How to get Internet Anywhere in Australia – Remote Internet Guide

Update 22 SEP 21 – We have teamed up with TelcoAntennas to be able to offer this setup as a package, along with a 5% extra discount for our readers!

Use code 649d36ue for the extra discount!

We have recently uploaded a video that explains everything here in further detail – Check it out below

Hi Everyone,

I am a self confessed tech nerd, and a Communications Technician by trade, so saying I am interested in this stuff is a bit of an understatement.

I love the Internet, and having it as much as possible is a priority for me.

Mobile Coverage and Providers

First things first out of the mobile carriers – Telstra is the carrier of choice, followed by Boost, followed by any Telstra reseller (such as Aldi), then Optus or any Optus reseller. If you have Vodafone, pretty much don’t bother outside of major population centres. It’s not bagging Vodafone or Optus, it’s just that they genuinely haven’t invested in towers outside of major population centres. Optus is heaps better than Vodafone, but still a poor 2nd to Telstra.

Why Telstra or Boost and not Aldi or the other resellers who use the Telstra Network? The resellers only provide access to the Wholesale Telstra Network, which is NOT the full network. A good map comparison is here:

A screen Capture from the Whistleout Interactive Map. Take a look at the Nullarbor as an Example.

So just to Recap: Telstra or Boost will provide you the full Telstra Coverage. Anyone else simply will not. Telstra especially are starting to roll out 5G on the 850MHZ spectrum, which will provide better speeds to much bigger areas. I Don’t believe as of writing this (June 2021) that they will provide that extra 5G coverage to Boost customers.


If you ask on any of the travelling Facebook pages, or pretty much anywhere, you will be advised to use the Celfi-Go repeater system. Don’t Do it! I have one, and purchased one based on advice I received. This system is stuck in the 2000’s and will not provide you the best services that you can get, and it’s BLOODY expensive.

It works as a repeater, you buy an external antenna, (like this one) And then you plug it into the Cel-Fi, the Cel-Fi “Boosts” the signal, and outputs the “Boosted” signal to another, small antenna that gives anyone in range a 5 bar phone signal. There are a few problems with this.

  • The Boosted signal is only available in a small area, depending on the antenna you are using. Usually inside a car/van is all.
  • The Antenna is doing pretty much all of the work here. There is no real “Boost” from the Cel-Fi unit itself. It’s NOT giving you better internet speeds
  • Modern Modems/Phones use a thing called “MIMO” (Multi in, Multi Out) where they use multiple antennas to increase data speeds. Some phones and modems are able to do 2×2 MIMO, and some are able to do 4×4 MIMO. Cel-Fi is not capable of this, it is single antenna in, single antenna out.
  • Cel-Fi is essentially designed for 3G Voice, and it will greatly help you to maintain a voice call in remote areas. This is what it is designed for, not internet data.
RFI COL7195 Omni Antenna. A decent option, but not the best.

Nighthawk M5 and M1/M2 Modems

So what’s a better option than a Cel-fi Go? Basically any 3G/4G/5G Modem that has external antenna ports.

My choice is the relatively new Nighthawk M5 Modem from Telstra. I purchased directly from them for a price of $799. This modem is fully functional on the 5G network, including the new 850MHZ 5G spectrum.

This modem also functions well on 3g/4g, and has 2 external antenna ports, so it can do 2×2 MIMO with an external antenna or two. Also, this modem has a battery in it, so it can operate with no power supply for a period of time. It also is quite durable. (We left ours behind once, and it was run over by a car and caravan before we retrieved it, with only a slight crack in the front plastic!) It also displays Data used for the month on the front of it, which is quite convenient.

External Antenna

We have tried multiple antenna, to reach a point we are happy with. We aren’t sponsored by these guys, but have found the service to be great and the shipping speed fast.

We have ended up with (and are happy with) the

RFI Wideband MIMO Panel Antenna

This antenna is small, light (This is important) and works really well. It’s Directional also. (This is quite important as it lets you select which tower you want to communicate with)

The important point here is that it’s directional. There are multiple options, but a directional antenna lets you point the antenna straight at the tower you want to talk to. (We’ll get to that later in the article.)

IT also has two physical antennas located within the enclosure, and two separate leads coming out of it down to your modem. This means that it can do 2×2 MIMO and gives you double the data throughput of a single Antenna.

A Mast (Or how you get it up in the air so it’s useful)

We went through a bit of an evolution to get to where we are today, and where we are happy with our mast. We started with a large Painters pole from Bunnings.

This was a reasonable option, and cheap since we already owned it. Unfortunately the panel antenna plus a strong wind decided to start bending it until we weren’t able to retract and extend it properly. So we rate this option a C-

We decided to just do things properly, and purchased (also from TelcoAntennas) this drawbar mounted option.

Drawbar Mounted mast from TelcoAntennas.

This is a 5.7m mast that attaches to the drawbar of your trailer, caravan or whatever. We got it with the U bolts for a 100mm tall drawbar, and we put it on the back of our caravan. It lives there all the time, and when we get to a site that we want better (or any) internet at, we simply attach the panel antenna and raise the mast up.

Our antenna on the back of our Caravan

DISCOUNT CODE FOR OUR KIT – Use code 649d36ue for 5% discount!

How to use an external Panel Antenna

So some of you may ask, how do I use this panel antenna on a mast? The answer is a pretty simply app called Aus Phone Towers.

This is a great, Aussie developed and run App that specifically provides information to anyone, for free, about what phone towers there are in the area you are in, how much bandwidth they have and what services they provide. I’ve put a screenshot below from Cape Hillsborough, near Mackay, QLD.

