by Jim Guld
Winegard is taking their extensive knowledge of TV antenna technology to the WiFi frequencies with the new RV Internet WiFi Extender they named ConnecT. They provided us with a pre-release model to test and we put it thru its paces at an RV park and parked in a friend’s yard.
What is the ConnecT?
The ConnecT’s purpose is to extend available WiFi signals from public or private hotspots you find at RV Parks, Truck Stops, Rest Areas, etc. for a better signal over a longer distance to your rig.
The ODU, or Out Door Unit, is designed to be permanently mounted on your roof with the provided hardware. It has 3 high-gain antennas and 3 amplifiers and feeds the hotspot signal through a network cable to the IDU, or In Door Unit.
The IDU creates a private and secure WiFi network inside and around your rig to connect all your Internet devices, computers, tablets, phones, and printers. You have both 2.4GHz and 5GHz band networks and you can configure a Guest Network as well.
It can be free standing or mounted to a wall.
The IDU is powered by an AC adapter and uses POE (Power Over Ethernet) to power the ODU through the RG-45 cable.
Setting it Up
We were at an RV park in Florida, for the Living The RV Dream rally when the ConnecT arrived. It came well packaged with installation sheets.
Links below the review will take you to the Winegard product and support pages.
I chose to not mount the ODU permanently to my RV roof for the evaluation.
Your mounting location should be carefully planned. The three removable antennas on the ODU might be prone to damage from low hanging dangers. A 25′ cable is included so you have a lot of freedom.
Once everything was connected and powered, it was easy to go through the setup on the computer in a web browser. I connected to the ConnecT’s default WiFi signal and opened a browser window. The instructions are clear and easy to follow with screen shots.
- Navigate to 10.11.12.1 to open the local configuration screen.
- Login and scan for available WiFi signals.
I was impressed by the number of results on the page. Many more WiFi hotspots than my unaided laptop could see. The page recommends connecting to those with greater than 50% signal. The only one available to me was pretty close and strong. The others were password protected but it was a good first test.
The drop-down menu system for other options could be more user-friendly. Maybe better on-screen prompts. Response speed in the interface should be improved as well.
My initial Internet speed tests through the ConnecT were good. Only the expected loss from earlier direct connection tests because of the way networks work.
Remember, when you connect to a WiFi hotspot, your effective speeds are limited to the Internet bandwidth available to that hotspot. Even if you have a great connection to a hotspot, that hotspot may not be connected to a fast Internet source or their shared connection is overloaded.
Most of you have probably been there.
I went through the steps to upgrade the firmware without a problem and everything connected back up fine.
Configuring the ConnecT and Having Problems
I renamed the SSIDs for the 2.4 and 5GHz networks and enabled the Guest Network and set new passwords. I tested those networks and everything seemed fine at first. I was looking forward to using the ConnecT for our Youtube live streaming session the next day.
That’s when the trouble started. When we really needed it, I started to have problems with bad slow downs and even drops. I reset everything several times. Sometimes now it took several tries to even reconnect. When I did and checked all the settings, everything looked fine.
I still encountered problems connecting. Sometimes to the local IDU and sometimes it was inside the system to the available outside signals.
We made it thru the Youtube live streaming event, sometimes switching over to our Verizon phones as hotspots. Later, I did a factory reset on the ConnecT and performed a new setup. That seems to have fixed my problems.
Next Stop, Everything Works Great
We moved to a rural location for further testing. We parked our rig on a friend’s piece of land. We were between two available residential WiFi routers inside buildings about 30 and 100 yards away. I had an unobstructed line of sight to the closer building. There were a few trees between me and the farther signal. My laptop unaided could only see the closer signal and sometimes had trouble staying connected. The ConnecT even saw a few other distant signals on the scan results. Both connections were solid and speeds were consistent.
The ConnecT had no trouble connecting me to distant WiFi signals I couldn’t even see on my laptop’s built-in adapter. That’s what this thing is for.
The convenience and security of having all your devices connecting to your own local network are great. You can finally get that wireless printer to work with everything.
Overall, the system works quite well. The $549 price seems a bit high. You will learn a little about networks in the process and the instructions are clear. Permanent installation of the ODU on your roof might require a pro.
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