RV mobile PFsense box. (sanity check)

  • So im planning on getting a medium to big RV (25-30') and would like to build a small PFsense box for it's 4G / WIFI / wired management. Basically like a mobile broadband service without the cable TV.

    I'd like to keep everything as small and non-power-hungry as possible.

    I was thinking of using a motherboard like PC engine (https://www.pcengines.ch/apu2c4.htm) or a B401 (http://www.ydstech.com/prod_view.aspx?TypeId=50024&Id=148&FId=t3:50024:3
    I would prefer a board with IPMI but I want to stay small. Obviously AES-NI support is a must for 2.5 too. Perhaps a ethernet to serial adapter connected the the PC engines's serial port for remote access. (If I did that i would select the no VGA or keyboard option during install right?)

    Basically slap a MSATA or small SSD and 4G (or future 5G possibly) card in, set it up as a primary WAN (or secondary failover WAN. see below) and a 802.11AC WIFI card, set it up as LAN WAP with DHCP.

    I have read WIFI can be tricky (in AP mode?) thats why Im asking here before I buy anything. I want to keep this hidden, like in a cabinet, or something. (Of course having to route antennas outside on the roof.) I just want as little wire installation as possible, hence why it will be mainly WIFI. I dont want a UFO shaped AP mounted on the ceiling with a wire running to it. Im hoping I can just get away with everything in one box.

    Couple notes:
    I am thinking of having a "shore LAN." something I can connect to my house as a second, takes-priority, WAN so I dont use cellular data when the RV is in storage. I can run a cat6 cable to the house and connect it to the main network. Could this be done as a primary WAN and if it's not linked it uses the cellular?

    Also, I want to have a small wired NAS attached. This will primarily be a offsite backup but it would be nice to watch movies from the synology PLEX server to smart TV's in the RV.  I say offsite because I live in Southern California and could get evacuated for fires. I want to sync the main NAS with the RV NAS thus the shore LAN.

    Is this a viable setup?

  • Banned


    Im hoping I can just get away with everything in one box.

    Forget it. You'll want at least a dedicated AP. And as for 4G, don't get an internal card, get an external modem that connects via ethernet. Everything else will always be a pain in the ass.

  • Galactic Empire

    I would not go with everything in one box because that's a single point of failure, which can be more difficult to fix when in RV.

  • LAYER 8 Netgate

    Yup. I would dedicate a cabinet/space for the APU, the switch, the AP, and the 4g modem device and all the associated patch cords, power strips and cubes, etc. Any decent AP should be fine in that space even if in a cabinet, etc. Certainly better than any "built-in" wifi card. A cabinet with AC power is also a decent place for things like battery chargers, etc. Just plan for the heat.

  • Netgate Administrator

    I see that Chinese device has a wide range voltage input that would allow you to run it directly from batteries. Is that part of your requirement?

    As others have said, whilst it is possible to do it all in one box there are limitations. One of the normal issues which is that wifi coverage is often not optimal if the AP is in the firewall probably doesn't apply in an RV where you're never that far away from it.

    FreeBSD, and hence pfSense, wifi support is limited. The best you can do is a 3x3 802.11N device, up to 450Mbps theoretical. There is no support for AC. Yet.

    pfSense does not support recent connection modes for 4G cards (MBIM, QMI) so if you fit a module inside the device it either needs to present an AT port for a ppp connection or appear as a USB Ethernet device. The PPP connection works well and is robust but is limited to 3.5G speeds (42Mbps?) at best. To get LTE speeds you need a usb Ethernet style device and that is then subject to issues if it's removed whilst assigned as an interface.

    That said you will get lower total power consumption from an all in one box solution if that's big concern for you.


  • LAYER 8 Global Moderator

    While pfsense has a wide range of uses..  I would think something like a cradlepoint or the http://www.netgear.com/landings/nighthawk-mr1100-mobile-router/

    The netgear going to be more home/user budget friendly..

    You could for sure build up a nice setup with pfsense at the core… But there are devices specifically designed for this exact sort of use case.  And sure you could use it as failover internet connected into your pfsense setup at home when your not travel in your RV..

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