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Introduction to RV Internet
The internet is a necessity for many people, especially those who travel with their RV. If you’ve ever found yourself without WiFi (local wifi network) and in need of web access, this article is for you! Here are some tips on how to get connected while living in an RV.
Portable Hotspots for RV Internet
Purchase a portable hotspot device such as Verizon Jetpack or AT&T Unite Pro to set up your own wireless network anywhere that doesn’t provide coverage.
- Cost of Portable Hotspot $100-$200
Set Up Your RV for Internet
If you already have a router that is both the modem and WiFi hotspot, go to your equipment settings. Connect your laptop or smartphone wirelessly to it through its network name (most routers are set up so they broadcast their names). Turn off DHCP on your router’s network settings.
Companies That Provide Mobile Hotspot Internet Service Options (Cellular Data)
The Verizon Jetpack is a hotspot device that offers up to 20Mbps service. There are no contracts for this pay-as-you-go option, you just buy the pack when needed and then reload it as needed too. You can also set your account online on their website or via the app.
The ATT Jetpack is a hotspot device that offers up to 20Mbps service, and there are no contracts for this pay-as-you-go option. You just buy the pack when needed and then reload it as needed too.
The Sprint Jetpack is another hotspot that has an unlimited data plan with up to 25 Mbps download speeds.
Netgear offers hotspots with speeds up to 15 Mbps for as low as $39.99 a month, and they have several different models of hotspots.
Net 10: Net 10 has a hotspot plan that starts at just $14.99 a month, and it offers speeds up to 15Mbps.
How Hotspots Work: RV Internet Options
Using a jetpack or mobile modem device, you can use hotspot services to gain internet access. How does this work?
The device creates a wireless hotspot, so you can connect your laptop or phone to the internet.
Your carrier will charge for this service depending on how much data is used and what speed plan you have.
Can I Get Unlimited Data With The Hotspot Option?
With most service providers, you will get a set amount of data that is allotted for the month. There are some limited options for unlimited data use for hotspots (with the use of a cellular connection).
The Unlimited Plan
This plan offers unlimited access to high-speed internet, and it comes with extra features like tethering or hotspot sharing so more than one device can connect at once. The only downfall with this option is that it can be quite expensive.
If your goal is to work, stream television, use social media, and more, the amount of data that you use will certainly add up quickly. If you are a full-time RV’er, you will most likely want to find an unlimited data plan option.
Netgear’s brand new Jetpack Nighthawk M1 is an incredible device that has the highest-rated hotspot battery life on the market (it lasts about 30 hours). The Netgear operates as a hotspot, so you can connect up to 15 devices at once. The downside is that it only works on Verizon’s network.
The Netgear Nighthawk M1 has the highest-rated battery life out of any other available device and will last up to 30 hours before needing a charge.
Using Your Cell Phone and Unlimited Data Plans As A Tether For Internet Access
You can tether your cell phone to your RV by using a USB cable and your phone’s data.
The downside is that it will use up the battery life of both devices quickly, but if you are near an outlet or have a power bank with you this shouldn’t be a big deal.
You can also use your cell phone’s data plan to tether for internet access, but you will have to pay the overage charges that come with it and there are often limits on how much data each month is allotted per device.
This means if you don’t monitor your usage closely, then this could cause some financial difficulties as overages are charged at a premium.
Throttling can also be an issue. Most “unlimited” data plans contain data limits for high speed internet access. Once this threshold is reached, streaming and internet usage tends to slow down.
Items Needed for Cell Phone Internet Access
In order to access the internet with your own cell phone and cell phone plan, you will need a few things.
First, you will need a cell phone that has a data service and can be used as a hotspot or tethering function. Depending on the carrier, this may not come with your plan so it is important to check out what all is included before purchasing a new cell phone.
Second, you’ll need an HDMI Cable. These can be purchased online at Amazon or in many brick-and-mortar stores. They cost between $15-$30.
Third, you’ll need a power inverter for your vehicle. These can be found at Walmart or any auto parts store and range between $50-200 depending on the wattage of the system.
Fourth, you will also need to purchase an antenna adapter that plugs into your cell phone’s micro USB port and connects to the HDMI cord. The cost of these ranges from $15-300, depending on the type of antenna you’re looking for.