Cape Hillsborough, QLD. Showing the towers in the area and what bandwidth they provide

So when we got to the Caravan Park here, we had 0-1 Bars of reception on our phones. I opened this app, and it quickly showed me exactly where the Telstra Tower was that I was connected to, and what services it had. I simply pointed the Panel Antenna at this tower and it was good to go.

How much difference does it make?

So here is a real world speed test from Cape Hillsborough Caravan Park in QLD. This is a popular major caravan park in a reasonable populated area of the world, and it says on Wikicamps that there is Telstra Reception available.

Here is a Speedtest done on my Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. This is pretty much the best phone and antenna you can possibly buy at the moment.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Speed Test

This 3.3mbps is just use-able internet. It will be slow and unreliable, barely able to load a website, and almost certainly not able to actually use Youtube or Netflix.

Using the Nighthawk M5 and external Antenna pointed at the tower

Now that is what I’m talking about. 22mbps is great internet speed, and is perfectly able to do everything you need to do on the internet, even upload a Youtube Video. This is in the exact same spot as the mobile speedtest above, but over Wifi and through the Nighthawk 5G and the RFI External Antenna.

How much did it Cost us for this setup?

All the prices are at TelcoAntennas, but pretty much:

  • Modem – $799
  • Mast – $285
  • Antenna – $313

Telstra costs us about $75/Month for 400Gb on their new Data Only Plan.

DISCOUNT CODE FOR OUR KIT – Use code 649d36ue for 5% discount!

What about the future? What about Satellite Internet and Starlink?

Like many nerds, I am very, very interested in Elon Musk (of Tesla and SpaceX Fame) and his Starlink satellite internet system. This is a system of Low Earth Orbit satellites, at 550km above the earth. showing Australian Coverage of Starlink Satellites

At the time of writing there are over 1400 of these satellites launched, and they are slowly coming out of their Beta trials worldwide. Currently (June 2021) they are servicing to the top of NSW, across to Perth and south of that line.

Early reports are very very good. 300mbps up and 40mbps down, and anywhere in that area.
Starlink are rapidly expanding this network (Including a Central Queensland base station!) and it’s predicted that by the end of 2021 they will have full coverage of all of Australia with their high speed internet.

Costs at the moment are $699 for the hardware, and $139/Month for unlimited downloads.

We have signed up for the Beta Program and will give it a go as soon as we are invited to try it out.


So love them or hate them, Telstra are really the only option if you are travelling Australia. We are waiting to see whether they will allow Boost access to their 5g 850MHZ network or not.

At the moment, they are the only real option, but the good news is that they have significantly upped their data limits on their phone and data plans. We have a 400gb a month Data plan for $75 a month with Telstra. Once we have Starlink, we are unsure whether we will ditch the Nighthawk or not. I think it’s more convenient in metro areas to simply have the Nighthawk modem with no external antenna or satellite dish.

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146 responses to “How to get Internet Anywhere in Australia – Remote Internet Guide”

  1. Ben Strachan

    Does the antenna need power? I assume the modem and antenna needs 240v power? Do you run the antenna leads through window to get to modem?

    1. Hi Ben, Answered on Facebook I believe, but for everyone elses benefit! The Antenna is unpowered and receives its power from the modem, and the modem is 12V or 240V. Yes, we run the antenna leads through our window.

  2. Craig

    Great article, thanks for going to all the effort!!
    Very keen on the Starlink System, note you signed up for the Beta Trial, do you know if that means you have a separate type of antenna for s Caravan or is it the same as the one they have for a house set up?

    1. No problems thanks!

      The Beta I signed up for is the normal house one. I haven’t been able to reach anyone at Starlink to try and become a BETA tester for the mobile version.

  3. How are you finding the T9 connectors on the Nighthawk? Mine seem to be flimsy and wondering if it’s me, or a design flaw?

    1. They are a touch Flimsy but I am just careful with mine. Not sure if the M5 and the M2 have the same connector exacty.

        1. Thanks Terry! We’ve discussed it with Telco Antennas and they are changing to a pigtail style of connector.

  4. Sang Le

    I think Starlink is geo-lock. So you can’t use it with your camp. I hope Starlink will remove this lock in the future.

    1. At the moment yes, however you can just update your address when you move at the moment. They will definitely remove it when BETA is finished.

      1. Maurice Furlan

        A novice here. Excellent article and thanks. Can starlink be used on a yacht at sea if sailing?

        1. Hi Maurice,

          Not yet, but they are developing fully mobile versions now.

  5. Mouse

    Hi, Have you any feedback using a Telstra 5g WiFi Pro (MU 500) with the subject aerial or any assumptions? I understand by the post your preference is the Netgear Nighthawk

    1. Hi Mouse, there’s a great thread on Whirlpool Forums about this device –

      As far as I am aware, this device does not detect external antennas and there is no way to switch the antennas to external. It is very disappointing for us rural folk. My antenna supports the whole range from 698-3800mhz, but I have two of these modems and neither one will recognise it, despite it working perfectly with all my other modems.

  6. Great article and test. It would have been interesting to see how the Cel-Fi GO would have performed in the above experiment.

    I also have the GO product in a caravan and use a similar setup with a panel (non MIMO) antenna up a pole. A lot of my camping is in remote areas where there is one bar of the 4G 700 frequecy dropping in and out. Using the GO to boost the signal has resulted in data speed increasing generally from 1mbps up to 30+mbps. Bars generally go from 1 to at least 3, which seems to be my sweet spot for that boost in data speeds.

    Im guessing a MIMO modem wins hand down in good signal areas, but my camping is mostly in very bad signal areas where the GO seems to work well for both voice and 4G internet. So was happy to pay the extra to get voice. Also your setup with the pole is key to good signal and also the coverage area the GO provides to phones. Once the antenna is up the pole I get around 20-30 metres of boosted coverage around the van. Sometimes a bad thing when you dont want new friends.

