RV Internet and Mobile WIFI * The On the Go Guide

rv-internet-wifiIn our conversations with fellow RV’ers, communicating in the RV forums, and other general chats with folks we find that there is one consistent issue most RV’ers struggle with and thats the issue of RV Internet. RV Internet or “Mobile Wifi or Mobile Broadband” as some refer to it is easily the most common issue people face as the world continues the trend of staying connected.  We will attempt to  address this issue and offer some clarity on what the options are and how to proceed. We have seen far to many people overpay, get unnecessary services and receive poor results with their RV Internet trials and tribulations. Below you will find a graph outlining the major players in the Mobile Wifi world and what they offer.

You may notice we omitted some names. We did so on purpose because many others only exist while using the below companies cellular towers under a different marketing name and offer very little real value to the end user. Some of them only operate regionally and tend to be uncompetitive on price. If you happen to find a company offering better deals with the same level of service quality, support, and value as what we are describing here than we applaud you! Just be sure to check the fine print.

There are 3 main ways to access the internet while on the road:

  1. Public/Private Accessible WIFI Networks – McDonalds, RV Parks, Libraries, Rest Stops, Starbucks, etc
  2. Satellite Connection – Dish, Hughesnet, Starband, etc
  3. Wireless Service Provides (Cell Phone Networks) – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Millenicom, etc

Public/Private Accesible WIFI Networks

They are available throughout the US. The connections as well as speeds are hit or miss. Your experience can be improved through the use of additional equipment installed in your RV. This will not be the focus of this guide though it will touch on it briefly

Satellite Connection

Through the use of a satellite dish your RV uploads and downloads data through the same satellites that your TV would. This service tends to be more expensive and equipment heavy than other options. This will not be covered in this guide.

Wireless Service Providers

rv-wifi-internet-carriersThrough the use of MIFI “Mobile WIFI” stand alone devices or the use of your smartphone your device becomes a wireless connection device that uses wireless towers to send and receive data. Your service experience relies heavily on coverage and the quality of the network you choose to use. This is the most cost effective and popular way to connect while on the go and will be the focus of this guide. If you already have a device and looking to boost your wireless coverage signal, be sure look over our cell phone signal booster guide.

RV Internet / Mobile WIFI Comparison Chart:

As you review this chart below you can find a guide below it to address the definitions of the items described as you begin to make your decision on what makes the most sense for you. Farther down you will find my recommendations based on the “RV Internet” profiles that we commonly see. If you feel like you have a unique situation we have not addressed here please feel free to leave a comment or visit our forums describing your situation and we will be happy to customize my thoughts for you!

If you’re having trouble viewing the RV internet comparison table please CLICK HERE

 
True Prepaid
Monthly Use It or Lose It
Contract
Option
3G Speeds
4G Speeds
Shared Data Option
Plan Options
True Connect Internet To GoxxMore Info
Verizon WirelessxxxxxContract
Prepaid
AT&TxxxxxContract
Prepaid
SprintxxxxxMore Info
T-MobilexxxxMore Info
Virgin MobilexxxMore Info
MillenicomxxxMore Info

If you’re having trouble viewing the RV internet comparison table please CLICK HERE


RV Internet Graph ExplanationClick to show table explanation.

Comments

  1. ExploreandEnjoy says

    Wow. That is quite a loaded assumption you have made here. Could it be that the professional writer made a *gasp* innocent mistake?

  2. Roy Wildman says

    This is a great site with good information. I am a full timer for years and travel almost entirely in the western US. AZ, NM, NV, CA. I am a writer and use my laptop for writing, e-mail w/attachments, and google look ups. I am almost entirely a computer illiterate and have trouble learning the basics and the language and so do not follow all of what I have read. I need a set up to cover my computor, cell phone and TV. I read the mention of Wal mart True-Connect. I am a low budget traveler, gold prospector and writer and spend most of my time in one place and little time on the road. As I have to limit my expenses, what would be the best wireless set-up for me and aprox. at what cost? Thanks, Roy

  3. ronda says

    wow geo, and who made you the literary guru judge? as a professional writer, when blogging and posting, many of us professionals make a conscious choice to rebel a bit, and grammar and punctuation become a bore. i will keep in mind just how much it annoys some, and rebel in it’s sheer definition of inaccuracy as to delight you and above the rest of us types, for the illiterate meaning it successfully spoke.