A cell phone signal booster can also be quite helpful.
Satellite Internet Services for RV Internet Access
Consider purchasing satellite internet services like HughesNet Gen4 which offers good speeds at low prices. This is a great option for RVers who spend a lot of time in remote areas.
Satellite internet services are one way to get online while on the go. These satellite networks offer fast speeds at affordable prices, but it is important to understand that some locations will not have service due to terrain and other factors.
Another downfall to Satellite Internet is that it is a line of sight. That means that you must connect the dish to a window or other point where there will be some visibility with the satellite in space, which can limit your options for installation locations.
Price can be a barrier for some wanting to connect using satellite options. You will first need to purchase the equipment. Professional installation is often required. Once you have the correct equipment and it is correctly installed, you will be able to access data plans through the provider.
You will only be able to use the service offered by the satellite equipment company. These plans can be quite expensive as well.
Best Satellite Devices
DataSat 840 .84m RV and Camper Satellite Antenna:
This satellite device starts at $7000 and the monthly plans range from $80 to over $400 per month. The great thing about this product is the accuracy and efficacy of internet access.
The worst part is clearly the price.
Iridium Go! Satellite Hotspot:
This product can be purchased on Amazon for the price of $810. Once you have the device, you purchase SIM cards with date minutes. 1000 minutes of data can be purchased for $200.
Who Provides Satellite internet services for RVers?
There are a few reputable satellite internet providers. These include ViaSat, HughesNet, and Exede.
Via satellite can be quite expensive as well.
Expect to spend around $150 for installation costs upfront plus a monthly charge of about $60 per month on average. The price depends largely on the provider you choose, your location in the country, how much data you want to access each day.
The average data plan for HughesNet Gen is reasonable at $59.99 per month, but that’s not to say there are cheaper alternative providers on the market as well.
Use Campground Wifi plans or Access for RV Internet Use
Many campgrounds and RV parks offer wifi. Some will charge a daily fee for use. If you are using the park as a long-term stay, some offer monthly rates. Many campgrounds offer this service as an inclusion to your nightly or monthly fee (no extra charge).
The problem with most campground’s wifi availability is a weak signal, saturated usage from all campers, and inability to stream (which uses a significant amount of data).
If you plan on using this wifi for watching television or working, it is very unreliable. Most long-term or full-time RV’ers plan to provide their own internet resources with a more reliable internet connection. This allows for access during boondocking and in campgrounds where wifi is not provided.
Use Free Wifi Services From Local Eateries and Companies
Starbucks has long been known to offer free wifi to its customers. Just purchase a much-needed cup of coffee and surf the internet for free.
There are many businesses and coffee shops that offer free wifi to consumers. These include Panera, Dunkin Donuts, Buffalo Wild Wings, Whole Foods, and more.
For a complete list of vendors that offer this service, check out this article.
While this is a free option, it may not always be a practical option for RV’ers. Services may not be available for boondockers, it does not allow for service at your home, and you may end up spending more at the eateries and such than you would if you had your own provider.
Unlimited Internet and Data Providers Available to RV Travelers
Many RV’ers use a hotspot as mentioned above. There are many service providers that have “truly” unlimited data plans available. The prices for these plans vary greatly.
What does Truly Unlimited Mean?
A data plan that is truly unlimited is one that has an unlimited data allocation. This is different than a capped plan because the service provider does not have any restrictions on how much data or bandwidth can be used over time. There is no throttling of speeds at any point.
Popular Internet and Unlimited Data Providers for RVers
FMCA has a program called TechConnect. This plan offers service through Verizon or Sprint. The Sprint unlimited data plan is $50 per month. FMCA sends the user a mobile jetpack for use. This jetpack is technically on loan and needs to be returned at the end of the usage.
In order to take advantage of the plans offered by FMCA, you will have to sign up for membership. Membership costs $85 per year. There are many other benefits to joining FMCA. Check out this article to learn more.
Visible is another unlimited internet data option available for RV’ers. The carrier for the service is Verizon. The plan costs $60 per month and includes unlimited talk, text, and data with no throttling of speeds at any point.