    My next buy for my birthday will be a device called a Cellferno, which is basically a MIMO modem and antenna in one box up a pole.

    1. Hi Paul, so sorry you’re comment went to a hidden inbox 🙁
      We have a Youtube vid going up tonight with more explanation and test results if interested.

      1. Just checked this video and it says “This video isn’t available any more”

  7. Very helpful, thank you. Do you use both external aerial connectors on the Nighthawk M5? If so, how does that work? Are there two aerial cables up to the external receiver? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Ben,

      This is MIMO. Yes I use both ports, and yes if your antenna is MIMO capable (essentially it has two antennas in the one shell) it will have two seperate antenna cables coming out of it to plug into the modem.

  8. Hi, I am very certain you know what you are talking about but I did just recently get a cel-fi go in my caravan on our farm. We had 1 bar and could not use the phone, you tube, Netflix etc. Sometimes but not often you could use Facebook. Now we have 4 bars of 3G and the phone signal is perfect (I know you mentioned the phone would be the best), and full internet including Netflix and You tube. Downloading an update yes is still slow but considering we have never had reception here this is excellent news for us. So after spending the money on all this I can’t now turn around and get different gear. I need to upgrade my portable wi fi device though so the Netgear one you put up would or could this work well with my cel-fi? Or is their anything to add to what I have to make the cel-fi work better and get 4G? Thanks. Great article. I wished I had seen it sooner.

    1. Hi Jenni,

      Try forcing the CelFi to use 4g instead of 3g.

      The external antenna will be doing most of the work.

      Basically ANY 4g modem should work ok with your CelFi, the Nighthawk would be overkill.

      If you still want to improve I recommend chatting to the guys at TelcoAntennas, they can sort you out with a fixed solution.

  9. G’day,
    If you pull up at a camp site and just out of range with your phone, you can’t use the Aus towers app. But if you could put the mast and antennae up you’d have a signal.

    So how do you find the towers if you can’t get the app up and running? Do you run the pole up with antennae and turn until get a signal?

    I don’t like the idea of putting lead through a window, because of bugs etc, is there a way to have a plug on outside of van to plug antennae into, so it then feeds into nighthawk modem inside?


    1. Hi Greg,

      If I know in advance that there won’t be reception (usually check on Wikicamps) I’ll find the towers.

      Otherwise yes just put it up and it only takes 20 seconds to spin it around and find a signal.

      As for the lead through, we actually put some of that sticky foam strip you can get from Bunnings on the aluminium joiner where the flyscreen joins the blind. I cut out a 1cm notch and out the lead through that so that no bugs can get in.

  10. Love the article. A great help to us novices.
    I have a Telstra 4GX Hotspot with the two external TS9 antenna connectors.
    If I get the RFI antenna you suggest, do I need adapters to connect to the TS9s?
    Did you look at alternative antennas, like the LPDA type or the 698-2700MHz 4G LTE Signal Booster Amplifier Antenna advertised on Ebay, or are they even legal in Australia?
    Thanks again for some great info.

    1. Hi mate,

      First, yes your modem will work with the external antenna. Make sure you get a MIMO external antenna.

      Secondly, yes you will need an adapter. Make sure it’s MIMO, TS-9 to SMA.

      Lastly, the LPDA are ok, I ordered some and tried them out, however for me they were too bulky compared to the panel antenna.

      Hope this helps!

  11. Mad post mate lookin forward to this starlink, we paid $500 for RV WIFI and its absolute garbage to add amongst all your tried and tested products. We were looking at going the nighthawk recently but may hold off for the starlink 👍

    1. Thanks mate. Yep I’ve seen the same from Rvwifi. It’s just because it doesn’t have a decent antenna and the antenna does most of the work in these setups.

      One thing about Starlink at the moment, the dish is tripod based and can’t be moved while installed, so it would mean packing it up and opening it out every move, AND you have to find a relatively clear patch of sky. Not always possible in caravan parks or forests etc.

      Apparently the fully mobile dish will be mid next year from my sources.

  12. Thanks for your post, it’s very helpful as I’m starting here from a very low base. There are two tower sites around our house here. The closest is 6.2 Km away, but is on the other side of a very significant hill. The other is probably nearly line of sight but 23 Km away. Would your recommended antenna pull in a signal from that far away. We have nighthawk M2, and at present the speeds are 1.7 down and 3.8 up.

    1. Hi guys, I would recommend speaking to a professional in your situation. The guys at Telco Antennas can probably help you better with a fixed situation. Being mobile for us it’s all about the best thing for a lot of different situations, not the specific best in one situation like yours.

  13. Just got this article as the internet speed in most of regional Australia is woeful. Currently in Alice Springs and speed varies dependent on the number of visitors in town and the distance from a tower. I have a RVWifi modem with a Telstra SIM in our van and wondered if a couple of the spare antenna ports would work as with MIMO things you explained.?

    A local community tech up here said the same for the Celfigo , very expensive, and talked me out of it, yet a friend says his works fine. I like the idea of a pumped up antenna.

    1. Hi David,

      You’ll have to check the Rv WIFI, I’m not sure if it works with MIMO or not. Your friends CelFi Go would work, but not as well as a Nighthawk modem with the same antenna.

