One of the most common questions we get asked is “How do you guys get internet?” Our primary source of income is web development so the answer to that question is as important to us as anyone.
I have three ways of getting internet inside the RV:
Someone Else’s WifiWhen this works it’s usually campground wifi. I use a Wifi Ranger Mobile mounted on the RV’s crank-up TV antenna. I routed the wire along the roof securing it with nylon cable clamps in three places. I covered the clamp screws with Dicor roof sealant. The wire then drops inside the RV and I covered the hole with the same sealant. The Mobile unit pairs with a router inside the RV. For the summer of 2016 this is our main internet source.
A 4G SignalThis starts with an external Wilson Antenna also mounted on the RV’s TV antenna. We don’t watch TV, so I removed the actual batwings because they interfered a bit with the two antennas I’ve added. The antenna wire is also routed into the RV through the same hole in the roof and connects to a Wilson Sleek 4G Amplifier. From there the signal is picked up either by a Pantech UML290 Aircard or a Verizon 6620L Jetpack. If we are using the aircard it runs to the same internal router as the Wifi Ranger Mobile Unit.
I have a iPhone 5 (not tetherable on my current plan).
That’s how we get signal into the RV - now what do we do with it?
The two outside wires connect to a Wifi Ranger Go router - which is our primary unit.
The Go has an interface where I can see all of the wifi signals that the Wifi Mobile can see, or I can switch to the cell signal instead. The Go interface has a ton of settings that should allow failover from wifi to cell or vice versa but in practice I can’t figure out a reliable setup.
I use the interface to try local wifi first and if it’s not usable switch to the modem instead.
85% - 90% of the time we use our 4G setup because available wifi signals aren’t usable.
Before we bought the Wifi Ranger unit I used a Cradlepoint MBR 1000 Router. When the Wifi Ranger unit arrived I threw the Cradlepoint in a cupboard.
There have been a few places where the Wifi Ranger wouldn’t connect using the aircard/4G. The first time this happened out of desperation I took out the old Cradlepoint unit and sure enough - it connected.
Assuming I’d probably need a backup router again I mounted both units in a way that I can easily swap the aircard from one to the other.
Sometimes we are in a spot where the campground wifi is reliable, but slow. I’ll connect the WiFi Ranger unit to the slow-but-free wifi for the family to use for general surfing. Then I will connect the Cradlepoint to 4G for a faster work connection.
Or, we’ll connect the WFR to the free wifi and then I’ll use the Verizon Jetpack for 4G speeds.s
That’s our hardware configuration - but that’s only part of the puzzle. You still gotta get on a plan.
We’ve always used Verizon as our primary cell data service provider. We’ve bought cell data from Verizon in different ways:
- Through Millenicom, which resold Verizon data on plans targeted to RVers. Verizon later bought back these accounts and Millenicom is no longer a source.
- Directly from Verizon - we had a 20GB month to month data-only plan. With all the fees added on it was ~$130 per month.
- Our current approach is renting an
unlimited 200GB/MO100GB/MO data plan from a 3rd party provider. RVMobileInternet has a list of sources for these plans and we choose one from their list. It runs $145/month.
My iPhone is on a grandfathered, out-of-contract unlimited AT&T plan. It’s been handy having a different provider on my phone - I can still manage client email when the aircard doesn’t connect.