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Table of contents
- The Best Internet Solution for an RV/Travel Trailer
- Internet & Data: How much data is needed?
- How to set up internet for RV on the go (other than from your cell phone)?
- Mobile RV Internet Options
- Ways to Obtain Mobile Internet
- Internet for RV’ers started by RV’ers
- Mobile Internet Solution Selected
- Choosing Cellular SIM Card Plans for RV Internet
- Internet Solution Versatility
- Mobile RV Internet Solution in Summary
The Best Internet Solution for an RV/Travel Trailer
Internet is definitely something everyone takes for granted when you’re at home. It’s so easy to open your phone, tablet or computer and access the web. Well, that’s great but what happens when you work at home full time and your home is on wheels? Having a hotspot is generally a great back up option you can have available on your phone. But realistically that’s not a solution for a full-time corporate tele-commuter. Especially when both you and your spouse or partner/friend need to be online. Not only just being online but also streaming zoom video meetings. In terms of data usage, wireless data on a phone is different than data needed for full time online work.
Internet & Data: How much data is needed?
The first thing to consider is how much data you currently use on a monthly basis. Before we sold our home, we had a Comcast internet & cable bundle. On Comcast’s website they have a monthly internet usage portal that tracked overall data usage each month. This was somewhat helpful but also misleading. Why do I say that? Well, we didn’t only have our work computers connected. We had phones, personal computers, smart home devices and even our garage door opener as well as security system were all connected to our home internet. So a lot more devices drive more usage. While some of these had negligible usage this was still another consideration to keep in mind.
Unfortunately, we were only able to view the last 6 months of data usage. During that time, our peak data usage was just under 500GB. That’s not bad considering all of the devices that were connected and used at will. The other big usage of our data was our cell phones. Our cell phone carrier tracks our data usage regardless of being on a cell tower or a Wi-Fi network. But, unfortunately only tracks the past 90 days of usage. So after doing a little number crunching for each of those three-month billing cycles, we used anywhere from 30GB to 80GB per month. So just assuming the average usage in a three-month period, we’ll assume it was right around 55GB. Subtracting that usage from our peak usage of 500GB in a month, we’re right around 445GB of usage subtracting our phones.
Calculate Internet usage
The main thing to consider is that this just a rough calculation to try and get a ballpark number of data usage. So, if our various other connected devices use 30GB per month that leaves us with an approximate peak usage of 415GB of data in a month. Dividing that up by two (since Heather and I both work remotely) that’s about 208GB for each of us.
As of the writing of this post that shows to be a bit high based on my current usage. I’ve been tracking my data usage on my work computer for the past two weeks and I’m right around 54GB in a two-week span putting me on pace for about 110GB in a month or so. This is a great sanity check and ensures that the allowance of approximately 400GB per month of usage for just work telecommuting should be no problem! Whew, what a relief
How to set up internet for RV on the go (other than from your cell phone)?
Before setting out on the road the main thing to solve is, internet. Not only that, but how do you get internet when you’re traveling for an extended period? If you’re staying in a hotel, you can use their Wi-Fi. Similarly, if you’re staying in short term rentals like an Air B&B, typically they offer Wi-Fi as well, so again, no problem there. Speed and reliability at times can leave some to be desired!
But what if you’re just kind of more on the adventurous side and want to wander for a few months, buy a travel trailer, visit a few national parks and explore; well you get the point. What if your scenario falls “outside the norm”? Well, that was exactly our thought as well. What do we do now? How does that work? Is it even doable? And how much is it going to cost? All great questions we had to answer, so where better to get answers than you guessed it, the Interwebs (copyright of the WanderLuster herself, Heather).
Photos of the antenna secured on the top of the travel trailer
RV internet: personal situation
One of the first resources I found was a website called RV Mobile Internet. Perfect! Exactly what we were looking for. It didn’t take long after clicking around on this website to learn that this is a common question. The answer isn’t very straight forward either. There really is no simple answer. Long and short of it is there are a many different ways to get connected while being mobile. But, you must figure out what works for your specific situation. So, in our case, we needed a reliable solution that we could setup and essentially not have to worry about. That old infomercial comes to mind about the rotisserie chicken cooker slogan “set it and forget it” You know the guy, right?!
Well, I quickly learned that one cannot just “set it and forget it” when it comes to having a mobile internet solution. Bummer! But, the good news is that there is an entire community of full time RV’ers that live this lifestyle every day. Therefore there are a ton of resources available. They’ve been through thousands of options and have tons of content if you just do a quick Google search. For our specific situation there were a few options considered and used to make our decision.
Mobile RV Internet Options
Our biggest concern for our internet in our mobile home on wheels was reliability. We wanted to ensure that we could be online for our jobs especially since that’s our primary source of funding our adventures! Most of the research I came across had a common theme, internet is reliable…until it’s not. So therein lies the fundamental necessity of redundancy. Knowing we needed at least 400GB of reliable internet monthly and at least two ways of doing so without relying on our phones. Our phones have 50GB of hotspot data for each of our phones and that’s just one cellular carrier. Again, only one method there so the recurring theme popping up again…redundancy. So, in my search efforts I THANKFULLY came across a YouTube channel named Mobile Must Have. This channel, and website, has so much information for those looking for exactly what we were…reliable and fast mobile internet.
Ways to Obtain Mobile Internet
In our search, I discovered there are many ways of getting internet. But there’s really only three ways main ways to get mobile internet. So there are three options when considering an internet solution for an RV.