  14. Peter Prassinos

    Thanks for explaining this topic in a clear and easily understandable manner which has widely differing opinions – usually around the camp fire with a few drinks put into the mix!
    The configuration that you recommend is still very expensive – approx $1,400 and with the speed of technological improvements it can be superseded in just a matter of months – eg Starlink. So it is hard to commit to this set-up when you don’t know if something better and cheaper is just around the corner.
    We travel about 4 – 6 months of the year into sometimes quite remote areas and used to have a Telstra USB modem with an external antenna that sat on the roof of the van with one of those heavy bases (magnetic) However after a while we found that the phone just by itself performed better than the modem with the antenna! And in areas where the tower signal was blocked by mountains – nothing at all was picked up from the modem and antenna. So my question is – would the RFI Wideband MIMO Panel Antenna that you recommend work with the Telstra USB modem?
    Another issue that perplexes us is the use of our Testra data. We have an unlimited data plan at home and would love to have access to it when we are travelling. This is probably a question to ask Telstra, but would you know why we can’t access our home data plan while travelling?

    1. Hi Peter,

      If your Telstra USB modem has an antenna port (Sounds like it does) then yes you can pretty much attach any antenna. You may prefer a large omni antenna for ease of use instead though.

      With Telstra data, they definitely don’t let you use your home data on mobile, sorry!

      1. Andrew Duggan

        Hi Peter
        Also consider the Nighthawk M2 instead of the Nighthawk M5. the M5 adds 5g which is probably not strictly necessary in the vast majority of locations. You can get the M2 for ~$10 per month from Telstra.
        Might be worth cancelling you home internet all together and using the Nighthawk at home (which I do). You can get 400gb for $75 as above and Telstra have just added data sharing back in so you can data share between phones and the mobile broadband plan.

        1. This can be a good idea!

  15. Hi – looking at the it has two connector/cable options – 10m LMR195 cable with SMA Male, and same but 500mm N-Female. Presume you used the SMA Male – did it connect straight to the Nighthawk, or anything else needed?

    1. Hi Rob,

      Yep, the 10m SMA male, but yes you do definitely need an SMA to TS9 adapter also.

      1. Can these adapters also be bought from telco antennas? Can you provide a link please? Just want to make sure I get the correct one.

        1. Hi Rhea, so sorry for the delay, you’re comment went to a hidden inbox. They can, they should be a part of the package options!

  16. Stu Hunter

    Folks is probably superior to other ‘tower listing sites’. It is a direct feed from the ACMA RFNSA and allows you to identify towers in your vicinity. You can then aim your antenna.
    The antenna has an approx 30 degree nose width too, so you don’t have to be super precise.

    1. Hi Stu,

      Thanks for the input. I believe Aus Phone Towers simply pull the data straight from there and put it into an easier to view format.

      Yes. very true about the 30 degree pattern!

  17. Neil Comport

    Hi Daniel,
    As a tech nuff nuff , absolutely loved your article.
    We are getting a new van, and intend to go with your setup.
    Do you know whether the new Orbi 4gx router with satellite is worth considering?
    Thanks Neil

    1. Hi Neil,

      Thanks. I wouldn’t personally – Looking at pics of the unit it DOES have antenna ports, but it also doesn’t have 5G and I don’t think it runs on 12V or battery, although I’m not 100% sure.

      And when it says “Satellite” it means a satellite (second) unit that spreads the wifi further, not that it actually connects up to a satellite in the sky for internet 🙂

      1. Neil Comport

        Thanks 🙏

  18. Hi, I’m planning to get this exact setup as I trust you know what you’re talking about 🙂
    I’m looking at antenna on telco antennas. It has two connector/cable options. Which option do I choose? Would this just plug straight into the modem?
    Also looking at the mast. I have a Jayco camper trailer so when I pull out the beds, they are above the drawbar so I’m unable to mount the mast on my drawbar. What else would you recommend?

    1. Hi Rhea, so sorry again for the delay, you’re comment went to a hidden inbox 🙁 Have you purchased and need more info? We have more details in tonight’s Youtube ep if interested and still looking!

  19. Geoffrey Keir

    I have been looking for dual through-the-wall connectors (SMA or other suitable) but can’t find anything. We have an F type through-the-wall connector for a satellite TV and wanting something similar.

    1. Hi Geoffrey, so sorry for the delay, you’re comment went to a hidden inbox. Telco Antennas may have something to suit, have you tried asking them? We have seen a couple of options, but also was sent something another follower made themselves. We’ve added a pic to our article and have included it in tonight’s Youtube vid here 🙂

  20. Neil Comport

    Hi Daniel , Telco are advising me to go for M2 as they say M5 has drop out in cables and would require larger cabling !
    Any thoughts ?
    Thanks Neil

    1. Hi Neil,

      I’m not sure how to answer this sorry, it’s the first I’ve heard of it… I’ll contact Telco Antennas and ask for some more info!

  21. Jody Hodgson

    This is a brilliant article and is some information I have been trying to wade through! I had already purchased a pre loved Netgear Nighthawk M1 I got this as it is MIMO and from my understanding it is mostly 3g in rural areas? I am not too fussed on the 5G network as we are literally needing it in rural free camp areas.. I have been holding back on the antenna solution and toying with the Cell Fi go options for a while, so your post is so timely for me to come across. Do you think the antenna choice is still the best solution and with my M1 for 3g/4g in rural areas?

    1. Thanks Jody,

      M1 should be ok with the panel antenna! We have a discount code, 4651320q that will get you 5% off the package at Telco Antennas 🙂


      1. John Carrigan

        Hi in the posts above you mention about discount code 4651320q that will get you 5% off the package at Telco Antennas, but I’ve tried the code and it’s invalid.

        Do you have another code please?

        1. Hi John,

          This has been updated, can you please check again?

