Thursday, May 21, 2020

Fixes and Fails - Internet access

Our Thor Palazzo 33.2 has a Winegard Connect 2.0 4G2 (4G LTE + WiFi Extender), which is used to amplify over the air TV signals as well as provide WiFi internet.

The Winegard Connect 2.0 4G2 provides internet access two ways.  You can connect to a local WiFi network, such as one provided by the RV park or you can install a SIM card from Verizon or AT&T.  We have been fairly satisfied with Verizon for coverage in most places, so we started looking into Verizon plans.  We thought we could just add it on with our phones, but that would be over $80/month for an unlimited plan.

So we started looking for other options and found that the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), which we joined to get a discount on mail forwarding, would allow you to purchase a Verizon MiFi with and Unlimited plan for 1 cent plus $50/month.  That sounds like a great deal, but we wanted to use the Winegard rather than a MiFi, which would need to be plugged in and does not have the option to repeat local WiFi.  After some more research, I found someone on the Internet who said they got the FMCA MiFi, but removed the SIM and inserted in into the Winegard.  Since that sounds like a really good deal, we went to the local Verizon store in Blue Springs and asked for it.  They were really surprised that we could get a deal like that, but everything checked out, so we left with our new MiFi and unlimited plan.

When we got back to the RV, I first tested to ensure the MiFi worked.  It did!  Next, I pulled the SIM and crawled up on the roof to remove the SIM from the Winegard. There is a pair of screws holding a plastic cover and the SIM is behind that.  Got it out, but there is a problem.  The new SIM is smaller that the original in the Winegard.
The SIM card is behind here

After some more internet searches and an Amazon order, I had an adapter that would allow me to install the smaller SIM from the MiFi in the Winegard.  Put it in and connected to the Winegard's setup page only to see "Verizon Access Denied"...Great!  I messed around with different setting for a while, but it would not work.  Finally, I pulled the 5 amp fuse that feeds the Winegard and reconnected it.  After, what seemed like an eternity, the setup page finally came back online... and it was working!

It has worked fairly well since then.  Occasionally it will get confused and say Denied or Limited internet, but a power cycle usually fixes it. (Except at Jamaica Beach RV resort in Galveston..where we just used the parks WiFi)

The plan also has a 25gb limit after which it will throttle you down to almost unusable speeds.  It's enough for the Smartthings hub, which we use to monitor the temperature in the RV when we are gone, but not much else.  Streaming a movie uses 3-4gb, so we can watch a few a month before we max it out. Already maxed it out by the middle of May, so tethering to our phones for the rest of the month.

The other feature of the Winegard Connect 2.0 4G2 is that is acts as a TV antenna amplifier, so we can watch TV for those locations that do not have cable TV.  Works great in most metro areas and we have tons of channels, but smaller markets may only have a couple of the major networks.  Typically that means that we don't get CBS and that is the channel with most of the shows that Ann likes to watch. 


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