RV Internet (How we stay connected on the road)

Laptop on table in RV with great internet

Good RV internet access was our number one concern before hitting the road. From watching movies to communicating with family and friends, the internet is ingrained in our lives now whether we like it or not. We rely on the internet to get us to our next campsite, to find the best place to buy groceries in the new town, then to relax and watch a movie.

Since we work from the road, having consistent internet access in our RV is important. Like really important. We need the internet for video calls, working on this blog, uploading YouTube videos, and even the occasional Facebook live.

Not only do we need the internet in our RV for work, all of our entertainment is over the internet. We stream movies almost every night and have been known to have a binge session or two on Netflix.

Getting great internet to your RV is not hard, but does require a little bit of preparation. Follow our advice below to make sure you have great internet everywhere you go.

Cell Service

Man holding cell phone in woods checking cell service

If you are looking to have consistent and reliable internet in your RV, you will need to get it via cellular networks. These are the same networks you have been using to get internet on you cell phone.

LTE technology (4G) has made it possible to get speeds on cellular networks that rival and sometimes beat home internet speeds. According to Open Signal, in the last few years, the US has deployed 4G cellular internet to 90.32% of the country. This has enabled us RVers to get great internet almost anywhere.

Picking a Cell Service Provider

The cell service providers for RV internet are the same ones that you use for your cell phone service at home. The big 3 carriers are Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile (Sprint is now owned by T-Mobile).

There are many other carriers or sub-carriers but those should only be considered as budget or back-up options. They work but normally in more limited areas or have lower priority access to the networks. These would include Visible, US Cellular, or Straight Talk.

AT&T cell service provider logo

AT&T

The primary carrier we use for the internet is AT&T. It works in 90% of the locations we visit across the US. It may be the second in coverage but we have found that the speeds are normally similar too or faster than Verizon.

We have a legacy Unlimited Plus Plan that includes unlimited internet for both of our cell phones and our mobile hotspot line. The “unlimited” comes with a cap where they will perform network management after 22 GB of data used.

Network management has rarely been an issue for us though. While we have seen slight delays in overly crowded areas (think Albuquerque for the Ballon Fiesta) we are almost always over our cap within the first week. When we are managed, we may need to hit refresh on a page but it is only frustrating rather than work inhibiting.

Verizon cell service provider logo

Verizon

Verizon has the most coverage in the US. Almost anywhere we do not have AT&T we have at least usable Verizon internet. We love using it as our back-up option for almost complete US coverage.

We have the legacy grandfathered Unlimited Data Plan with no throttling or network management of any kind on it. We use it as our back-up to keep our large monthly usage off of it and under the radar.

Visible cell service provider logo

Visible

We recently picked up a Visible plan as an additional back-up. It is a sub-Verizon plan so your internet traffic is prioritized lower than traditional Verizon users. It is like constant network management on your plan.

Visible also throttles the traffic to a max of 5Mb but that limitation was suspended for the time being when we purchased the plan so we have full usage. They also offer a “Party” plan where you can invite people (including completely random) to your party and you get a $5 discount for each extra person. This allows you to reduce the monthly cost down to $25 a month.

Picking a Cell Data Plan

Cell data provider plans come and go with a constantly changing list of rules and benefits. If you want to see the current best list of RV cell plans, check out this continuously updated article at Mobile Internet Resource Center.

We recommend choosing from the following providers though based on your budget and need.

Ultimate

If you are looking for Ultimate RV Internet coverage we recommend you get a plan with each of the big 3 cell providers. AT&T or Verizon as your primary with the other one as a back-up. Then T-Mobile for those few places (like around Flagstaff, AZ) where it is the only network available. This will allow you to have fast, reliable internet almost anywhere in the US. This can cost between $200 – $500 / month.

Average

We recommend the average RVer get a primary cell plan with AT&T and a back-up plan with Visible. This will get you great coverage on both the AT&T and Verizon networks for the lowest monthly cost. The cost will be between $100 and $150 / month.

Budget

Visible is our favorite budget pick. It gets you access to the wide-spread Verizon network for only $25 / month.

Mobile Cellular Hotspots

These are the devices you use to connect and share the cellular internet with other devices in your RV. Most mobile phones and cell plans will allow you to use your phone to share its connection as a hotspot but you can usually get better results with a standalone device.