  22. Mate love your article keep up the great work.. I’m looking to buy my van next year and travel in a couple of years. I will be looking out for more of you up graded article. Thanks again

    1. No worries thanks! I’ll keep it updated with new tech as it happens 🙂

  23. Excellent article. Thank you. This is the most useful read that we have found. We are working around North Queensland in many internet service-challenged locations and have been along pretty much every pathway that you outline. We have large data uploads. Also now waiting for Starlink to be available as a mobile option. CellFiGo switched to 4G with Nighthawk M2 in the vehicle appears to have improved performance but have not observed definite proof yet with a large data upload job. A vision would be for Starlink to function as mobile service with the self-positioning dish on the roof like our Alden satellite VAST TV system. Nice to think about.

  24. Gillian Sutherland

    Thank you so much for the info you have provided in this article. We are heading off to do The Loop early next year, and have to run our distribution business whilst on the road, so reliable internet will make or break our trip. I have ploughed through so much info, and I’m not really great with tech stuff, but am going to go with everything you’ve suggested. If it can make the chore of working on the road a little less stressful it will be worth every cent.
    Love looking at all of your beautiful photography as well, thanks

    1. No worries!

      Please make sure to use the discount code for the package to get a few dollars off!

      1. Gillian Sutherland

        Hi Dan, we have purchased everything you suggested in the article, and are in the process of setting up ready to go. My question if you can help is, regarding accessing wifi in the car whilst driving (unfortunately we are working on the road) using the Nighthawk modem, what is the best antennae to use for this, and where would be the best place to attach it, bearing in mind we have an antennae already on the vehicle for a sat phone? Thanks in advance

        1. Hi Gillian,

          For the car, any omnidirectional antenna will work, I suggest the 1.2m one, however you can get away with smaller if you need to.

          The higher it’s attached the better, but most people put them on the bullbar.

          Just run the cable into the car and plug into the nighthawk.

          Saying that, the nighthawk has pretty bloody good internal antennas already, so you may want to try using it while driving without any antenna and see how you go.

  25. FYI, there’s a backorder with the Telco Antennas .com so will have to wait until they come back in stock 🙁

    1. BUgger! Hopefully they can get on top of it. Too popular!

  26. Hey mate, Just purchased and fitted one of these and testing it out now 🙂 Thanks for all of the info.
    As someone mentioned above, the cables into the back of the modem are very loose, should these be tight to get a good connection as I haven’t seen an uplift in the speed??
    Is there any other setup I need to do other than point it at a tower?
    Thanks again

    1. Hi Simon,

      The internal antennas in the Nighthawk are pretty awesome, if you are already in a good reception area you may not see much of an improvement.

      The cables should be firmly pressed in to the modem connectors, but will still rotate freely.

      Definitely with the antenna pointed to the tower you should see a reception increase, and removing the antennas and replacing them in should give you a definite difference in reception.

      If you want to test that the antenna is working, you can try removing it from the mast, pointing it directly at the ground and connecting it to the modem, you should see no bars of reception in that case!

  27. Hi Simon. Does the area cables connect straight into the nighthawk m5 or do you also need a modem. I am just confused with the wording of router and modem and wonder if I also need a modem with the nighthawk ?

    1. Hi Jo, THe Nighthawk is both a modem and a router, so no need for any extra devices 🙂


  28. Like the sound of it. Just need to be allowed to use the phone data or the home data, paying twice is not reasonable.

    1. Hi Ray, Telstra now have data share, so you could do a small sim plan in the Modem and a larger one in the mobile and share the data?

  29. Andrew Duggan

    Thanks for putting this fantastic article together. Great info!
    Now just got to wait for some stock to arrive 🙂

  30. Really great information here, thank you.
    I have a question please, we recently saw a set up which sounded almost to good to be true. The set up was a telco telescopic mast, “T” fitted to the mast head, this had two omni CDQ7197 antennas attached, both then plugged into a nighthawk M5. Total height 8m.
    This is the interesting part he claims he can receive a signal 300k from the tower?? Internet only.
    Is this possible?
    If doubtful, are we better off with the MIMO panel antenna, as you suggest gives the best coverage.

    1. Hi Rob,

      Thanks for the email.

      I’m interested about the height, the rule of thumb is that an extra Metre of height equals about 1db of better signal, however that can be misleading as the extra height can get you over objects etc.

      Generally the taller the better.

      Saying that, everything with travel is a compromise on size and weight, this is the reason for our setup. The directional antenna on our mast on our towbar sits at about 6.7m off the ground, so there would be minimal difference there.

      Telco antennas suggest this which I’ve found to be accurate –

      Range with an external antenna can extend as far as 40km (a number of customers on islands off the coast of QLD), 25-30km over land with good line of sight, but most commonly about 15km for most rural areas. With no external antenna connections are generally limited to 3-7km, hence why coverage maps suggest about 5km.

      I’ve heard of people getting up to about 80km range of 4G over perfectly flat ground to a really tall Telstra tower, with a large and really heavy Yagi Antenna, but it’s more of an experiment than anything else.

      Apparently 3G can extend further out to a max of 120km with a perfect directional antenna and no obstacles.

      So I’m not going to call him a liar, but I haven’t ever seen that sort of range and didn’t think it was possible, especially from an omni antenna that doesn’t focus its signal in a specific area.

      Telco antennas has this setup which sounds like what you are describing –

      Personal choice, but I prefer my antenna. It’s smaller, lighter, directional (which by physics is significantly better) and also does 5g.

  31. Thanks very much for your very quick reply.
    Unfortunately we don’t know the chap who showed us his setup so can’t get any more info.
    Thanks again

  32. Noting the earlier comments from Cape Hillsborough. Have you any experience with your setup at Armstrong Beach, just south of Sarina? CellFi Go is certainly not giving us and improvement here with mobile internet. Thanks.

