Your RV Internet Connection Made Simple And Easy

A simple and easy RV internet connection

Having a fast, reliable RV internet connection is a must for modern RVers. It’s not really a luxury any more. It’s a necessity!

But when you wander into the field of electronics and gadgets, it’s easy to get lost and bewildered. And lots of money can be spent in the pursuit of fast RV internet!

However, having a fast and reliable internet connection almost anywhere you go doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can be surprisingly simple and easy!

Disclosure: Please note this post may contain affiliate links. This means – at no additional cost to you – I earn a commission if you make a purchase using our affiliate links. I only link to products and companies I use and feel comfortable recommending. The income goes toward supporting the free content on this website.

UPDATE: This article has been updated as of 05/2021. This update is necessary because the field of mobile internet access is always changing.

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What About Campground Wifi?

In a perfect world, we could count on all RV campgrounds to provide us with fast internet service. But it’s not a perfect RVing world and campground wifi service is often extremely slow.

In all fairness though, campgrounds are not always to blame for poor wifi reception either.

The truth is that building a wifi system that will allow all of their campers to access the internet at fast speeds is very expensive.

One of the main reasons for this is that a lot of RVers also want to stream online content regularly. Especially from services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or others.

Unfortunately, streaming videos is resource intensive when you have a lot of people doing it at once. So it’s not uncommon to see campground wifi systems slow to a crawl, especially at times of high usage.

So relying on a fast and consistent RV internet connection through campground wifi is not a good long-term strategy. It can be helpful at times, but it shouldn’t be your main internet source.

My Simple And Easy RV Internet Connection

After doing a lot of online research into this subject one thing became clear. And it is that if you are traveling a lot in your RV, you need to take responsibility for your online connectivity yourself.

If you are always relying on an internet connection provided in some way by others, you are going to be frequently disappointed.

Of course, there are lots of public wifi access points available these days. But you have to hunt them down and they are not always very good. And you also could face online security issues when you don’t know who else is on the system with you.

And the farther you go out into nature, as many of us like to do, the fewer choices you are going to have.

So I developed an internet connectivity setup that has proven to be simple, easy to implement, reliable, and relatively inexpensive. It has worked well for us and I would like to share it with you now.

There are three main components to this system and they are – (1) a dedicated cellular hotspot, (2) a reliable cellular data plan, (3) and a MIMO antenna. Let me explain how each of these components work together for us.

1 – A dedicated cellular hotspot

So what is a hotspot anyhow? Really, it’s just a device that allows other electronic devices like cell phones, tablets, computers and TVs to connect to the internet.

The hotspot sets up a local wifi in your RV and all of your devices can use that signal to get internet reception. In fact, the hotspot we use allows up to 20 devices to have internet access simultaneously.

Of course, some RVers have a cell service plan that allows them to use their cell phone for this purpose. So when the phone connects to the internet through the cell tower, it can share that connection with other devices.

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One problem with this approach is that using your phone this way eats up a lot of battery power. And on some phones, if you receive and make a phone call, your RV internet connection can be lost altogether.

And what if you want to have a private phone conversation? The internet connection for your other devices may suffer severely if you go out of earshot.

Also, cell service plans often put restrictions on hotspot usage by your phone. And even if they don’t, the data on your phone plan tends to be very limited and expensive.

Our Choice Of Hotspot For Internet Access

So, in view of all of this, I decided to use a dedicated cellular hotspot that does only one thing and does it well. And that is that it shares an online internet connection with all of my electronic devices.

My choice for a high quality, affordable cellular hotspot is the Netgear Nighthawk MR1100. It features plenty of the latest in hotspot technology and yet is very affordable these days.

We have two of these hotspots. One is dedicated to the AT&T network and the other uses T-Mobile’s cell towers. And we have been very pleased with the results of using these Nighthawk hotspots.

We just switch them out as needed when we determine which carrier has the best reception where we are camping.

Click here to see the Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 hotspot that we use

(This is an affiliate link for the product on Amazon. It does not cost you any extra to buy the product using my affiliate link if you choose to do so)

2 – A Reliable Cellular Data Plan

There are so many choices when it comes to your cell service carrier that it’s downright paralyzing. Added to that is the fact that the main carriers are changing their service plans all the time.

And they also like to add restrictions in the fine print in each new plan offering too. So it’s a good idea to scrutinize your cell plan very carefully to be sure of what you are getting for internet connectivity.

For RV travel, the three big carriers that are most often used is Verizion, T-Mobile and AT&T. The reason for this is simple. These three carriers have the most cell coverage in the US.

But they all tend to charge high rates for data usage on their regular phone plans. So if you use your phone as your internet source, you will probably be limited on how much data you can consume in a month.

However, as of this writing, both T-Mobile and AT&T have started to add some pretty affordable data-only plans. And they can easily be used along with a dedicated hotspot or router in your RV, like the Nighthawk.