The newer and better the device, the faster your connection will be. If you are looking for a single area that will improve your connection, a flagship mobile hotspot is where we recommend you spend your money.

Ultimate

We recommend the Pepwave MAX Transit DUO as the ultimate modem for most people. If you are a little more technical, the Cradlepoint IBR1700 or IBR900 series cannot be beaten.

Average

We use these flagship mobile routers for our connectivity. No special knowledge required for their use.

NETGEAR Nighthawk M1 Mobile Hotspot for AT&T
  • Share WiFi internet access with up to 20 devices
  • Unlocked to accept all SIM cards (excluding Sprint legacy network); works best on AT&T and T-Mobile. Please check with...
Jetpack 8800L Mobile Hotspot for Verizon
  • Go unplugged. Stay productive throughout your entire day with a long-last 4400 mAh battery. The MiFi 8800L can go...
  • Faster than ever. Optimized DL/UL speeds make it easier to stay connected in more places. Access Wi-Fi in more than 200...

Budget

Use the mobile hotspot functionality on your phone and buy a newer phone. This way you kill two birds with one stone and still get better cellular antennas which means faster service.

Cellular Boosters

The internal antennas can only be so large before the hotspot no longer becomes mobile. You also are not always able to get your hotspot to the best places to get reception like above trees or away from walls. This is where boosters can help, think of them like bigger ears for your hot spot.

There are two main types of cellular boosters: Passive and Active. They are both useful in different situations. The passive booster plugs directly into your hotspot so you will need to match its wiring to what your hotspot allows.

They usually come in directional, where you point it in the cell towers direction, or omnidirectional, which boosts in all directions. Directional can boost further but requires pointing where omnidirectional is less powerful but is more plug and play.

An active booster regenerates the signal so is useful for boosting more than just the hotspot, it can also work on your cell phone. These also have omnidirectional or directional outside antennas but they also come with an inside antenna. The inside antenna becomes your local cell tower and rebroadcasts the signal louder via the outside antenna.

Ultimate

You will need to verify the antenna connectors before purchasing but here is our top passive antenna pick for the Pepwave: Poynting 7-in-1. Active boosters are more universal and we recommend WeBoost’s RV offering for all price ranges.

weBoost Drive 4G-X RV (470410) Cell Phone Signal Booster for Your RV or Motorhome
  • COMPATIBILITY: The Drive 4G-X RV Signal Booster is compatible with all US carriers including: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon,...
  • SIGNAL BOOSTER: The weBoost Drive 4G-X RV (470410) Cell Phone Signal Booster boosts your 4G LTE and 3G signal up to 32X...

Average

The Netgear passive antenna below works great with both of our Average level hotspot picks. It has a short cable to reduce signal loss. The same active booster is recommended as well.

Netgear 6000450 MIMO Antenna with 2 TS-9 Connectors
  • Improve performance of your mobile broadband devices when indoors or in, fringe zones with this portable antenna,...
  • Usable indoors or outdoors. Frequency Bands: 700-906/1710-1990/2110-2170/2500-2700 MHz
weBoost Drive 4G-X RV (470410) Cell Phone Signal Booster for Your RV or Motorhome
  • COMPATIBILITY: The Drive 4G-X RV Signal Booster is compatible with all US carriers including: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon,...
  • SIGNAL BOOSTER: The weBoost Drive 4G-X RV (470410) Cell Phone Signal Booster boosts your 4G LTE and 3G signal up to 32X...

Budget

While the active booster may not be very budget-friendly, the good news is that passive antennas do not work with cell phones so you will not need to buy one!

weBoost Drive 4G-X RV (470410) Cell Phone Signal Booster for Your RV or Motorhome
  • COMPATIBILITY: The Drive 4G-X RV Signal Booster is compatible with all US carriers including: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon,...
  • SIGNAL BOOSTER: The weBoost Drive 4G-X RV (470410) Cell Phone Signal Booster boosts your 4G LTE and 3G signal up to 32X...

Wifi

When most people think about the internet in their RV, they think of connecting to wifi. All of our cellular hotspot picks above double as a wifi access point you can connect to with your devices. Upgrading your wifi device will most likely not increase your internet speed. There are two parts to wifi in your RV, local wifi and external wifi.

