Sunday, September 3, 2017

I Want to Stream Movies! Improving the WiFi at RV Campgrounds

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It has not been too many years ago that the top amenities in an RV park were things like swimming pools and horseshoes. If a park could provide a little entertainment along the way like Taco Tuesday and Flip Flop Friday then we were really happy. Things have changed a bit over the years, and now the number one amenity in RV parks across America is free Wi-Fi. Actually, free is not even enough; we want free and reliable Wi-Fi! Forget Taco Tuesday and the swimming pool; give me some internet and I will entertain myself. While most people RV to get away from the stresses of life, we still want to stay connected to society with the internet. Whether it is shopping online, checking emails, or checking the news, we want to stay connected the way we want to stay connected. Within the last few years, there has been a surge in the ability to watch TV and movies on the internet; this is called streaming. You can now watch live TV or old movies just by going to the internet. The problem with this is that it takes a lot more access to the internet to stream a movie than it does to check an email. So, right when the RV parks thought they were doing good to give us enough internet to check email, now we want more so we can stream movies on Netflix. There is a big disconnect right now between what we want as the end user and what the RVparks think is reasonable for them to provide. In the meantime, we have to take the necessary actions to improve our experience.
The park is responsible for the amount of internet that they provide; this is otherwise known as bandwidth. Bandwidth is purchased by the parks and distributed to the RVers. Without getting too complicated, let’s pretend that bandwidth is pizza, and the RV park is having a pizza party. Now let’s say the RV park brought enough pizza for 20 people, but 30 people showed up for the party. Everyone may get some pizza, but no one will get enough. This is similar to how bandwidth distribution may work at a RV park. If they did not buy a big enough pipeline of bandwidth to feed the park internet, then the end user may struggle. So the technical definition of bandwidth would be a measurement of how much data can be transferred over a specific connection in a given amount of time.
There are 3 steps you can take to improve your Wi-Fi experience even if there is a limited amount of bandwidth at the RV park. I call it “Improving the P.O.D.” P.O.D. means Power, Obstructions, and Distance. If you can make any improvements in these areas, then your experience will be more positive with the RV park’s Wi-Fi. Let’s say you pull into a RV park, and they put you in a spot that is 100 yards away from the access point. This is a long way for your internal Wi-Fi adapter in your tablet to try to connect. Can you improve the distance? This one is simple, as you just ask the RV park to be placed closer to the Wi-Fi access point in the park. Either they can do it or they can’t, but you won’t know until you ask. What about the “O” in P.O.D.? We need to decrease the obstructions that are between you and the access point. Have you ever had a bad park Wi-Fi experience in your RV, and then you stepped outside of your RV and things got better? This is because you were trying to connect to the access point through the walls of your RV, and this is not always doable. Maybe you could move by a window or plan to check emails outside. How about obstructions that are outside, like trees, bushes, or other RVs? These can all present issues, and if there is a way to decrease the obstructions between you and the access point, then you will increase your strength of connectivity, and this can produce a better internet experience. Lastly, there is POWER! Remember, you are connecting to the access point in the RV park with the internal Wi-Fi adapter in your devices. These internal adapters are not designed to connect to an access point from a great distance away. How dare Apple and Android not manufacture their smart phones to cater to the RV crowd! J It would cost them a lot more money to put a stronger Wi-Fi adapter in these devices, and for now that is not an option for them. There is one device that can give you more power, thus diminishing the distance issue, and you can eliminate most obstruction issues with the same device. This device is a Wi-Fi booster. In effect, a Wi-Fi booster can give you more transmission power and receiving power from you to the local access point. These devices happen to be the best selling device that TechnoRV has, and it is not a surprise. These Wi-Fi boosters can increase your transmission power and receive power to the access point by 15 times! Also, many of these boosters operate from an antenna that you would have outside of your RV, and hopefully with some height as well, so guess what we just did? By putting the antenna outside and up high, we also take care of most issues regarding obstructions being in the way. The TechnoRV Camp Pro Kit with Suction Cup Mount is our most popular kit. The Wi-Fi booster means you can capture a Wi-Fi signal from a further distance and still have a great experience.
Now that you know the 3 steps you can take to increase your internet connection, let’s get back to the issue of streaming TV. There is one more thing that you can do to give you a better chance at streaming TV: give up the high definition picture! Most streaming services default to a high definition picture quality, and a higher quality picture requires more bandwidth to operate. If you find yourself streaming a movie with non-stop buffering or the screen freezes and pixelates, then you may be closer than you think to a better experience. If you don’t have access to more bandwidth, then the only other option is to decrease the amount of bandwidth needed to view the movie. If you simply change your picture quality from high definition to standard definition then you may be able to watch that same movie with no issues. It is all a work in progress, and every situation can be different, but these are practical steps you can take to improve your experience. Netflix, for example, defaults to high definition video quality. You can reduce the quality of the picture within Netflix, and this may be all that is needed to prevent buffering. Tami wrote an article a while back on how to change the Netflix setting and you can check that out here. For services like Hulu, YouTube, and others, you can do a quick Google search to learn how to change the video quality settings.
To summarize, remember, you can improve the POD (Power, Obstructions, Distance) by making physical changes to your location, and/or by getting a Wi-Fi booster. In addition, if you are on the edge of a good video experience on the parks Wi-Fi, then consider decreasing the picture quality. You will barely notice the difference in the picture quality and it certainly beats a movie buffering during the best scene!