We have been using the WiFiRanger Elite antenna and router system for the last eight or nine years. It has been a great system for connecting to campground WiFi or using our cell as a personal hot spot to connect to all our devices.
We have used the same system on two motorhomes. But eight or nine years for any technology makes it old technology and we haven’t been able to take advantage of the improvements. I have been waiting for WiFiRanger’s new integrated Everest system to come out and now it’s finally here!
Converge, an integrated system
WiFi Ranger graciously sent their newest Converge system, their highest-end and fastest Everest router pack to test out. I have been running it through some real-world use tests. The overarching brand is called Converge because it literally converges both WiFi and Cell data within one integrated unit. It allows connection to local WiFi or cell service within one roof top antenna/router. It has the ability to switch from 2.5 GHz or 5 GHz speeds when available.
We now have a weBoost cell booster antenna and a separate WiFiRanger antenna mounted on the roof. We manually go back and forth depending on which one we get the strongest and fastest signal on. An integrated device sounds wonderful!
Stats: Converge Everest pack: Outside Everest and inside Spruce routers
- Dual Band Simultaneous 2.4 GHz and 5.8GHz WiFi
- The Dual Chain MU MINO 2×2 5.8GHz 802.11ac Wave-2
- Dual Simultaneous Multi-Carrier LTE Modems
- 2-mile range (real-world may differ depending on signal strength and obstructions)
- 1000Mps LAN port
- USB port for LTE tethering
Out of the box
Out of the box, the Converge Everest looks rather like an iceberg or Mount Everest with lots and lots of cable connected. The cable can be 15′, 30′ or 45′. Included in the box was the Everest outside router, inside Spruce router and power source for AC or DC connections. The difference between the Elite Ethernet cable and the Everest is that the cable on the Everest has both Ethernet as well as a power connection within the one cable.
Ethernet and power
The cable was the first thing I, as an Elite user, was concerned about. We already have the Elite connected with the Ethernet cable that was installed by the RV manufacturer. The Everest would require making yet one more hole on the roof to route the combined Ethernet and power connection to the inside router and power source.
The existing Ethernet cable to the Elite router does not have enough power to run the Everest unit. Everest must have a direct power connection in addition to the Ethernet connection. There may be some workarounds, but it was not going to be plug-and-play on the top of our motorhome.
Rooftop install of the Converge Everest
- While I did not do a permanent install on the roof, I did anchor the outside router on the motorhome roof to test it. I ran the cable through a side window. The manual calls for 24″ clearance from electrical connections or objects that could shade the signal and place on center of roof.
- I need to drill 5/8″ hole in the roof to route cable through. The cable needs to go to power source as well as to the inside router. DC is recommended for less power interruptions. As we have an inverter that we seldom, if ever, turn off, we would connect to AC power.
- You can secure the outside rooftop router with screws or with sealant, making sure not to cover hood screws or seam of router. You need to have access to the router internal parts to do a hardware upgrade or insert different SIM cards.
Once the Ethernet/power cable is inside the RV, you connect the Ethernet end to the inside router (if using) and use a splitter to power both outside and inside routers.
While the outside router can be used alone, connecting it to the inside router allows easy, powerful access from all devices. It also allows direct Ethernet connections to computers and has a USB connection to plug in a hotspot or phone.
WiFi setup is easy peasy
This part really was plug and play!
- Follow the SIMPLE step-by-step directions and quickly set up both the outside router and the inside router. Identify the router and change the passwords. This can be done from any phone, tablet or computer.
- Press scan, view the list of available networks and click to connect. A box will come up if you need to add the network password to finish setting up the connection.
First test of the Converge Everest: Find the hidden network
I was so excited to test the system that I just couldn’t wait. But I wasn’t going to climb on the roof in the dark, so I just set the Everest outside router on the dash and ran the cable over to the Spruce router. I was able to power it up immediately since I followed the quick-start guide, changed the passwords, and figured out how it should work. The software is very similar to the Elite, so the navigation was familiar.
Although I could see everyone else’s WiFi clearly at least 2 miles across the lake, I could not see or figure out how to add our hidden network. At that point I was not as happy with my geeky, digitally proficient brother-in-law that set up the cottage WiFi to be hidden.
I read the quick-start guide twice, three times. After reading all 33 pages of an old manual online, I looked up advice on YouTube, entered the hidden network in every spot I could think of and gave up, disappointed. I went to bed and got up the next morning determined to try again and there was my hidden network showing in the list with all the others. Okay, a little patience would have helped. The instructions did say WAIT, after all…
I excitedly connected my iPad, my iPhone and Mac to the router and had an amazing connection! Granted, the speed of the connection is always only as strong as the signal to begin with. But as I was doing speed tests between the Everest and the Elite, I was totally surprised that both download and upload speeds were almost twice as fast on the Everest as the Elite.
Test two: The filtered network
The challenge at the next RV park, a county park with government WiFi, was actually connecting to a filtered network. While the network connected and the filtered link came up, no amount of clicking would actually connect. It would take me to a warning that the site was not safe. I had read to try Chrome if not having good luck setting up with Safari, so I switched to Chrome and was able to get the popup accept screen.