  33. Great write up thanks Daniel and totally agree on the over hyped Celfi – got one put in the van when it was built but poor internet speed meant I have since taken it out and installed a Nighthawk modem. The external omni antenna was installed with an electric lift function which obviously makes putting it up easy but I’m now thinking to get more speed and better signal I should be going to either 2 omni antennas or a directional one like you. My questions – if I did 2 omnis would that automatically double my speed using MIMO (or doesn’t it work that way). And secondly if I went Directional – how much better is that again??

    1. Hi Greg,

      I’m not exactly sure how 2 omni’s can do Mimo, but I know you can buy a single omni that has MIMO (2 antennas internally) Adding a second antenna and achieving MIMO will sometimes double your speed, but usually 1.5X more. I can’t speak on what’s the best solution for you personally, directional is good for multiple reasons but it’s more mucking around.

  34. Hi. Thank you for the great article.
    My question is, your system is great when the van is parked etc etc.
    Do you recommend an antenna that can be used on the van grab enough signal when driving, such that the wifi will penetrate the car in most cases, before switching to the directional antenna when static. Thank you Tom

    1. Hi Tom,

      It depends how much remote touring you are doing, and how much you would like internet in the vehicle.

      The nighthawk itself has great antennas built in, however if you really want more in the car, we would recommend purchasing an omnidirectional antenna and mounting it on your vehicle. Run the antenna cables into the vehicle, and simply move the Nighthawk from the Caravan to the vehicle, plug the antenna in and away you go. THe nighthawk battery lasts for about 4 – 5 hours without charging, or can be charged with any USB-C cable in the car.

      It’s one of the great benefits of it’s portability that you can just pick it up and move it really easily.


  35. Hi Dan, Thanks for making it all so clear.. My rig is a toyota coaster and does not have a draw bar. Any thoughts on how I could secure the antenna? Thanks in advance. Cheers Michael

    1. Hi Mate,

      I’m not sure sorry! I know Telco have magnetic mounts for cars, you could check that out? Otherwise I’m sure there is a way 🙂

  36. Thanks Dan… appreciate you sharing your wisdom with us.

  37. Hi
    We are looking at travelling Australia. I work in IT so will need acceptable internet in remote areas (top of Australia) to be able to remote into pc’s and attend meetings via teams which also control our voice calls.
    I found this very interesting, thank you for sharing. If you can offer any further advise to me, i would be very appreciative.

    1. Your’re welcome! Happy to answer any other questions you may have!

  38. This is an excellent guide for boosting the internet in sketchy areas but what about voice calls or SMS?. I agree with all your sentiments on the Cel-fi Go but I would have thought that boosting the mobile signal would have boosted it for both voice and data so you could then use “any” device that requires a SIM card.

    1. Hi Rene, sorry for the delay in the reply! Most phones and providers use VOWIFI now which is voice over wifi for calls, so having good internet means you’ll make good calls. We have more details explaining in ounights youtube vid here if interested – 6:30pm EDST. 🙂

  39. Hello again Dan, I have just bought all the gear and would like to get your thoughts on if the setup will work in this scenario. We have chosen a destination at 48 Johnstons Rd, Invergordon NSW 2422. If you enter this address in the Telstra coverage maps its not covered by 4g or 3g.

    I know lots of assumptions like hills, trees, line of sight etc…. but do you think the suggested setup would get internet that far away?

    Be interested to get your thoughts. Thanks as always. Michael

  40. Hi Dan,

    Love the article and very timely for me to come across it.

    1 question if i may. Your set up is giving you better internet but what about phone signal?

    I was thinking along the lines of a Cel fi in the car for phone signal and a Nighthawk in the van for internet.

    We do a bit of touring and i need decent phone signal when away from the van.

    Thanks Russell

    1. Hi Russell,

      The Celfi does both reasonably, however the Nighthawk really does internet well.

      If you are with Telstra you can use your phone over Wifi to get phone calls (Called VoWIFI).

      But your solution would also work!


  41. Russell

    Thanks Dan. Appreciate you coming back to me

  42. Great article, thankyou. Any update on Starlink? Have you converted over yet? I am planning a lap with kids/home-schooling in April 2022 and just setting up our new van now. I’ll do my own research on Starlink but I’d be interested to know where you guys are up to with it

    1. Hi, we are beta testing Starlink but haven’t been able to do enough yet!

  43. Chris Janzon

    Great article mate, we are about to hit the road in March for our lap & working through best options for us. Any updates on the Starlink, have you got it set up here in Aus and how are you finding it as a comparison?

    1. We have it setup and are beta testing it.

  44. Hi Dan
    Doesn’t the Nighthawk also need another sim card in it so access the internet. So people will actually be out of pocket each month depending what data plan they are or have to pay for a sim card to access their own data on share. Celfi go as you described is only boosting the signal of the mobile phone but not requiring another another cost of sim card. Im currently looking into this for myself. It would be great if we could access our own data for free with a once of cost to purchase another sim from Telco supplier.

    1. Hi Lindsay, you are correct, however Telstra data plans for these are pretty generous now, IE. 400gb for $75/month.

      You can also data share between sims on Telstra now.

      Hope this helps.

  45. Wow. This is awesome info. I would have just believed what the sales rep in a store told me and probably get led astray. Thanks.

  46. Dave Thompson

    Hi Dan

    Agree with other comments that this is a great article and like others I have a question. I already have a mast for a TV antenna that attaches to the side of my RV. Could I simply attach the directional antenna you recommend to that mast or would the TV and WIFI interfere with each other. Would love to use what I have rather then get more stuff to carry around. Any thoughts or comments appreciated.

    1. Hi Dave, sorry for the delayed reply. I don’t think the two antennas would interfere with each other. 🙂 We have a Youtube vid going up tonight which explains our set-up more if you’re interested 🙂

  47. Great info thanks
    Have you used the M5 with a usb connection to 12v dc without battery in unit, as I have heard leaving battery in fulltime can lead to overheating of battery/unit?

