By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
RVers who struggle to get adequate wireless signals while traveling will finally find some help from WiFiRanger. The company, based in Meridian, Idaho, sent me one of their WiFIRanger Sky model signal boosters to test on a recent roadtrip.
The device I received was designed for permanent mounting on the roof of an RV. However, I “hotwired” it for portable use and gave it a whirl while camping at a Jellystone park in Montrose, Colo. I also tried it at a hotel I visited. Here are my findings:
The device is very easy to hook up, even for portable use. Simply connect the ends of the antenna wire into clips that feed into the power supply. (Note, the company does make portable units.) They even make it super simple by connecting the red wire to the red clip, and black to black.
For permanent mounting, the device would be attached anywhere on the roof with the antenna wire snaked anywhere through the RV until it can be attached to the power source, which I suspect would be hidden in a cabinet or compartment.
Once the device is powered up, it broadcasts a signal identifying itself as WiFiRanger. Click on that to connect. That signal name can be changed directly from the settings page. I renamed mine RV Daily Report.
Once connected to the WiFiRanger, users must login to a web browser to access a control panel, which displays the IDs of the wireless signals the device detected. It is very important that you wait at least three minutes before trying to access the control panel, otherwise you’ll get errors trying to connect.
Simply select the desired wireless network and click the “Join” button. The system will prompt for that network’s password. Enter it and a green indicator will show when the user is online and ready to surf.
To see how the device worked, I did a speed test on the campground’s Internet signal when I first arrived. The results showed I was achieving a 1.5 mbs download speed and 0.78 mbs upload speed.
But, once I connected the WiFiRanger, the speed improved to 2.78 mbs download and 1.5 mbs upload.
Here’s a real benefit, you can connect more than one device to WiFiRanger. Even better, you can re-broadcast the signal to others, if you desire. That way a parent has a tool to limit a child’s wireless connection time by giving him or her a password only to the rebroadcast signal, and then shutting off the feature when the computer time is up. (see bottom image)
To ensure that the device could handle additional capacity, I connected my smartphone, a tablet and a backup laptop to the device as well. I was still able to attain similar speed results.
When I got back to the office, I tried it again. Before connecting the WiFiRanger, I was getting a download speed of 10.00 mbs and an upload speed of 6.16 mbs. After connecting to the device, my download speed jumped to 12.66 mbs and the upload speed moved to 8.13 mbs.
There’s not too much to complain about regarding the WiFiRanger Sky. However, I did note the following:
If you can’t connect to the control panel through the mywifiranger.com website, the instructions offer a backup avenue to access. But, the device I used would require some knowledge of how to use an IP address in a web browser. Basic computer users may find it to be a challenge. But, the good news is that once it’s set up, the control panel really doesn’t need to be accessed until the device is powered down and powered up again. Plus, users can create a bookmark to the control panel in their web browsers.
If you don’t access a web page over a 10-minute window, the device does disconnect you from the Internet. You simply have to click “Join” to connect again. But, there is no way to extend the time-out settings.
There are no ugly features about this device.
Some campgrounds have a notorious reputation for poor wireless signals, and nothing is more frustrating than waiting four minutes for a single web page or e-mail to load. WiFiRanger helps combat that frustration by grabbing existing Internet signals and boosting their power.
My own experience shows the WiFiRanger results in a 25 to 86 percent increase in signal strength, which allows web pages to load faster, and files to download more quickly.
I give it five out of five stars.
Great feedback! We have since simplified our documentation to include the direct Control Panel Address so that no familiarity with IP addresses is needed. This makes it easy for any of our customers to access the Control Panel directly.
The Sky will stay online except in the case of the wireless or internet connection dropping off. At locations that have very low signal strength or spotty internet, we recommend turning the Failover option to On. This feature will automatically reconnect the Sky to the WiFi Hotspot if the connection drops. Failover is found on the Setup tab of the Control Panel.