years this was on the Verizon network and this last year (21/22) has been on the AT&T network. Our network cost for this is in the neighbourhood of $US80/month.
For convenience and antenna placement reasons, we located the MIFI and Hot Spot in the front of the trailer near our big front window.

After installing our solar system and weather station which both required a hard wire network connection I was looking for a way to get connectivity from the kitchen area to the front where the cellular stuff was. Well, getting a cable between the two proved to be a lot more difficult than I originally thought so decided to look at a wireless solution.
I looked at a number of different devices that acted as wireless repeaters. The one I settled on was the GL-iNet Slate. This is a small device that will act as a WIFI as WAN repeater as well as providing a couple of hardwired network ports. It was also pretty cheap at only about $35.
For the most part it seemed to work OK but would occasionally stop repeating. A simple reset/reboot would usually resolve things.

This setup worked OK for us through the summer of  2020 and into the fall when we moved to our winter location in Oliver, BC. By this time we had upped our Telus data plan to 60 GB sharable but were finding that we were still occasionally pushing the limits by the end of the month. The park we were at had WIFI that did work OK, but just barely.

One plan that Telus has had for several years is a Rural Internet solution that is aimed at customers that are too far from a major centre to be able to get a high speed wired connection. They provide a high speed cellular router (Smart Hub) and quite a generous amount of data at a reasonable cost. One of their plans provides 500 GB for only $80 which includes the $10 hardware fee.
As we were planning to be stationary for the winter, this sounded like a workable solution so we signed up and switched over to this service. And it worked very well for the winter and all through the next summer when we returned to Okotoks, AB and our camphosting gig.
The major drawback to this service however is that it is intended for fixed/non mobile applications. In fact, we forgot to turn it off when we left Okotoks and by the time we realized, it had already been automatically disabled for roaming too far, too fast! Once we reached Kamloops, a phone call to Telus was all it took to get it re-activated. This is something we will have to be careful with in the future however. On thing we have found though is that as long as it doesn't move too far, too fast, it seems to be OK moving occasionally.

Before heading south this winter, we put that plan on hold as it wouldn't work in the US anyway. We will reactivate it when we return.

Over the last year or so, I have been getting quite frustrated with the GL-iNet Slate. It just isn't reliable. It will work fine sometimes for weeks then go through a period where it locks up 2 or 3 times a day.
A bit more research and I decided to try a new solution by WIFI Ranger. This is a company who specialize in mobile solutions for RVers and truckers and other similar users. I settled on their Spruce model. It was bit more expensive at $US120. While the Spruce is an indoor unit, it is also expandable in that it can be paired with several outdoor radio modules.

 It provides our WIFI as WAN repeater function as well as having 4 hardware ports.  We have had it in service now for about a month and so far, has worked flawlessly.

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