Monday, February 13, 2017

Long Range Wi-Fi Booster Installation (Ubiquity Bullet M2 Titanium and airGateway Combo)

Staying connected on the road is important to us, not just streaming movies or music and browsing the internet but also keeping in touch with friends and families. To make use of free public Wi-Fi's (campgrounds, public parks, Mickey-D's and other business with free Wi-Fi) a Wi-Fi booster is needed for better and reliable connection especially over long distances. Our home internet provider also provides their customers many free Wi-Fi locations and in most cases, their hotspots are fast enough for video streaming.

Mounting the Wi-Fi booster on the roof is more involved work. I’ve seen others mount their Wi-Fi booster antennas into the TV antenna pole, this works best as the antenna is radiating unobstructed from RV roof appliances-one drawback is you need your TV antenna cranked up for it to work properly, a slight hassle if you're constantly on the move. You can either go with a directional or omnidirectional type antennas, your choice is yours. For ease of use, I opted for a permanently mounted Ubiquity Bullet M2 Titanium with omnidirectional antenna and Ubiquity airGateway as my Access Point.


Ubiquity is well known for their professional grade networking products, although setup and configuration via their airOS interface is not very user friendly. I tried couple of omnidirectional antennas for the Bullet, but settled to the smaller Laird 4G/3G Phantom antenna as other taller antennas can cast a shadow on my newly installed 3rd solar panel.


The antenna and Bullet M2 mounting bracket is made from aluminum plate/ angle bars/ channel, and stainless steel U-bolts to secure the Bullet body into the aluminum plate. The Laird 4G/3G Phantom multiband antenna (TRA6927M3PB-001) is 3.30" tall with nominal peak gain of 4.6 dBi at 2100-2700 MHz frequency block. 
 
Be advised that TRA6927M3PB-001 and TRA6927M3PBN-001 is not the same antenna, the one that ends with PBN-001 slightly looks different (with metal top) and with lower antenna gain. It is even more confusing as seller would interchange the model numbers and the pictures of the two. "P" stands for permanent mount with N-type female connector, "B" for black color, so if you wanted a white antenna, you should get the TRA6927M3PW-001. I bought mine on EBay for $13, prices online varies widely averaging from $35 to around $60.
 
To compare, here is the Data Sheet for TRA6927M3PB-001 and TRA6927M3PBN-001.

 The Ubiquity Bullet M2 Ti kit comes with a 24 volt POE with 120-volt AC adapter and a N-type right angle adapter.
 
 Close-up shot of the Laird antenna head mount.
 
 The Laird 4G/3G antenna sticks out about an inch or so above the adjacent solar panel.
 
The Bullet M2 Ti and antenna mount is bolted into the Awning support using 3-stainless steel bolts.  
 
 Here is the older 5-dbi Omni antenna. The white antenna is about 6 inches tall and can cast a longer shadow on the adjacent solar panel.
 
 The Ubiquity airGateway and the 12-volt POE injector is Velcroed inside the cab overhead light assembly. The airGateway and the Bullet M2 works fine on 12-volt DC. You need Male to Female RJ45 Patch Cable to connect the airGateway to the 12-volt POE injector.
 
I use a low loss grounded Ethernet cable from the airGateway to the Bullet M2. The cable enters the RV from the solar panel combiner box. Another Ethernet cable runs to the rear passenger side of the van and into my mini PC LAN port.
 
 Wi-Fi power switch is located overhead of the driver seat for easy access.
 
My Minix (mini PC) running Windows 10. It uses the TV as a monitor via HDMI cable.

Backside of the 12-volt TV/DVD combo, no inverter needed in this setup. The TV, the Minix mini PC, and the TV booster antenna are all wired to a single power switch. Minix power requirement is 5-volts, so a step-down (12 volt to 5-volt) power adapter is used.
 
 Minix PC running Windows 10. I can directly stream Netflix and Amazon videos to the monitor/ TV.
 
  

Configuring Ubiquity Bullet M2 and airGateway

Bullet M2 Ti Configuration: 
You need to setup a static address to your PC to access the Bullet for initial setup. Steps may different depending on what Windows version you have.