In fact, we currently are using a data-only plan from T-Mobile. It offers 100GB of data per month for only $50. But AT&T has just started to offer a similar plan as well.

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For more information on these data plans just visit an AT&T or T-Mobile store.

Another Choice For Cellular Data Plans

The really good news is that you are not just limited to cellular data plans from the big 3 carriers though. In fact, you can still get unlimited data usage plans that have very little restrictions from cellular plan resellers.

These resellers are able to sell data plans based on either the Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile tower network. But you aren’t actually dealing with the 3 main carriers yourself when you buy these plans.

And that can be the challenge in working with these resellers. They are essentially at the mercy of the big carriers.

So if the carrier decides to change or eliminate the plan you have from the reseller, there may be little advance warning. We have experienced that a few times ourselves.

In fact, during the Covid pandemic, there has been more volatility in the reseller data plans than ever before. This is because of the increased use of mobile devices by folks working from home putting additional pressure on the carrier networks.

But the reseller plans tend to be month-by-month arrangements anyway, and there are plenty of plans being offered. So if you lose a plan for some reason, it’s not hard to find another one to replace it quickly.

We are currently using an unlimited data plan from a reseller named OliveIP. We have been very happy with their service so far and feel that we can recommend them to others.

Click here to find out more about AT&T and T-Mobile
data plans from Olive IP

3 – A MIMO antenna

If you have close proximity to local cell towers, all you need for good data reception is a MIMO antenna.

MIMO stands for “Multiple In, Multiple Out”. And if you have a hotspot that can make use of MIMO technology, you have a big advantage.

That’s because MIMO essentially means that your hotspot now has more than one ear that is listening for data reception. And the more ears listening for cell signals, the faster and more reliable your data connection can be.

Our Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 has MIMO capability, so it allows us to get the best reception possible from local cell towers.

And the good news is that you don’t really have to have an expensive MIMO antenna to get good reception results. Especially if you are in urban areas.

In fact, our MIMO antenna is so small that it just attaches to our RV window with suction cups. But it definitely helps boost the reception of our hotspot when in use.

It has been all we really need to get great data transmission speeds when we are in fairly close proximity to cell towers. And for us, that is about 98% of the time.

Click here to see the Netgear MIMO antenna that we use

(This is an affiliate link for the product on Amazon. It does not cost you any extra to buy the product using my affiliate link if you choose to do so)

Do You Need A Cell Booster For An RV Internet Connection?

If you plan to camp in your RV in very rural or remote areas though, you may need more for a reliable RV internet connection.

So the next step that you may want to consider is to purchase a high quality RV cell booster. And for us, the choice was to buy from the industry leader, WeBoost.

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There are increasingly more companies to choose from in the RV cell boosting field. But WeBoost has been doing this a long time and they get consistently great reviews.

But which cell booster to buy for your RV travels? There are boosters that are specifically designed for use in an automobile. And they can be adapted for use in an RV or motorhome.

But WeBoost makes a dedicated RV cell booster that meets the needs of most RV travelers. It’s the WeBoost Reach RV booster.

It’s more expensive than the boosters used in automobile applications, but I want the best cell signal boost that I can get when I am in rural areas. And this booster provides that. In fact, it’s the most boost allowed by a cellular booster that can be used in motion.

The kit includes the booster and antenna for use inside an RV and a means to adapt it for use in a car or truck too. And there is plenty of mounting hardware for a permanent installation outside the RV.

Click here to see the WeBoost Reach RV cellular booster kit

(This is an affiliate link for the product on Amazon. It does not cost you any extra to buy the product using my affiliate link if you choose to do so)

But I have also found a way to attach the cell booster antenna to my RV without drilling any holes. Let’s talk about that part of the system now.

3 – A Portable Outside Antenna

Being an RV inspector, I have seen firsthand the kind of damage that water intrusion can do to an RV. So I don’t like drilling holes in my motorhome if I don’t absolutely have to.

But the vast majority of RV cell booster installations that you see do exactly that. They drill a hole in the roof somewhere for the antenna base.

Then they run wires through the RV to the spot where the booster is installed. And then they run more wires to the inside antenna.

This is a serious bit of work. And a lot of folks are not comfortable with all of this drilling and inside installation work. And who can blame them?

But what if you didn’t have to permanently mount your RV cell booster to an outside antenna? What if you could even raise your antenna far above the roof of your RV for the best cell service reception possible?

Our Outside RV Cell Booster Antenna

A company called TechnoRV sells a very high quality suction cup that is made for use on the outside of an RV.

Now this is not the cheap suction cups found at Harbor Freight. Those cheaper suction cups have their place, but this is not one of them.

Click here to see the suction cup I use to mount my outside booster antenna

These suction cups have clamps for attaching the outside cell booster antenna to a painter’s pole. And you can easily buy a strong painter’s pole at Lowes or Home Depot for just a few dollars.

