Traveling in an RV is quite adventurous. You get the freedom to go wherever your heart desires, but that often comes at a cost – limited Internet access. Although a decent Internet is easy to come by while staying close to major cities, it’s a lot harder to find a reliable connection should you wander into the absolute middle of nowhere. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to access the Internet while on RV travel. In this article, we take a look at the most popular solutions that will keep you connected, productive and entertained while traveling in an RV.
DSL & Cable Internet Access for RVs
Before the advent of modern technology, the dial-up modem was about the only way for RVers to access the Internet. Many campgrounds and RV parks had at least one connection on site. Even though it proved helpful, having to trek to where the cable or DLS modem was, waiting in the queue, or being cut short to allow others time were some of its main cons.
Today, DSL or cable Internet connection has really advanced. It has become an excellent option for homes and even recreational vehicles. Unfortunately, DSL or cable connection isn’t a viable means for Internet access on the road. It only allows you to get stuff done online at a fixed point before you head out to explore. Besides, its speeds are relatively slow. For that reason, dial-up connections do not measure to the needs of most RV travelers and tailgaters in the current web-based world.
Wireless (Cellular) RV Internet Access
Cellular is, by far, the best way to stay connected while on the road these days. It’s easy to set up, cost-effective, and fast (sometimes even faster than cable modems). With just a smartphone or MIFI, you can create a mobile hotspot and easily connect multiple devices. To utilize this solution effectively, you’ll need to choose a mobile network carrier with the most widespread coverage and the best monthly plans. Popular cellular Internet providers include:
- Verizon – is the most reputable cellular company with most coverage across the country.
- AT&T – is the second largest mobile network operator and covers a large part of the country. But, its LTE speeds aren’t that high.
- T-Mobile – is the best choice for someone who wants a fast Internet. They have the best speeds, but less coverage than Verizon and AT&T
- Sprint – mainly provides service in cities and along interstates
Although cell service is a great option for anyone who needs fast Internet, it has its share of disadvantages. These include, amongst others, monthly or annual service contracts or having the bandwidth throttled to lower speeds after exceeding specified limits. Limited service coverage is another major problem. To counter this, you may want to invest in a 3G/4G cellular booster to amp the signal. If you have more than one phone, getting different wireless service providers for each one may give you better service.
Satellite RV Internet Access
Satellite is the perfect way to stay connected if you enjoy being out in the boondocks without a soul in sight. Because signals are beamed from space, satellite Internet is available anywhere. All you need is to ensure a clear line of sight to the southern sky.
What’s even better, most providers offer VoIP telephone connectivity and TV signals. However, you may have to purchase additional hardware to accommodate these extra features. Typical providers of satellite signals include HughesNet/Direcway, Skyway, Wildblue, and Starband.
Even though satellite Internet is excellent for high usage situations while on the go, it’s not for the faint wallet. There’s a possibility that you’ll be spending about $1,300 on initial hardware alone. It could be more, depending on the satellite you’re using. The monthly plans for such equipment start at $60 going up. Other drawbacks of the satellite are:
- Heavier hardware compared to other solutions.
- Restrictive fair access policies (FAP) that lower your speed if you exceed the daily, weekly, or monthly limits.
- Decreased speeds during peak hours, usually 4:00 to 10:00 PM
- Inclement weather (fog, snow, or rain) may also degrade the service.
- Unreliable latency especially if you need gaming, streaming media, or Voice-over-IP (VoIP) services.
- Requires a certain level of technical know-how and troubleshooting ability should connectivity problems arise in the wilderness.
Free Wi-Fi RV Internet Access
If you aren’t super concerned about staying connected or don’t want to spend a dime on the Internet, you can always take advantage of free Wi-Fi. In the present days, wireless hotspots are in almost every location. There’s a high likelihood that the campground or RV park you are staying at has one. The good thing about free Wi-Fi is that no cables or other clunky infrastructure needed. A computer or any device with a Wi-Fi card or adapter is all you need to get online in the comfort of your RV.
While a wireless hotspot is a perfect temporary solution, it’s not without downsides. Free Wi-Fi is not always guaranteed, particularly if you are taking a road trip. If there’s any, you have no control over how far your RV will be from the router or how good the network is. Most campgrounds WIFI network aren’t that great. The site can be overcrowded, too. That means you might have to invest in Wi-Fi extending gear like a WIFI Range Extender.
Wrap Up: What is the Best Internet Services Option?
Simply put, the best Internet service is a matter of trade-offs. In other words, your individual needs and budget will determine the best solution. Cellular network, for instance, is best suited for people who need high-speed Internet and need to stay connected in almost all locations. Satellite Internet, on the other hand, is ideal for travelers and tailgaters who go too far off the beaten path and often don’t have any cell service. If staying online is absolutely necessary, a mix of both may give you adequate RV Internet access while on the road.
Whatever method you opt for, be sure to take all the essential security precautions to protect your device and personal information.