Open windows Control Panel,  select Network Sharing Center & click on Change Adapter Settings, right click on Local Area (LAN)Connection then select Properties,  highlight Internet Protocol Version 4(TCP/IPv4) then click Properties, a new window pops out, under General tab change as follows:
Select Use the following IP address and enter IP address: 192.168.1.21
Subnet mask: 255.255.255.0
Default gateway: 192.168.1.20

Select Use the following DNS server address and enter Preferred DNS server: 192.168.1.20
Press OK, then press Close.


Next step, is to hook up Ubiquity Bullet M2 to POE and power it up. Hook your configured PC to LAN port of the POE injector. Enter 192.168.1.20 in your PC web browser window.

You should see Ubiquity airOS login page. Enter ubnt for both username & password. Select Country and Language, then click Login.
 
Once logged in, click on System tab and check the Bullet Firmware version. Go to this site: https://www.ubnt.com/download/airmax-m/bulletm, select your model & view latest AirOS version for your device. If it is higher number version than present, download firmware & save to location of choice on PC.

To install a new firmware, click browse button next to Upload firmware then go to your firmware location Press Upload. After successful upload you will be prompted to install the firmware. Its very important that the power is maintained to the Bullet during this process. After successful upgrade, Bullet M2 will reboot & new firmware version will be displayed.

Select network tab and change settings as above. Change Network Mode to Router.
WAN Network Settings:
WAN Interface: WLAN0
WAN IP Address: DHCP
Enable NAT
Enable NAT Protocols

LAN Settings:
IP Address: 192.168.37.20
Netmask: 255.255.255.0
DHCP Server: Enabled
Range Start: 192.168.37.100
Range End: 192.168.37.254
Netmask: 255.255.255.0
 
 I use a different IP address to prevent possible conflicts with RV parks network settings. Make sure NAT and NAT protocols are enabled. When done, press Change button which will bring up Apply dialogue - don't click Apply yet.

Navigate to Wireless tab and change Wireless Mode to Station, press change button but don't Apply any changes yet.

If you prefer, the Administrator User Name and password can be change on System page, click the Key icon next to the Administrator User Name to unhide the password fields-once done, click Change button but don't APPLY any changes yet.

 
 Navigate to Advanced page. Distance is set to Auto Adjust. Click change, and if everything is set as above, click Apply. Write down the Bullet new IP address, you need this to access the Bullet airOS page next time you login.

At this point, you need to remove the static IP on your PC, open windows Control Panel, select Network Sharing Center & click on Change Adapter Settings, right click on Local Area (LAN)Connection then select Properties, highlight Internet Protocol Version 4(TCP/IPv4) then click Properties, a new window pops out, under General tab change as follows: Select Obtain IP address automatically then select Obtain DNS server address automatically, press OK, then press Close.

Next step, is to hook up Ubiquity airGateway to POE injector and power it up. To setup the airGateway, you must access it via Wi-Fi from a PC. Connect to the wireless network (SSID) named www.ubnt.com.

Launch your web browser and type https://192.168.1.1 in the address field and press enter. The login screen will appear.

NOTE: Your computer needs to be on the 192.168.1.x subnet. If you have DHCP enabled on your Ethernet adapter, it should receive an address automatically. If not, you will need to set a static IP address in the 192.168.1.2 - 192.168.1.254 range.

Enter ubnt in the Username and Password fields. Upon initial login you must select your Country, Language, and agree to the Terms of Use to use the product. Click Login and the airGateway Setup Wizard will appear. 

Ignore the airMAX CPE detection message. Change the default airGateway Administrator password. Enter a new password in the New Password and Verify New Password fields  and then hit Next.

 Enter a SSID and a password (passphrase) for your WiFi network and hit Next. The next screen will ask you to verify your details that you've entered in, and click finish.
 
Again once logged in, click on System tab and check the airGateway Firmware version. Go to this site: https://www.ubnt.com/download/?q=air, select your model & view latest AirOS version for your device. If it is higher number version than present, download firmware & save to location of choice on PC.

To install a new firmware, click browse button next to Upload firmware then go to your firmware location Press Upload. After successful upload you will be prompted to install the firmware. Its very important that the power is maintained to the Bullet during this process. After successful upgrade, airGateway will reboot & new firmware version will be displayed.
 
