Wlan in the car: how to turn your car into a hotspot

How to equip your car with a proper WLAN network

On the way to vacation, passengers can surf the Internet extensively with their tablets. On the way to visit relatives on sunday the kids are streaming their movies in the backseat. And on the morning drive to work, podcasts or music ensure good moods without interruption. There are good reasons to be properly connected to the internet on four wheels as well.

Because anger and annoyance are programmed, if the many beautiful applications do not work smoothly. This is usually due to the way in which the Internet is distributed in the car.

"basically, we’re certainly spoiled by the smartphone," says holger ippen of the "auto zeitung" newspaper. "In cars, too, the Internet connection usually works best with the manufacturers’ on-board solutions."

Many cars are already connected to mobile radio

A SIM card integrated in the car and the vehicle’s own antenna are used, which significantly improves reception. "all newer vehicles today already have a SIM card for the emergency call E-call ex works. It doesn’t take much effort for manufacturers to make this mobile data connection usable for entertainment," explains ippen.

In the first three years, customers are usually free to use services such as real-time traffic data, weather forecasts or a gas station search. If you want more, you have to pay.

" in addition, these systems now also allow remote access to the car. You can then use the app to activate the heating, for example, or display the location of the car," explains ippen.

A WLAN network for the car is also possible via an additional integrated SIM, although not with every car manufacturer. "the disadvantage of these offers is often that the customer usually cannot choose the mobile provider himself and the choice of rates is very small," says markus weidner of the telecommunications portal "teltarif.De".

Only very few manufacturers use roaming sims that can log into different mobile networks. And with most systems, it’s also not possible to use your own SIM card. How good the offered network is, would remain unclear.

try an on-board solution with a hotspot for your car first

"if you’re deciding whether or not to opt for an on-board solution with hotspot, it’s best to try out the system with a small tariff on your ‘home route’," advises weidner. This is how you can find out whether the factory-selected network and tariff are also suitable for your own use.

Another way to network the car is a mobile LTE hotspot. "they plug into the cigarette lighter, for example, and function like a small router," explains ippen. Equipped with a SIM card, the mini-routers often achieve up to 150 mbit/s and deliver internet to up to ten devices.

The data SIM required for this is often cheaper than the SIM cards for the smartphone with telephone and data option. In contrast to the integrated system, however, with this solution the user has to live with extra cabling inside the room. Another disadvantage is that it’s almost impossible to improve reception, says ippen.

the same applies to using your own smartphone as a hotspot. "You usually can’t get to the car’s built-in antenna, and hardly any smartphones today offer the option of connecting an external antenna," says weidner.

Cell phone as car hotspot under the windshield

If you use your cell phone as a hotspot, you should position it as optimally as possible in the passenger compartment. "smartphones get the best reception when they are placed at the front of the dashboard, directly under the windshield," says peter richert, communications technology professor at munster university of applied sciences.

This is the area where the GPS signal is also received. All in all, says richert, the signal in the car will be somewhat muted – but not as extremely as is often assumed. A metal vehicle protects its occupants from lightning strikes by acting as a Faraday cage, but cell phone radiation can still penetrate it because it propagates differently as an electromagnetic wave, explains professor richert.

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