You simply attach the antenna to the top of the extension part of the pole. Then you attach the suction cup to the handle of the pole. But how do you attach the cell booster cable inside the RV to the antenna outside?

A little known tip about RVs is that you can easily pass wiring through the slideout wiper seal when the slide is moving either in or out. Of course, when the slideout reaches its fully extended position or if it is completely retracted this doesn’t work.

But when it is in between these two opposite positions, it’s actually easy to fish a cable through the side of the slideout. As an alternative, you could also run the cable out through one of your RV windows.

Then you simply attach the RV cell booster cable to the antenna and mount it on your RV wall with the suction cup.

All of this takes me only a couple of minutes when I set up at a campsite. And the removal is equally as quick and easy when we leave.

Installing the antenna this way lets me run it up to the full height of the pole’s extension when it is in use. This is several feet above the RV roof. And that means that I get a much better RV internet connection because the antenna has fewer obstacles to overcome at that height.

My RV outside antenna
My outside antenna setup

An RV Internet Connection With Cell Boosters

If you put all of these components together you get a reliable internet connection in most places where you camp. But let me also discuss the proper use of a cell booster in this system.

Some people seem to have the opinion that they should leave their cell booster on all the time. Even when the connection is a good one.

But that is not what cell boosting is for. It’s designed for those cases when your dedicated hotspot cannot make a solid connection on its own. This usually happens when you are not in an area with readily available cell service.

But if your location is where there is plenty of good cell signal, you should probably turn off the RV cell booster. Why?

It’s the same reason that it makes it hard to understand a person who has a megaphone and shouts into your ear at close range. It’s just too loud and the sound gets garbled.

But suppose that person walks away about 20 yards and points the megaphone at you while talking. You can probably understand everything they say easily.

It’s the same with cell boosters. If you use them when the signal reception is fine, they may even degrade the incoming signal. So just use your RV cell booster when your hotspot needs help receiving the signal on its own.

An RV Internet Connection When No Cell Towers Are Around

What if you like to boondock a lot on BLM land way away from almost anyone else? Can you still get a good RV internet connection?

The good news is that in many cases it is possible to get a good internet signal if you add one more component to the mix. And that is a long-range directional antenna, like the Yagi antenna.

Click here for the Yagi directional antenna

(This is an affiliate link for the product on Amazon. It does not cost you any extra to buy the product using my affiliate link if you choose to do so)

The antenna that comes with the WeBoost Drive-X RV package is omni-directional. That means that it looks for reception in all directions. But by doing that it shortens its effective range.

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Directional antennas are made to look for cell reception in only one direction. So you have to find out the location of the nearest cell tower and point the antenna in that direction.

This takes a little extra fiddling when you set up camp, but when you get used to it, it can be very effective. Of course, if you get too far out away from civilization, you aren’t going to get any usable cell signal.

But many boondockers have used these directional antennas to pull in a useful RV internet connection when almost nobody else can. Of course, you need a high quality cell booster mentioned above to make this work like it should.

And for those who like to switch between campgrounds and rural boondocking, you may need two poles. One with a pre-installed omni-directional antenna, and one with a directional antenna instead.

The Best Source For RV Internet Connection Guidance

Finally, let me arm you with one more very important piece of information. And that is how to stay current with all of the changes that continue to happen in the mobile internet field.

This is vital because the technology for remote and mobile internet access is constantly in flux. So there is a need for someone to keep us all current with what is happening as it changes.

Fortunately, we all have such a resource and that is the Mobile Internet Resource Center. It is owned and operated by full-time RVers and boaters, so they have the same internet needs that we do.

The owners are known in the RV world as Technomadia. Their names are Chris and Cherie.

Their website has loads of information about mobile internet for RVers. And if you get the membership to their insider information, you will never be in the dark again when the industry changes.

I am a subscriber to their membership site, but I am not affiliated with them in any way. And I don’t profit at all by suggesting that you join their website. I just know that it’s well worth the money spent.

Click here to find out more about the Mobile Internet Resource Center

Conclusion

We have covered a lot of ground in this article. And what I have showed you is the exact setup that we use every day in our RV travels. And it works great for us no matter where we go!

Briefly, here are the advantages of the RV internet connection setup that I have explained above:

  • No holes in your RV
  • No need for expensive RV cell booster permanent installation
  • Easy setup and tear down
  • One central hotspot for all of your devices
  • High data usage plans that really work for mobile RVers
  • Consistently usable internet up and down transmission speeds
  • Cell boosting for both toad vehicle and RV
  • Highest possible antenna placement on the RV
  • Pull in far away cell signal with just a change of antenna

I hope this information about our RV internet connection setup has been helpful. If you have other suggestions on RV or mobile internet connectivity, please tell us in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.

Have safe and happy travels my friends!

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