Van Wifi: Ubiquiti NanoStation, Ubiquiti airGateway, Tycon Systems DC to POE Converter

The best resource I’ve found for improving WiFi range on the road is this guide on Private RV Wi-Fi and Making a Better Park Connection by Outside Our Bubble.

The guide and video take you step-by-step through the process of setting up a Ubiquiti NanoStation and a Ubiquiti airGateway. The guide recommends the Ubiquiti NanoStation Loco M2 and the Ubiquiti airGateway Wireless Access Point. I ended up buying the more expensive Ubiquiti NanoStation M2 and Ubiquiti airGateway Installer.

The M2 has double the antenna range of the Loco M2. This is probably overkill, but I sided with making sure I had enough range for any park. When choosing, keep in mind that a larger antenna means more power consumption.

The Installer version of the airGateway offers a USB power input. I paid a little extra money for this hoping I could power both it and the NanoStation from a USB source, but, as I expected, USB isn’t powerful enough to drive the M2. USB provides enough power to set up the M2, but not enough to pull in a WiFi signal. The Installer version is intended to power up equipment from a USB battery pack just enough to allow provisioning. So, experiment failed, but I had a backup plan. Once I hooked up a Tycon Systems TP-DCDC-1224 24V POE Out 24W DC To DC Converter And POE Inserter, the NanoStation had all the power it needed to pull in WiFi from afar.

If you get the Installer version, note that you must toggle a setting to get the same user interface referenced in the Outdoor Our Bubble guide, which uses the non-installer version of the airGateway. By default, the Installer version shows a minimized interface with fewer options. Changing a setting (I forget which one), reveals the full interface seen in the guide. For RV and van use, I’d skip the installer version and get the cheaper version without the USB power input.

The NanoStation is weatherproof. I mount it to a small length of 3/4” PVC pipe that tucks into a socket on the roof rails. From its perch, it has endured months of rain and snow and wind without incident.