    1. Hi Malcolm, no we haven’t used it without the battery in it but it is definitely possible to do so. It is recommended in a household situation where you will never take it off charge to do that, however we regularly take ours off charge to put in the truck or take with us somewhere so our battery gets used regularly. We have a Youtube Vid going up tonight with a bit more info about the system if you’re interested. 6:30pm EDST.

  48. Fantastic information, thanks for helping so many of us. We have a slight variation that we would like your opinion on. We don’t have a modem and use the data plans on our phones, we have one 5G phone and a 4G phone both with Telstra and a backup pay as you go Optus phone. We almost exclusively caravan in populated areas, but once in awhile have low coverage while inside the caravan. We’ve been considering a low cost solution using a Strike Alpha phone cradle, which is designed for use in a car which supports a Mimo antenna. Will this setup boost the data as well as the voice? Again we usually have quality coverage and only periodically need a bit of a boot. Thanks for your guidance.

    1. Hi Tom,

      I haven’t heard of that product sorry, but it sounds like it should do the job for you!

  49. Hi,
    great info thanks!

    When I try to access the video your refer to above several times it says it is private – how do I see it?


    1. Hi mate, thanks for letting me know.

      Try this one –

  50. Ian Austin

    I have spoken with people that have your setup and claiming it works in most of Australia. I live in the Kimberley and travel remote quiet often, also in the NT.
    I’ve been told it will work in areas well away from towns and highways, is this correct?
    From my experience nothing works in remote areas. I’m very keen if your system will work where I now have to use satellite coms when my celfi won’t pick up a signal. I currently have a 10m mast with a yogi aerial.
    Looking forward to your input.

    1. Hi Ian,

      IF you aren’t getting any signal at all with a Yagi and a 10m mast (and Cel-Fi) then our setup won’t improve that situation. That’s truly outside the network.

      If you were using a cel-fi with a normal Omni, I would say that our mast and directional antenna would give you more signal further from towers, or if you were getting a signal with a Yagi and mast and Cel-fi, but the internet speed was really bad, our setup would definitely help that.

      Hope this helps clarify it. We aren’t about trying to get people to buy something that won’t improve their situation.

      Also – Please keep an eye on our page for Starlink info. We are Beta testing the mobility/roaming features of it now and it’s absolutely bloody incredible. Just needs a fully mobile dish and the laser satellite shell completed and it will be good to go in all of AUS. (Likely by mid next year?) For example we are in an area that’s got a tiny telstra 4G tower at the moment but we can’t even get signal standing underneath the tower, and Starlink on our caravan roof is delivering 400mbps/60mbps with a ping of 40-60.

  51. David H

    I’m also closely following StarLink – just don’t think it’s going to be ready in a portable fashion for a trip this May 🙁

  52. Thanks so much for the info! I am just searching for an antenna for home for my Nighthawk M1, not planning on travelling with it. At least I now understand the difference in antennas!
    Not sure if the antenna would be an overkill.. I am around 600 m from the next tower. Thanks!

    1. All good! The only reason for you to get an antenna would be to put it outside of you have poor reception inside, but if your speeds are good, I wouldn’t worry about it!

  53. Hi Daniel,
    Just a short message of thanks to you for researching this solution out. I am a mechanical designer who regularly works from a caravan while travelling….currently just outside of Tocumwal. I conduct huge downloads from my server at home in Adelaide. Even though I am only 5km from Tocumwal, I could not get the downloads to complete successfully using my Samsung S21 or with the M5 Nighthawk on the table…then I assembled the antenna onto the pole and viola!! 4.6gb file in less than 20 minutes….saved my bacon. Thanks heaps and happy travels.

    1. No worries mate, glad to help!

  54. Elizabeth Creagh

    I have been reading heaps about the different systems to use in remote areas of Australia but I am now somewhat confused.
    I need to be able to work using my mobile phone and laptop when in remote areas that currently don’t have any coverage. At least non that seem to work with ordinary phones.
    Example, Palmer River, Qld. Starlink mobile would be the answer but alas not available yet so is there anything else that I could use in the interim. Or can I use starlink and set it up at each location as I would be there a month at a time or longer. Hope you can help me sort this problem.

    1. Hi Elizabeth, check out my recent article about Starlink, it has a map of the coverage area’s currently.

  55. Great info and also great YouTube channel. I am also waiting for Starlink to go mobile so I didn’t want to invest too much money so in the mean time do you think I would get any benefit from this antenna Thanks David

    1. Thanks for watching and the feedback. Sorry I can’t advise on this antenna as I haven’t tried it myself.

  56. James Burgess

    Hi Daniel

    Thanks for this video!

    We are currently in SA travelling around Aus, we already have the Nighthawk M2 and I would like to add your recommend antenna to improve the quality of internet.

    Your kit looks great but I’m not sure the swivel hinge will work on our expanda, as I think the beds popping out will foul the mast, I’ll need to come up with another mounting option for this. Is there anywhere in SA where I can buy the Antenna?
    Thanks again

    1. Hi James, sorry for the delayed reply. Not sure anyone in person sorry mate, we only deal with Telco Antennas.

  57. Sandra Broom

    I have been looking at purchasing this set up as I already have a Netgear Nighthawk 2. We are currently in the outback and I am very confused as to why my mobile phone has better reception than my Nighthawk. Both are connected with Telstra. I am concerned if I purchase the antenna for the Nighthawk that I may not be any better off. Are you able to tell me why I have better data access on my phone than I do my nighthawk? Is there some setting I need to change?