Nomad offers unlimited data plans starting at $129 per month. They also charge a sign up fee of up to $200. They have three different plans to choose from. You have a choice of carrier and device.
Nomad services have no contract or credit check. This is a bit pricier than some of the other plans. It is highly rated and can be the right choice for those RVers that plan to spend more time in rural areas.
Unlimited To Go offers unlimited plans with no throttling. Their plans have no contracts or credit checks. They even offer a 14-day trial. This plan uses the Netgear mobile modem.
Prices for this company range from $99 to $179 depending on which plan you choose. They offer three plans using Verizon, Sprint, and ATT towers to gain internet access.
Unlimitedville offers plans starting at $149. The highest-priced plan uses Verizon services and sells for $249 per month. These plans also have no credit check or sign-up fee.
Unlimitedville is truly unlimited with no throttling. They boast high speeds and they are a highly rated provider.
Questions To Ask Yourself To Find The Correct Internet Option For Your RV Needs
Do you plan on boondocking?
If you plan on spending any time boondocking while traveling, then you need to choose an internet option that will allow continued access in remote areas. This can be a satellite or a jetpack with the use of an antenna to boost wifi reception.
Are You a Weekend Warrior, a seasonal traveler, or are you Full time?
How much time you spend traveling in your recreation vehicle will greatly impact your data needs. While full-time Rvers may need an unlimited data plan, the weekend traveler may be able to tether to their current cell phone plan.
How much data do you currently use?
How much will you need? Are you a gamer? Do you work full-time from your RV? How much television do you plan on streaming? The answer to these questions will assist you in determining what data plan is the best option for your personal needs.
Notes: What We Use
As you can see, finding a truly unlimited plan with high speeds can become quite difficult. It is important to first, understand your usage needs.
I will tell you that in our first few months of full-time RV living, we used well over 300 GB of data. If we were to choose an “unlimited” data plan with throttling, we would not be able to stream Hulu or Netflix, and working remotely would be extremely difficult.
Truly unlimited data comes at a steep price. knowing your options is key here. We use FMCA’s tech connect plan. We use all of the data that we choose. This includes but is not limited to laptop connection to the internet, music, tv, and movie streaming, and more. We can connect several devices at any time and we don’t see any slow down.
For $50 per month, it is an unbeatable option out of the sea of internet choices. We don’t have to add expensive equipment to our RV or have anything professionally installed. We have service in most situations, even boondocking.
*Global Router Option
If you plan on traveling outside of the United States, there is one great mobile internet option. This is SkyRoam. Skyroam jetpack is a great option for global travelers. The device itself costs $120 to purchase. They have plans starting at $6 per GB of data. Check out the website here for more information.
Recommended Items for RV Internet Access and Internet Connectivity
There are several items recommended to increase your internet accessibility depending on which service option you choose. Some of these items include a wi-fi booster, RV antennae, and /or cellular antennae.
-A Wi-Fi booster will help to make sure that you are getting the best signal possible.
-An RV Antenna is used if your service provider does not offer internet access in an area where there is no cell tower available, like boondocking or camping off-the-grid locations.
Favorite Internet Item Choices
- Omni Antenna
Recommendations and Tips for Full Time RV’ers
Have a Backup Plan
Not all internet coverage options are equal. It is important to note that while traveling, you may find yourself in an area with little to no coverage from your chosen provider.
This is a huge problem for those that work and live in their recreation vehicles. For this reason, it is super important to have a backup plan. This can include having the correct equipment to tether to your cell phone or any of the options listed above as a secondary plan.
When considering your primary and secondary internet plans, make sure that each is from different cell tower providers. This allows you to access the internet in any location when your primary coverage falls short.
Use a coverage App
Wi-Fi SweetSpots is an app that is available for both apple and android users. It is free to add to your cellular phone.
The purpose of this app is to find the best places within your vehicle to place the antenna, modem or other equipment for the optimal experience. It also measures the strength of your wifi signal.
Conclusion To RV Internet Options
We hope that this RV internet guide has been helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to help in any way we can! Here are a few of the most common types of internet options for RVs available on the market today: satellite service, cellular data, hotspot devices (Tethering), repeaters/range extenders. What kind of connection do you use? How does it work for your needs?
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