  4. DZEKS says

    I am from Canada RV travelling in the USA. I bought a SIM card from AT&A for my iPad Mini (has data plan) that cost me $50 for 5 GB of dada. It is good for 3 months can can be increased at $10/GB. I use the iPad for Internet in campgrounds that have limited wifi and it is working out very well. We have not had a coverage issue as AT&T has the largest coverage in the USA. I can hotspot all my other apple devices from my iPad if needed. I also use it for navigation with a dash mount.

  5. Geo says

    Professional writers should know the difference between “your” and “you’re”. They are not interchangeable except to the illiterate.

  6. f vogel says

    Hope to be on the road in May. Paying bills for two months is what I’m after. Do I purchase a device like prepaid from Verizon to do the job.?
    working from my laptop.
    Thanks

    • says

      If all you need is simple access for a few months then any pre-paid service should work well for you. If connection speed is a concern then Verizon is a good choice, if not then you can consider TrueConnect through Wal-Mart which is the best pre-paid option for the money in our opinion.

      Have fun on your trip!

  7. DnCWhitney says

    packing now for our next full-timer adventure and found this site. Very informative! thank you for all your work!!

    We in market to purchase a smartphone, tablet and laptop combo and want to go with the most up-to-date wifi capabilities; cell-accessible as well as in remote locations. Don’t care about or need t.v. satellite. We will be in dispersed dry-camping areas with campgrounds and RV parks as the occasional alternative.

    your suggestions? :)

    read up a bit on the remote wife info you presented. anything newer, less expensive yet?

    thank you!

    • says

      Hi There!
      Hope you guys have a great trip!
      Even though this article is a few months old, 99% of the information holds true. Mostly because the entire “mobile data” industry has locked onto it like a leech. They are linking the future of their companies to the thought that they can milk data users for decades to come.
      Dry camping and Wi-Fi just don’t mix unless you are going to go with Satellite internet. The mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T just don’t have the incentive to build coverage in remote areas.
      If you are serious about connectivity and less concerned about the cost, then we still think that a combination of Satellite internet and a mobile MIFI device is the way to go (Either from Millenicom or Verizon).
      As for devices you need to make a commitment to an operating ecosystem such as Apple iOS or Android from Google. Then choose your devices. Apple is recommended for more casual users that are not tech savvy. Android allows for much more customization and options.
      Tablet: Apple iPad (obviously) or the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (Android)
      Smartphone: Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S4/LG G2 (Android)
      Laptop: This one is hard to answer. Way too many options. Many on our staff use Asus Zenbooks or MacBooks

      I hope that helps!

    • says

      Hi LL,

      AutoNet is a company we have heard about. Made famous by some of the automakers using their equipment to provide in vehicle WiFi and routers. It would be a fine choice for gaining access to the internet while traveling. The only problem we see with it is the value for what you get is not on par with other options. The price of the equipment/monthly fee is nowhere near what you could get from Millenicom, Sprint, or Verizon. Granted the AutoNet uses sophisticated technology to ensure you are always connected while actually driving, but most mobile data companies have hardware that performs close if not the same to what AutoNet is doing. AutoNet also does not have access to the faster 4G connection speeds that make internet use so snappy. They are still using a 3G/2G infrastructure.

      Hope you find it helpful,

  8. S D Tucker says

    I am in my 7th month R V ing for work and must have reliable internet. I have had lack luster results with RV park WIFI. And, although I have uimited usage through AT&T on my smart phone and iPad, I regularly exceed the monthly Gb allowance and have to live with very slow speeds for the remainder of the month. I’m leary to make the satellite investment and commitment due to past experiences with daily data allowances. Any comments or ideas?

    • says

      Hi S D, I understand your frustration. I can’t promise you that you wont have issues with satellite as well. You may want to read this RV satellite internet article for more on that. If you are blowing through your data limits on your phone, you may take a look at Millenicom. For $70 a month you get 20GB of 4G speed data to use. They use Verizon for coverage so it is likely you will have service unless you are far off the beaten path. For most folks this is way more than they need. It comes with a small device called a MIFI hotspot that you can leave in the RV and still have use of your phone.

      Hopefully that answers your questions. If not please reply!

  9. Jerry G says

    As a past costomer of Verizon. All I can say is stay away. I was not treated with any respect by them ( I’ve heard this from other “past” verizon users as well ) I
    would not recomend them to anyone.

  10. T says

    I looked to this article for wireless Internet other than phone companies it said this won’t be covered, funny that’s what this article was to be about!

    • says

      Sorry you didnt find what you were looking for. We are however working on a follow up article regarding satellite internet options that we should have available soon. Aren’t you glad we told you in the beginning instead of letting you find out the hard way? :)

  11. Heidi Recka says

    I work from home, but will be full-timing in the next couple of months. I have a concern about using a Verizon HotSpot with VPN. And also about how much usage. Any suggestions/thoughts?