1.) Internet for an RV: Mobile Hotspot
The first option is a mobile hotspot. Now these can be great if you just need some internet here and there and don’t really care about speed or are not going to be streaming audio or video. They are affordable and can be taken with you wherever you go, even on adventures away from your travel trailer. For telecommuting, this is the most unreliable option. (But a great backup option when you’re really in a pinch!)
2.) Internet for an RV: WiFi
The next option is Wi-Fi. This is great because it’s free. But it’s rarely reliable for an extended duration of time. Depending on where you plan on being with your RV, this isn’t the best option for an RV internet solution. Plus, being as type A as we are, not knowing the reliability and just assuming it will be fine gives us anxiety! eeek!
3.) Internet for an RV: Cellular internet
The third option is cellular. This is the most reliable source of internet. Everyone that has a smartphone has some sort of internet associated with it. It’s with you everywhere you go and cellular is becoming more and more reliable and faster every single year. Based on our needs, this seemed to be the best option. But how do we use that exactly? Enter Mobile Must Have.
Internet for RV’ers started by RV’ers
To provide context, Mobile Must Have is a company that was started by full time RV’ers. They wanted to create mobile connected solutions for digital nomads and full time RV’ers. The founders have extensive IT experience and wanted to share their knowledge and experience with other people looking for mobile internet solutions. They have a full online store for a wide variety of mobile internet solutions which include exterior roof mounted antenna’s you can install to go along with routers called Pepwave. Pepwave mobile routers are a high speed way to be connected while being mobile.
The specific router we went with is below. This Pepwave BR1 Pro router can connect to all the major cellular carriers and at 4G speeds. This router has one modem capable of using two wireless carries so gives you some redundancy which is what were looking for in terms of reliability. The router can hit throughput speeds of up to 1GBps which essentially wouldn’t limit the speed of cellular internet we would be able to receive.
Mobile Internet Solution Selected
The specific solution we purchased is the Speed Demon V2 package. There are a few reasons we went with this package, see below.
1. Price Point
2. Two wireless carrier options (AKA redundancy)
3. 1 GBps throughout
Essentially this is enough to not limit the cellular internet we’re able to receive.
4. CAT-20 router
This is a single modem capable of higher speeds on one carrier. The CAT-20 router is a newer technology that allows faster throughput on a single internet carrier. This is a great option as it has multiple modems that allow for multiple internet carriers to run simultaneously. So, this creates reliability. The reliability is in place by the automatic fail-over technology. So, if one internet source drops connection for whatever reason the other connected one will kick in. This will all happen in the background and you won’t notice any change.
While this sounds like a great option the other thing you need to consider is how much internet you get on your internet plans. Most plans have data caps, and this option uses both at the same time burning through multiple plans simultaneously, which is ultimately why we didn’t chose this option. We opted for the since modem (one internet source at a time) and will keep in mind where we stay ensuring cell coverage in those areas is decent.
Along with our router and mobile antenna package there was the option of hardwiring our router to our travel trailer battery power. This was important to do because we can always have access to internet while we’re literally driving down the road and we also don’t have to have converters on while traveling. The standard power option is a normal 110V AC plug in adapter but to run this you must have a converter on and running converting that 12V DC power to the AC power, a situation we didn’t want to be in. The final missing piece to our mobile internet solutions was cellular data.
Modem located in the overhead cabinet & wire management strips secured along the walls & ceiling to allow us to hardwire into the internet in our two work spaces in the travel trailer.
Choosing Cellular SIM Card Plans for RV Internet
When it comes to SIM card plans for the Pepwave router we knew we needed around 400GB and multiple carriers. The issue with that is if you buy SIM card plans directly from wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.) those monthly GB limits are typically low and are almost always throttled (reduced speed). There is another option, which we ultimately went with, called third party resellers. A great resource that explains this is great detail is Mobile Resource.
For our particular case we opted to go with two SIM card plans, Verizon and AT&T. The decision of what carriers to purchase was made after determining the signal strength for different carriers everywhere we were planning on staying.
The Verizon plan we were able to snag with our Pepwave mobile internet bundle has a month to month prepaid plan. This allowed us to get up to 300GB per month. The plan comes with a 10 Mbps cap speed. But this is more than enough speed for us both to be on work meetings at the same time with no signs of slow speed.
For reference, a Zoom call takes about 1.2 Mbps to operate so should not be an issue. The AT&T plan is an unlimited GB/month plan which does not have any speed limitations and while unlimited, it does have a limit of 1TB per month which is over double what we would need on a monthly basis.
Internet Solution Versatility
One other key thing to note, the way the internet was set up in our travel trailer, we didn’t hard wire the modem. So, if you really wanted to you could take that modem out and use it in a hotel, long term rental or somewhere other than just in the RV. This versatile piece to our solution made it really attractive!
Mobile RV Internet Solution in Summary
Our mobile internet solution for the RV was not easily determined. We’re confident, once it’s set up and running, it will allow us to work on the road while being able to travel all over the US. Installing our roof mounted antenna, Pepwave router and DC power supply will give us a reliable internet solution that gives us piece of mind and added flexibility for our full-time remote work. Thus allowing us to get things done & explore to our hearts content.
We were strategic about the places we are going to stay this summer and ensured they all had decent AT&T and/or Verizon coverage. A great resource to knowing that the roof mounted antenna will only enhance that signal we’re able to receive on our devices, will let us work with ease and not have to worry about being connected…. hopefully. As with the disclaimers we’ve read, cellular internet SIM card plans through third party companies are great solutions, until they’re gone sometimes without notice. Hoping that doesn’t happen to us this summer but for now, we are set.