Select Network tab and change settings as above. Your Gateway IP should be the Bullet IP address. 
Network Role:
Network Mode: Bridge
 
Management Network Settings:
Management IP address: Static
IP: 192.168.37.10
Subnet: 255.255.255.0
Gateway: 192.168.37.20
 
When done, press Change button which will bring up Apply dialogue - don't click Apply yet.
 
Navigate to Wireless tab and change Wireless Mode to Access point. Fill out Wireless Security fields with your password and security encryption type, I use WPA2,  when done-click on Change button but don't APPLY any changes yet.
 
If you prefer, the Administrator User Name and password can be change on System page, click the Key icon next to the Administrator User Name to unhide the password fields-once done, click Change button, then click Apply.
 
How to Use the Wi-Fi Booster
 
Hook up airGateway to 12-volt POE injector, the Ethernet cable going to the Bullet plugs into airGateway POE port. Your PC can either connect to airGateway via Wi-Fi connection or via a LAN cable. When everything is powered up and working, type in your web browser the Bullet M2 address (192.168.37.20).
 
Enter your username and password, then click Login.
 
I added the Bullet M2 Ti and airGateway login page to my Favorites for easy access.
 
Navigate to Wireless tab, next to SSID box-click on Select button, a new window (Site Survey) will pop-out and device will start scanning of neighboring Wi-Fi networks.
 
Once scanning is done, it will give you a list of available Wi-Fi connections in the area. You can click on the column heading (Encryption/ Signal Noise, dBm, etc.) to sort them out from the strongest to weakest signal or from none encrypted to encrypted networks and vice versa, etc. Once you selected the Wi-Fi network you want to connect to, click on the radio box next to it, then click on Lock to AP button at the bottom of the page.
 
Note: If the Wi-Fi network is encrypted (WPA, WPA2, WEP) you need the password to join the network. If it says None in the encryption column no further action is needed.
 
Once back on the Wireless page, click the Change button this will bring up Apply dialogue -click Apply. If you connect to a encrypted network, you need to fill out the Wireless Security fields with the encryption type and the password.
 
Navigate to the Main tab, if all successful, you should see information on the right hand side in relation to Signal Strength, Noise Floor, Transmit CCQ and TX/ RX Rate. The lower the number the better for Signal Strength, and the higher the number the better for Transmit CCQ & TX/RX Rate.
 
You're done! If the providing Wi-Fi network has internet access you should be able to browse the web straight through from your browser, although some hotspots will redirect you to a login page. Once logged in (free or pay service), you should be able to access the web from multiple devices connected to your wireless network.
 
For reference: Here is the complete guide for the airOS (link here).
 

 

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for the time you spent writing this. Much appreciated. I will be getting to this part of my Sprinter conversion this summer... I hope. :)

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    1. Thanks for the compliments. I’m happy to know that someone appreciates my posts as most takes considerable amount of my time and effort- from taking pictures, to editing, to writing, to compiling, etc. I don’t even know why I’m doing this really :-). Thank you and have fun with your conversion. :-)

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  2. Let me echo Bill's comments. This blog is great and your posts are very useful. I've made several of your recommended mods to my SS Agile.

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, have fun modding! :-)

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  3. Great post - very detailed. I am curious as to your selecting the Ubiquity Bullet as compared to the Alfa system that others have chosen.

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    1. To be honest, I have not tried any Alfa products so it is hard for me to compare them. Ubiquity makes quality products and they are widely used in marine and business applications. A quick google of Alfa outdoor AP product shows that they have a similar “tube type” AP, It looks very much the same as the Ubiquity Bullet, but made of plastic. The Bullet Titanium has aluminum housing which should stand up better with the harsh outdoor.

      Some people do use a USB type indoor WIFI boosters and that is different than the Ubiquity Bullet as the later uses single Ethernet cable connection. The radio is built in into the Bullet casing with direct outdoor antenna connection minimizing signal loss from antenna cables. Networking is not my field and cannot really comment which product is better or not, all I know is the Bullet works reliably for my intended purpose.

      To put into perspective, my MINI PC built in WIFI adapter is connected to a roof mounted external WIFI antenna via thick low loss RG-58 cable and can pick up twice as many hotspots as my laptop in the same WIFI congested area, but the Bullet can pick up 2x to 3x or more hotspots than the Mini PC adapter…speed and interference of course is a different story.

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