    1. Hi Sandra, I’m not too sure, it could be that your internal antennas on your M2 aren’t working correctly, or the two devices are connecting to different towers, it is really hard to tell when I’m not there. If you bought the kit you’d be in control of which tower the M2 connected to. Sorry I can’t help much more.

  58. Mark Lewis

    Starlink has a very high latency despite the fast download and upload. Also their current terms of service do not allow for mobile installations. Apparently it won’t work once you move too far away from your nominated location (usually your home address). They are talking about a mobile setup in the future but no timeframes as yet

    1. Hi Mark, Not sure if you are confusing Starlink with something else, but it has a lowish latency. They literally today allowed Portability for anyone, for an extra $35/month.

  59. Fiona

    Thanks for a great article. I’m trying to follow your set up and have discovered the Nighthawk M5 is out of stock. Will the M2 be ok? I understand it’s essentially the same but without 5G. Is this correct? The areas I’m travelling in don’t have 5G anyway.

    1. Hi Fiona, The M2 will be ok, but the M6 should be in stock with Telstra soon!

  60. Bruach

    Thanks for the tips and putting this together.

    What do you think about the tectonika rutx12 instead if the nighthawk m5?

    It’s difficult to source the m5 and I have found the teltonica for 700 locally.

    1. Looks like a good device. Not sure how “consumer” friendly it will be. If you are happy with it then go for it!

  61. Bruach

    I see you mentioned the m6. Have you heard this will be distributed by Telstra soon? Do you know when?

  62. paul sparks

    I know this has all been about Telstral but is there a system I could use with my Optus Mobile wifi modem.

    1. Hi Paul, So sorry I somehow missed your comment/question. I am really not sure. It would depend on the specifics of the modem, if it had ports to attach an external antenna or not. If it does, it would just be getting the right connectors and then kit would improve your connection.

  63. Hey mate great write up, My family and I really appreciate your knowledge on this set up it works great. I do have one question for you, might sound a bit silly but is there any chance I can set up a uhf aerial on the same mast, we have a base station on some pretty curvy country and often use radios to communicate. Any info would be great. Thanks a lot mate

    1. Hi Caleb, Not silly at all! You can have a UHF Specific antenna on the same mast. Telco Antenna’s sell Dual antenna mounts, so you’d have to look into one of these. Make sure you tell them we sent you!

  64. Hi Dan, thanks for the article, lots of great information in that.
    I’ve got a little experiment for you to try and I’m keen to hear the results.

    What if… you hoisted the Nighthawk up on top of the tower instead of the antenna…?
    What difference would there be in signal strength/speed?

    Running 12v up the pole (or relying on the battery – is it rechargeable?) would be cheaper than coax, and of course the cost of the antenna itself, if the results are similar, could be a cheaper option for people (and less equipment to store between uses).

    Would be dependant on the wifi range of the router, and would need to think about waterproofing for the modem (bag?) and the battery life…

    1. Hi Tom,

      I’ve seen someone doing this, in a sandwich bag running off battery up a pool pole, I mean, it probably works somewhat as an Omni antenna, but it’s not really a good setup is it ><

  65. Hi mate,
    I’ve been searching the net and although, I do go to remote areas camping, (this write up has been great for that) But my problem is #1, I’m with Vodafone and and I visit a mate in Rural NSW.
    Telstra service there is average mostly. The crux of my problem is I can’t use his Telstra to hotspot from because he is technically illiterate eg passwords. Is there something I can purchase from maybe Telstra/Optus? As I want to share with him the latest content from the Interweebs to try and prolong his demise into hermitage.
    Your response will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Evan, just saw this. I guess a Boost Sim with a prepaid data amount for your phone would be the best bet.

  66. Hi,
    If I was wanting to just use a mast/antenna to boost phone signal in my caravan without using a router how would I got about this. Happy to just hotspot from my phone as I get plenty of data included and don’t go away all that often

    1. You can’t sorry mate. The antenna has to plug into something!

  67. Hi so glad I stumbled across your article. I live in a rural area and would like to set up wifi security cameras. Would you recommend the Netgear Orbi 4GX Router or with Satellite or Netgear Nighthawk M6?

    1. Hi not sure sorry!

  68. I like your explanation and reasoning for how you came to your conclusions. I agree with them, my only question now is regarding the nighthawk M5. Telstra have superseded it with the M6. Is this an ‘improvement’ over the M5? Should I seek out an M5 or just go with the M6 that Telstra now offer?

    1. Hi mate, the M5 is just as good as the M6 in every real way.

  69. We just bought the pack from telco. Sorry to ask perhaps an obvious question but how do you know the antenna is working in your zone area? Is restarting the .M5 modem recommended once connected? Is the mast critical part of receiving the signal? Our has just been misplaced by star track unfortunately

    1. Hi Mate,

      In a strong signal area you won’t see any improvement over the M5 itself, you really need to be in a marginal area to get a result.

      If you need proper tech support please contact telco and they can walk you through it all, however generally it’s just a matter of plugging it in and pointing the antenna generally at a tower. It will work without the mast, but the mast makes a massive difference when you are in hilly areas or on the edges of the network.

      Hope this helps,

  70. Thinking of purchasing the Remote Data Setup from Telco, but at this stage with our caravan, we stay in caravan parks and on hipcamp sites. Would this setup work for us, as some caravan parks when really busy, the telephone signal is not good.

    1. Hi Steve,

      Potentially yes, the main advantages in a caravan park with reception, will be that you can get on a higher band to the tower than everyone else, OR you can point the antenna to select a less busy tower further away.

      This is a bit of fiddling around though.

      The other option is to carry a secondary carrier Sim, we regularly found that in some small travel towns Optus was heaps better in peak season (because all the travellers have Telstra.)

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