Safari came up with a screen saying the site was unsafe, while Chrome allowed the popup window to do just that, “pop up.” The software seemed a bit buggy trying to get the filtered accept window up in Safari. (In further testing, sometimes the window came up and sometimes not.) I found out if I continued to drill down to details and additional windows I could “accept” that the site was unsafe and then the popup window would come up.
Note: I did make sure that I turned off “Block Pop-Ups” in the settings for all my devices to allow the filtered popup window.
Streaming on the Converge Everest
I seldom, actually never, stream video over WiFi. The campground networks usually forbid it or do not have enough bandwidth to support video streaming. Not to mention you are competing with everyone in the park. I did decide to do a quick, very quick test to see how easily I could connect the TV to the router and if I could stream Netflix. The park WiFi was beefy enough and the connection was seamless. Much more stable than using the Elite to connect to the TVs.
Note: Netflix now has a QR code that shows up on the TV screen that you can scan with a cell phone or tablet camera to enter all the info needed to sign in to Netflix. Yeah, what a hassle it was using the TV remote to log into everything.
Cell data: Exciting, but $$$
While the Converge Everest router will work as a standalone for WiFi, the integration of cell data in the outside router is what sets the Converge system apart. A SIM card is already installed to utilize AT&T cell data. That means there is the ability to switch between WiFi data and cell data use through the outside router. If everyone in the park is connected to WiFi and it has slowed to dial-up speeds, just switch to cell data. Want to stream movies seamlessly when WiFi is dismal? Switch to cell data.
Caveat: It comes at a cost. It is expensive for those of us that use a lot of cell data and are used to unlimited data. The price is based on the amount of data purchased and ranges at AT&T from $20 for 1 GB to $150 for 20GB. What does one do with only 1GB of data? A standard two-hour movie can use 2-4 GBs! T-Mobile has just entered into the picture with an option and their rate is a more reasonable $55 a month for 100GB. While T-Mobile coverage is not as wide as Verizon and AT&T, they are on the leading edge of providing 5G service.
Connecting to cell data
There are several ways to use cell data when WiFi is too slow or unavailable.
It is easy connect a hotspot or cell phone to the USB slot on the inside router. I was amazed how quickly my cell phone came up.
I also tested using my personal hotspot feature on my cell phone and scanned for WiFi networks, and it showed up as a WiFi option.
To test out the built-in cell system in the Everest, I bought a gigabyte of data for $20. I still don’t get what 1 GB of data is worth. I had to buy through Winegard and set up an account, but it allowed me to select a one-time purchase so it didn’t save my credit card info.
Setting it up was a test of fortitude, diligence and patience. I followed every piece of information in the paper manual with no luck over a period of four hours.
Finally, I went online trying to troubleshoot and found the answer in a PDF that was exactly the same as the printed manual except for one very important chart. There was a step to take adding the APN password, and it quickly assessed the cellular service.
I was so surprised that it actually worked that I double-checked that I had untethered my cell phone, disconnected from the park WiFi and then Googled a website to make sure I was online.
Success! But I only bought 1GB, so it went off quickly. I had set up the software to rotate through possible connections, and quickly learned that if I got bumped off the park’s WiFi it would seamlessly go to using cell service. I decided to connect to cell data only when needed.
I am very impressed with the Converge Everest system and the ease of setup of both the outdoor and indoor routers. I am also impressed with the speed of transmission. Although it is dependent on the speed of the park’s WiFi network, it was significantly better than the Elite system.
Even plugging just the Spruce into the Elite antenna Ethernet cable I saw a significant improvement.
I was really happy with the response of the support team when I had questions. They were quickly available by email or phone and addressed all of my concerns and questions. They were great at explaining both technical issues and operator errors.
More in-depth information would have been helpful
More in-depth information online or in the manual to cover the more unusual problems I had right away would have been helpful. Some questions I had were regarding filtered and hidden networks, Safari versus Chrome, tagging, network keys and internet connector order, etc. While the quick-start guide is meant to make setup quick and easy, it was a bit too simplistic. I could have used more troubleshooting information when I ran into issues. While the instructions and software seem to be designed to be simple, sometimes it seemed too simple. Sometimes I was left wondering what all the other fields and controls meant.
I was disappointed that replacing the Elite system was not going to be as easy as anticipated, since I could not just mount and plug into the existing Ethernet cable. I had hoped that WiFiRanger had anticipated the needs of their existing customers and provided some alternative methods to connect to the Ethernet cables factory installed on a number of RVs. They should have provided suggestions for an optional power source plug separate from the Ethernet cable. If you’re installing new and not replacing existing antenna or router or trying to use existing RV factory-installed Ethernet cable, the Everest install is straightforward with very clear directions.
Bottom line on the Converge Everest
Bottom line: I really like the Converge Everest system. Its speed is such an improvement over our current antenna and router that am considering switching. At $800 for the high-end Everest and Spruce router pack, it is a commitment though.
The software seems a bit glitchy to me and I am assuming it is a work-in-progress. I was kicked out of connection with the park several times but I can’t really determine if that was the unit or the park. I have been thrilled to be able to have fast enough speeds to do all the writing, surfing and emailing I want over WiFi. As full-timers who need large amounts of data, integrated cell and WiFi, this will be a very welcome addition, particularly if cell data costs go down or unlimited plans become available.
Watch the video below to learn more about the Converge Everest, and visit WiFiRanger’s website here.