Let’s discuss external wifi first. This is the wifi provided by a local campground, Starbucks, or anyone else. We do not recommend relying on it if you are working but it is always an option. The problem with external wifi is that it is not always where you need it, like when out boondocking, or not fast enough for what you need to do. If you are looking to use it when you can then there are a few options. The main thing you will want to look for is the ability for your router to connect via Wifi as your internet connection called WiFi as WAN. The options listed below all meet that criteria.

Internal wifi is completely different. It does not provide internet access. It does provide your local device the ability to communicate wirelessly. This allows your computer to connect to other wireless devices like a printer or smart home devices without the need for the internet. Most of the hotspots we listed above have an internal/local wifi capability built into them so you will not need any extra equipment. You will need a separate internal wifi router if you need to connect things via ethernet cable to wireless devices or the internet. For example, we have a Synology Network Attached Storage hard drive system with 30 TB of space to house our YouTube content and images. It only has an ethernet connection so we need a wifi router to allow us to access it wirelessly from our laptops.

If you want to be able to use Wifi as a WAN (wifi as an internet connection) or need to access something with a wired ethernet connection, below are our picks.

Ultimate

Use the Peplink or Cradlepoint routers above. Get an external switch if you need additional ethernet ports.

Average

We recommend the Wifi Ranger Converge Denali series for most people looking for a solid wifi solution for an RV. It has both an internal and external Wifi router.

Budget

We recommend the Asus router below for your internal wireless. It has the ability to tether the cellular hotspots above via USB cable. If you are looking for an external Wifi route to pair with it, we recommend the Ubiquiti Nanostation. It can connect to Wifi as a WAN and then connect to the Asus router.

ASUS AC1900 WiFi Gaming Router (RT-AC68U) - Dual Band Gigabit Wireless Internet Router, Gaming & Streaming, AiMesh Compatible, Included Lifetime Internet Security, Adaptive QoS, Parental Control
  • Dual band with the latest 802; 11 AC 3x3 technology for combined speeds of up to 1900 Mbps
  • 1 GigaHertz dual core CPU enables smart multitasking by dedicating separate lanes for Wi Fi and USB data; Network...
Ubiquiti NanoStation M2 - Wireless Access Point - AirMax (NSM2US),White
  • Ubiquiti Networks networks networks networks 2.4GHz Nano MIMO airman
  • Model Number: NSM2

Last update on 2021-09-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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7 comments
  1. Can you do an update with you new setup if you have one? I heard theres been tons of new gear and updates since this article was written.

  2. Hi – Thanks for sharing your experience with internet connections while on the road. I live full-time in a travel trailer and move locations 1-2 times a month. I have my own hotspot through Verizon with their unlimited data plan, which is high-speed up to 4Gs. As my business has increased I am running out of the high-speed access 2-3 weeks into the month. I am thinking of adding another hotspot on an old pc using the Connectify software. I am wondering if you could tell me what you think of this and/or if you have any experience with it. Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you. -K

  3. Thanks for the update on how you are staying connected. We just have Verizon and have found at least one place in MS that when we used the booster it was tolerable on our phones but nothing else.

  4. You mention having Verizon as a back up.. I have AT&T .. how do I set that up on my phone.. all I read is that one can not have 2 carriers at the same time . Sometime we are at state parks with no service at all..and I need for work.
    Thanks for most informative article

    1. Not sure, I know there are a few phones that allow you to have two sims but we use two different hotspots. One for each provider.

  5. Hey Jason … thanks for this article. I’m struggling with being able to stream entertainment in the RV. Rv park WiFi sucks as you know and Verizon throttles my iphones hotspot speed to 600k.

    I just got off a chat with Visible and they said their phones can be a hotspot capped at 5Mbps which is plenty for streaming. However, they added that only one device can be tethered at once. I usually AirPlay to an Apple TV and both the Apple TV and iPhone need to be connected to the same WiFi to AirPlay. So will this not work for me? Hope that makes sense and that you can help.

  6. Hi Jason,
    We also have a GD 375. I’m curious where you installed your new CAT18 setup. Can you share how and where in your rig you installed your new equipment? Did you also setup 12v so that you can run the equipment while on the move?
    Thanks in advance!
    John

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