Internet Wi-Fi extender

connects to a (weak) public AP that has or does not have a Captive portal, and gives an Internet connection to the RV's router

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Main components:
- Windows 7/8.1/10 laptop,
- USB Wi-Fi adapter (dual band preferred).

Most of times this cases are with Internet while the camping living:

  • the camper's crew is located in the camper that stands on a camping spot. A public Internet Wi-Fi is only in the camping's lobby/public place and not accessible for the camper's crew gadgets.
  • the camper's crew is located in the hotel, while the camper is at a parking lot aloof. In the hotel public Internet Wi-Fi is. But assistants of the camper are not accessible for the camper's crew gadgets. Moreover, it is necessary to reconnect all the gadgets of the camper's crew to the new public Wi-Fi Internet in each new hotel.
  • some devices installed in the camper distribute the Internet (4G, satellite), but while the camper's crew walks out far, this Internet connection is not accessible for them.

In most cases, while starting connection to a public access point, an user needs to make some actions within interactive forms named "Captive portal".

Described here the easiest but expensive (Windows laptop is required) method of a much distance public Wi-Fi access is described. Later articles will publish other methods (with a Linux mini-PC usage), more difficult in realisation, but more flexible in customization.

EDUP EP-AC1621 dual band USB Wi-Fi adapter was used here. Looks like any other with analogous Realtek 8814AU chip will work in this manner without any changes. For example Alfa Network AWUS1900, Comfast CF-939AC and CF-917AC and some others likely have Realtek 8814AU chips.

Note: as test results, the EDUP EP-AC1621 dual band USB Wi-Fi adapter was equipped with passive cooling radiator on top of the RTL chip additionally.

Note: while testing, this adapter has shown important features - no matter what radio band in use for the Internet receiving (2,4 GHz or 5.x GHz), without special settings he broadcasts only in 2,4 GHz band on the 11 channel. As the 2,4 GHz band is long-range, this trait can be very useful for the camping living - the RV's router can connect to the extender's Internet on most long distances. Looks like most USB Wi-Fi adapters broadcast on the 11 channel of 2.4 GHz band.

On the laptop was installed the drivers set Realtek 8814AU for EDUP EP-AC1621. These were not the utilities that distribute with the EDUP EP-AC1621 package, because these utilities conflict in the laptop with other ones used for the Wi-Fi extending. This drivers set was installed via Device Manager when EDUP EP-AC1621 is first attached to the laptop. The easy way to launch Device Manager on a PC is press Windows key and then enter command devmgmt.msc.

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In some cases, depending on the laptop's devices, if the laptop has an integrated Wi-Fi board, then this board needs to switch off within Windows Network Connections. The easy way to launch Network Connections on a PC is press Windows key and then enter command ncpa.cpl. Then click the right mouse key on the icon of the integrated wireless board, and then click Switch off them.

On Windows 7 laptop, that have no inner utilite for making Wi-Fi hotspot, utility Mars WiFi was installed. On Windows 8.1 or 10 which both have an inner utilite for making Wi-Fi hotspot, no necessarily to install any utilite like Mars WiFi. But, as tests shows, work with Mars WiFi more comfy than work with Windows 8.1 or 10 inner utilite for makes Wi-Fi hotspot - Mars WiFi can manage more clients for connection, haves autorun while the laptop starts, haves no limit of working time while no one client attached to organized hotspot.

Note: Mars WiFi is not the only program to make Wi-Fi hotspot on Windows. For example this digest lists some variants.

Next settings were trivial:

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Connect to a public AP using the PC laptop.

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For Windows 7 PC with Mars WiFi installed only need to specify name (here is CA-WFE) and password of the new hotspot.

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On Windows 8.1 or 10 via Windows Settings, then Network & Internet, then Mobile hotspot tab, only need to edit name (here is CA-WFE) and password of the new hotspot and switch on.

From this point, the laptop works as a Wi-Fi hotspot and the camper’s router can attach to this hotspot via the router's web face. Need to keep in mind that if no one client will be attached to a new Wi-Fi hotspot (deployed with Windows 8.1 or 10 inner utilite for Wi-Fi hotspot) for 5 minutes, this hotspot will be switched off automatically.

Now camper's crew gadgets can attach to the camper's router (AP of this router). In this case all assistants in the camper and all crew's gadgets will be in one network and discoverable to each other.

If no the camper's router has been deployed yet, the crew's gadgets can attach to the Internet via access point CA-WFE described here.

Each new place needs only connecting to a public AP using the PC laptop. The connections of crew's gadgets and of camper's assistants will not need new settings.

Four 6 dBi antennas of EDUP EP-AC1621 provide works at long-range distance up to public AP. And antennas of the camper's AP (router) provide work at long-range distance up to camper's crew gadgets.

When Wi-Fi antennas of the camper's AP (router) and of the USB Wi-Fi adapter will being placed on sites, this considerations need take in account:

  • antennas, as well as USB Wi-Fi adapter itself with antennas, need to place outside windows of the camper / a hotel. Especially when a glass of a window is toned. One glass at the Wi-Fi path decreases power of signal twice for 2,4 GHz band, and more for 5.x GHz band.
  • for this case, an antenna with more than 8 dBi can't practically be used because of the narrow radiation pattern.
  • the 2.4 GHz band is more usable in this case then the 5.x GHz band because the second one works for shorter distances.
  • in case when a Wi-Fi antenna is connected via a cable, the maximum length of the cable is 15 meters (50 ft). The resistance of the cable must be 50 Ohm, better if 75 Ohm or more.

Attention! There are many USB Wi-Fi adapters on a market. When buying an adapter in one country from an official dealer, no questions about the use may arise. But while traveling with this adapter to different countries, necessary to comply with the regulatory rules of these countries for the use of Wi-Fi. These rules can vary. Some adapters have characteristics that provide all countries regulatory rules. Other ones need to change settings in some countries (usually this is adapters with extremely powerful Wi-Fi radios, and/or has use abnormal Wi-Fi channels as 12 or 13, 56, etc). These settings can be done in driver's parameters of adapters, but almost in every country by the road. While choosing a Wi-Fi device (adapter, router, etc) for use in a journey, necessary to keep in mind this aspect.

Troubleshooting: If all settings made on the laptop as described here, but Wi-Fi hotspot does not start work in Windows, in most cases can help the resetting of Windows network before repeated settings. For this need to make on the laptop (all applications need to be closed as laptop will rebooted here):

Windows key

cmd

click right mouse key on appeared "cmd.exe"

select "Run as administrator"

'Yes" in next pop-up window

Then in open terminal for Windows 10:

netcfg -d

Enter

shutdown /r

Enter

Or in open terminal for Windows 7, 8.1:

netsh winsock reset

Enter

shutdown /r

Enter

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