    • says

      Hi Heidi,

      You’re right to have concern. There are several documented issues with users of wireless carrier users having trouble with VPN’s. If you have a VPN, I hope that also means you have an IT department you can lean on for help. It seems that some of the hotspot devices work just fine and others require additional setting tweaks to work. Read through this article at Verizon to get a better feel for what it could take to make it work.

      For your second concern of usage, which of course is an entirely different matter. It really depends on what type of activities you are engaged in while using the internet. If you’re doing light browsing or email then you won’t need to worry for the most part. If you streaming video, using cloud applications, or something more data heavy then I would pay special attention to the amount of GB (Gigabytes) allowed in the data plan. For your situation I would look at Millenicom instead of Verizon. Only because they offer more bang for the buck at the higher usage tiers. They even offer an unlimited plan (No 4G Speed in some areas on unlimited) if you choose to use a USB enabled device instead of a hotspot. You may want to use this Data Calculator do get a better idea of how much data you may use while full timing.

      I hope your questions have been answered. If not please let us know and we will dig deeper!

  12. timarti says

    We live in Canada and have an Aircard for Wifi on the road in Canada but can’t use it in the States due to exorbitant Roaming charges. Looking at purchasing an Internet to Go hotspot for use when RVing in the States. Trying to figure out if a USA address is required and also if there is a limit to the Gb usage. Can one purchase and use as many prepaid cards in a month as wanted? At home our typical usage is 75-100 Gb per month. Would probably be less when travelling, but still more than 1 cards worth. Cost not such a factor, as we would only be using it for short periods. I know, we are internet addicts!

    • says

      Hi timarti,

      Your not alone. I think many are in your same situation. The good news about prepaid and in particular the Internet-to-go through Wal-Mart is it shouldnt require a US address to get started. However there are GB usage caps on nearly all options out there. The internet to go option at walmart would just require additional investment in pre-paid cards but you could technically use as much data as you want as long as your willing to pay for it. The exception being Millenicom and Sprint under certain plans. Both of which may require a US address.

      Your best bet is to reach out to the carriers individually and share the situation with them and see what they can do for you.

  13. Future RVer says

    Hello! This article was helpful as my boyfriend and I prepare for an exciting life as fulltime RVers. I appreciate the time you took to write this. My biggest concern right now is that I will be working from home, so I need reliable high speed internet that has no lag time. I take and make phone calls through the computer all day, every day, and I must be connected to my works network for the entire work day. Do you think this is reasonable to do from an RV? Are there plans with unlimited data use? I look forward to your advice! THANK YOU!!

    • says

      Hi There,
      Your not alone. Many full time RV’ers do exactly what your describing.

      The issue that you will have with using cell phone networks for internet is coverage. The coverage will very based on where you are which I am sure you are aware of. This means that in some areas you will be able to do your job just fine and stay connected at a good speed all day. Then in other locations you may find it intolerable.

      Luckily some RV parks have decent WIFI which helps if you don’t have good cell coverage.

      But you answer your question more directly…..If you plan to travel from place to place then its probably NOT reasonable to think you can get the connection it sounds like you need on the road.

      The other alternative is satellite internet which would be much more reliable but it will require more upfront cost, installation and possibly a larger monthly fee. Satellite does offer unlimited usage but there is usually periods of the day where speeds will lag because of “rush hour” for users (4-10pm).

      As for the unlimited usage, there are currently only a few unlimited options none offer quick speeds when it comes to wireless cell networks.

      In summary if money is no object then I would start looking at satellite internet as the only viable option to get you the speeds and reliability you will need for work.

      If you can stomach choosing your travel route based on the coverage map for your wireless carrier than any of the companies listed in the chart above should work just fine if you stay in their coverage area and are careful about your usage.

      If you have other questions please let us know,

      Thanks for reading!

  14. brant edwards says

    great guide! this stuff is like french to me but i need to make a decision already. i think i am going to go with true connect. thanks.

  15. says

    Good question Michael. Thanks for your comment. After speaking with someone from Verizon and Millenicom it was explained to me that Millenicom does not have access to the full spectrum of tower coverage that Verizon offers. It depends on the plan you choose which service you receive. In this case Sprint or Verizon. So your device may not necessarily be getting the best of both worlds. As I mentioned in my article Millenicom (or any vendor) may be a great fit for some, but without knowing what they offer where, they may be better served with Verizon.

  16. Michael Schwarz says

    Why sign a contract with Verizon when you can get the same service with more bandwidth and no contract with Millenicom?

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