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Network Engineer seeking to improve wifi experience for campers


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So one of the biggest drawbacks to life on the road to me seems to be internet. I'm a professional network engineer who's 100% remote, currently working for Cisco. Starlink gets it done for me most days, but i long for something better.

I'm curious how much of a market there might be out there for a guy with my particular skill set. I've done extensive work with GPON (fiber to the home) and service provider networks. It would be a slam dunk in my opinion, and not that terribly expensive, to have GPON to every pad. Everybody gets their own router or plain ethernet connection if you wanna go all out. Any campgrounds out there that have conduit in the ground that could be used/reused for this? Microtrenching is another option, or even aerial. It's doable in almost any environment. I personally wonder why this doesn't already exist.

So that's my question.. how many campgrounds out there have crappy wifi and would be willing to do it right? Is there a market? How many camgrounds would jump at the chance for expert help or a canned GPON solution?

Tim

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Less than 45% of US households have access to fiber.  Given that most campgrounds are not located in urban areas, I doubt that fiber is available to the vast majority.  In my dozen years of full time RV'ing, I don't remember staying in a campground that even had access to cable internet, much less fiber.

Unless I'm misunderstanding your proposal, I don't think it would be either a "slam dunk" or "not terribly expensive".

https://www.fiercetelecom.com/broadband/fba-report-43-us-households-now-have-access-fiber

Edited by durangodon
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I know of a few RV parks with fiber feeding their Internet WiFi distribution systems, typically from one of the commercial providers, FIOS, etc. Others are using cable based Internet for their WiFi service, and a rare few satellite Internet Starlink's commercial service may change that, but it's pretty pricey. The idea of each site having their own router suggests you're thinking long term stay situations that aren't all that common for many parks. They may have some long termers, but shorter stays are typically better paying in popular locations. WiFi would still be the go to RV connection though, since RV's are typically not equipped for Ethernet or fiber service.

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Coming from the world of networking myself this is a great idea.

We stayed at a resort near Brownsville that had fiber to the pedestal, easy to plug in and go.  They did only have a media converter instead of a little router which caused a couple small issues but the premise, function, and usability was sound.

There was a clear divide between those of us still working and needing low latency zoom bandwidth and those who were retired and just wanted some bufferable streaming and browsing.

I think that need will grow as more people and families work from the road.

This was a 'resort' type of place and we were only there a few weeks and then on to places with less amenities as we are in penny saving mode.  Now we too are on Starlink with its issues, but if more parks could afford to provide fiber it would be a big win to pull in all the mobile workers.

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I agree with Lou, initial outlay and normal maintenance expenses WILL be borne by customers. Just how much site rental fee will become too much?

Whether one customer uses this per day or most customers use it per day; all will pay, as a business recoups total outlay.

Without this fiber optics internet, or actually any internet service, the last I heard was 5-6 years ago each RV site built from new was a minimum of $50,000.

Our local telephone company is installing underground fiber optics internet as they receive federal grants. Their installation costs when they began was something like $1,000,000/mile  (including runs to every house).

 

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Those that need it have multiple cell providers and Starlink. Those that don’t don’t. Talking with a camp owner, they provide wifi as a convenience at email type speeds. My own testing showed they offered much faster 5 years ago, but based on usage. They lowered their service to save $. I can still stream using their service.

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Twelch, the place that might have a market for your services would be new construction parks that are catering to the higher end market. You may want to talk with some people like Travel Resorts or Sun Outdoors, or some of the other luxury RV parks. Check out Upscale RV Resorts. That type of park may well be interested in the type of service that you have in mind.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I know of one park that has fiber run to the pedistal and a rj45 plus an outdoor AP at each pedistal. 
 

They only did this on new sections of the park when building them and did not retrofit older section. 

 

Note: these are deeded lots, so cost buried in price of lot. They also have a maintenance contract with a provider. 

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They are not doing nationwide fiber but in cities (20 I think) including my city as one of the first two, Meta/Google are revisiting their fiber and starting up with WiFi six hardware and mesh networks in their service.

Synchronous means the speed down is the same as the speed up. They will be offering 1GB/s up and 1 GB/s down for $70 a month. More later as we get it here and more info.

Ideal for new parks and for snowbirds or part-timers with a Park model in one of the limited coverage areas or a stix n brix. Google Fiber expands for the first time in five years, and is coming to five new states

Google Fiber is ready to start building again.

The Google Fiber broadband service is one again expanding, announcing plans to bring the service to five states - Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Idaho - over the next several years.  

Excerpt:

"Alphabet's 'Other Bets' ISP, Google Fiber, has outlined plans to transform its brand from a 'gigabit' service to a 'multi-gig' one that will eventually deliver 100Gbps. 

