Let’s take a look at the basics for Internet access that travels with you. Having your own Internet helps sustain a working life on the road. We also discuss data usage, security, and harsh realities discovered while on the road.
- You need to diversify your communications portfolio. Meaning, have plans with multiple providers. This guarantees your success of getting a signal in most places you are camping. You can use a combination of your cell phone plans and a separately purchased Internet plan with a Jetpack. Breaks down like this:
- We have two cell phone plans. One with AT&T and one with T-mobile. Two different providers with their own service areas. Each plan is unlimited and allows for hotspots. Both cell plans are throttled after a certain amount of hotspot data is reached. Pay attention how hotspot data is limited in your cell plans. Creating a hotspot through your cell phone is one way in which you can create a secure data connection. We use this method as a last resort for work purposes but conversely regularly use this method to stream TV when antenna just ain’t cutting it. All you need is your cell phone and a signal. For reference, with my AT&T plan I can successfully establish a working hotspot with one bar and stream a Netflix show to my TV. Does it take 5 minutes to load? Yes, but it works. It’s a compromise as you’ll discover.
- Next we have a Verizon Jetpack, this is our mobile Internet and this is the secure lifeline for our working life. Verizon has a solid network of towers. Our Verizon plan is not unlimited so we do not stream data with this network. We’ve learned our lessons here. This network works great for our Monday-Friday working needs. We pay approximately $70 a month for 30GB of data. It is a secure line as a stand-alone piece of equipment. Perfect for our work devices.
So that’s three major service providers we can hope to get a signal from when pulling into a campground.
2. Along with multiple service providers, you’ll discover the need to change your data habits a bit. For instance, you’ll stop streaming music and less TV shows because you’re blowing through your data in a matter of days. You must be aware of how you are using your data. Monitor it by logging into your provider accounts and check your data usage every few days as you use. You will naturally work out the amount of data needed as you go about your RV life. Be ok with increasing data plans along the way to better ‘fit’ your data lifestyle. Sometimes we find ourselves in a jam right before the data renewal of the next month’s cycle, so we’ll pony up and pay for Internet at the campground if we have to. That brings us to the next one.
3. Take advantage of camping in places where WiFi is included and don’t camp in far off remote places unless you’re prepared to be wholly disconnected. We had thought this might be okay on some occasions and we’d just haul ourselves to a coffee shop or city center where we’d have more service. However with Covid, we are less reliant for such luxuries. While we have found ourselves in some pretty remote areas, we’ve always had a signal from at least one carrier. We also tend to camp in private campgrounds where WiFi access is often a mainstay. We did encounter one campground where we had zero access from our providers but the campground itself had amazing WiFi that was included in the price of our stay. Be ok with needing to abandon camp in order to get a signal to work. It sucks and not an ideal scenario but totally doable.
4. Get an antenna booster for the top of your RV. This enables you to secure that free campground ‘public’ WiFi. Nowadays an antenna booster is commonly included on your new rig. It usually requires the additional purchase of the equipment (a router) to make it work. If you are buying a new rig, get the equipment that works with the included antenna. If you are adding an antenna booster, do your research. We have read good things about Winegard and weBoost. But go ahead and get one because you can then tie this to any public campground access or even older unlimited service provider plans (if you have one). We find the best use of ours is to secure the public campground WiFi so you can feel safe about using the ‘free’ Internet.
5. For the win: Get an extender for obtaining the best signal from your providers at the campground. This is basically a long pole with an antenna booster at the top. This usually can be affixed to the ladder of your RV and gives you the extra height of getting your signal above the treeline. That’s it. That’s all is going to do, extend your antenna higher into the air. After 8 months on the road we have learned that getting above the tree line is more advantageous but we do not have one and we’ve done ok.
That’s about it. You’re now up-to-speed on the basics of what you need to get started working remotely in your RV. We hope this helps and inspires you to get out there!