UPDATE: Technology marches forward, and our old Internet solution needed an overhaul. Follow this link to see how we’ve improved our Internet connectivity in the RV!
How do you get a reliable Internet connection when you live in an RV? It’s a question we get fairly regularly, and the truth of the matter is – without the advancements in cellular technology over the past 10 years, we couldn’t live the way we do!
Remember when mobile connectivity required a USB card that you slid into your computer when you needed to get online?
It was our first taste of freedom! Though they were s l o w and the data capacities were laughable, it was the initial spark of what was to come.
Today’s cellular Internet devices allow you to connect oodles of doodads wirelessly, are nearly as fast as the connections in our homes and office buildings, and transmit mountains of data each month. The networks have spiderwebbed across the country, so we rarely find ourselves without coverage – and if we do, we try to take it as an opportunity to disconnect for the evening.
Getting a bit off the beaten path is part of the fun of RVing … but running two businesses from the motorhome means that at least one of us is usually counting on being connected every day. To balance our wanderlust with the practicalities of needing consistent Internet access, we’ve made some choices and added some extra gear that has worked well for us.
First, we chose to go with the Verizon network for our cellular Internet service. We’ve found Verizon to have the most reliable coverage across country. That’s not to say it’s perfect! But, on average, it’s better than the other providers. And, since we already had AT&T service on our cell phones, this gives us a better chance of having some kind of access to the Internet no matter where we are.
About a year ago a friend told us about a company called Millenicom that re-sells Verizon data plans. You’re on the Verizon network, you have a Verizon device, you pay a lot less than Verizon would charge, and you have access the the Millenicom customer service – which is a far better than Verizon’s voicemail hell. We’re paying $90 a month for a 20GB plan and … as long as I don’t play Pandora Radio all day (oops!) … that’s enough data for both of us. To get set up, you need to purchase the device ($99), pay an activation fee ($49), and cover the shipping ($15).
Most RVers are retired or on vacation and they’re looking to get disconnected for whatever period of time they can manage. So, they take off for the woods … or the other side of the mountain … or down by the river – places you’d go to get away and relax, which also tend to have iffy cell coverage. Since that’s where the RV parks are, that’s were we go, too … but when it comes to cellular Internet, signal strength equals speed, so we’ve done what we can to give ours a boost.
In the photo above, you’ll notice that our Verizon jetpack (which is about the size of 20 stacked credit cards) is sitting in a little cradle. That’s the Wilson Sleek 4G signal booster that we bought from PowerfulSignal.com for $149. When you stick the jetpack in there, you can actually see the signal strength indicator pop up a bar or two. It came with a little magnetic antenna, but attaching it didn’t do much to add to the signal strength, so we went for the big boy …
Have you ever noticed that jaunty little antenna on the roof of our motorhome?
That’s the Wilson RV Trucker Antenna, also available from PowerfulSignal.com, for $49. It picks up the cellular signal, amplifies it, and passes it down a cable to the power booster cradle. The cradle then amplifies the signal again and when the jetpack device picks it up, it has a much stronger (and therefore, faster) connection.