Google Fiber, which has been available in parts of the US since 2012, wooed customers with the promise of one gigabit speeds that US incumbents like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and AT&T could not match.

This forced incumbents to boost speeds in areas where Google Fiber was available, but its coverage was limited and remained stagnant for five years until last month, when it revealed plans to expand to five more states

Now, Google Fiber seems ready to reignite competition. The ISP's CEO Dinni Jain says he wants to offer affordable access to multi-gig speeds and claims that a colleague recently got 20Gbps download speeds in Kansas City when testing the service. 

"We used to get asked, 'who needs a gig?'," Jain wrote in a blogpost. "Today it's no longer a question. Every major provider in the U.S. seems to have now gotten the gigabit memo, and it's only going up from there – some providers are already offering 2, 5, 8, even 10 gig products."

Google Fiber currently offers a symmetrical 1Gbps service for $70 a month and last year started selling a 2/1Gbps download/upload service for $100 a month, with 1TB of cloud storage."

Source with much more and related hotlinks:

https://www.zdnet.com/article/google-fiber-touts-100gbps-broadband-in-multi-gig-challenge-to-rival-isps/?utm_source=pocket_mylist

 

Edited by RV_
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On 9/10/2022 at 12:34 AM, twelch said:

....................................So that's my question.. how many campgrounds out there have crappy wifi and would be willing to do it right? Is there a market? How many camgrounds would jump at the chance for expert help or a canned GPON solution?

Tim

Probably not many.

I live in a county where we have had public fiber since the turn of the century. 

The county public utility district built 14 parks, with five of them having state of the art campgrounds.  The PUD has wired 80% of the county with fiber.  How many of the parks and campgrounds have fiber??  ZERO.

Almost all recreation planners do NOT view internet access as part of the camping experience.   When I was working for the Forest Service it was impossible to convince the Ranger Districts that the Forest Service should provide electricity in a campground when we could do so easily and cheaply.  Never did try to convince folks to put in fiber!!

I understand that the private campground market is different.  There might be situations where private campgrounds become "hotels" or "extended stay suites" where it might work.  My observation is that the primary campground user that is work based, is a highway worker.  Those folks don't need high speed internet.

The one market that might be interested is the luxury campground market.  Those campgrounds do attract white collar workers with lots of money.  These campgrounds cater to their clients and high speed connections are important to their clients.

StarLink is pretty tough competition.  I have it at my second home.  It works fine and would have worked fine for MOST of my work needs.  Granted it has been almost 30 years since I needed to download large data files, but StarLink would have been a dream in those days.

Good luck.  I wish you success. 

 

 

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The person to ask here about RV parks and setting up internet would be Jack Mayer. He did that for many years, and the voice of experience was valuable information.

The one thing he said that stuck with me was, RV parks are not willing to make the investment required.

Edited by Ray,IN
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  • 3 weeks later...

My apologies. I assumed no one replied, as i didn't get any notifications. Just happend back on the forums tonight.. ;)

I agree it's a niche market. Maybe ahead of its time, maybe too late, depending on who I ask. Some folks think 5G will be the end of our cares about fiber. I don't personally, because SM fiber is only at the beginning of what it can do. 1G is crazy fast internet, but the very same fiber can already carry 800G. So maybe one day it will matter to have at least 1G, you never know. 5G is about as good as it's going to get. The cap is spectrum.There's just no more to give out. Will we ever see 1G+ average speeds on lte? I doubt it - at least anytime soon. Starlink and others like it have some promise of course. 

What I have done since posting is talk to owner/operators at what feels like a few hundred campgrounds all over the US. Some were interested, some were not, some would be open to a third party bearing the expense for a subscription based model. In other words I got basically the same answers I got here. There is no clear answer.. Nobody wants to spend the money on a maybe. And I can't blame them for that.

I'm not abandoning the idea of course. GPON is easier and cheaper than you think. Yes, the fiber outlay is difficult, but it only has to be done once. Fiber truly is as futureproof as it gets. There are also a ton of providers upgrading to 10G or XGPON right now (which doesn't necessarily translate to 10G to the home, just that the shared fiber strand is 10G instead of the 2.5G currently in use), which means there will be a glut of older parts on the refurb market over the next few years. And even if it only serves a decently fast cable internet connection, it could do wonders for reliability and sharing it more evenly/fairly. You'd be amazed how far oversubscription rates really go. I worked with one provider running ~30,000 subscribers on 3x10G links, with another 10G or so in cdn cache happening - and it wasn't tapped out. A single *reliable* 250M connection would be good for most campground uplinks if it were managed right.

As I travel I'll be looking for somewhere willing to try it, and maybe in the process come up with some canned system ready to market direct as a DIY approach.

Until then, safe travels..

Tim

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