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!
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What About Campground Wifi?
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 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 inexpensive. It has worked well for us and I would like to share it with you now.
There are three components to this system and they are – (1) a dedicated hotspot, (2) a high quality cell booster, (3) a portable outside antenna. Let me explain how each of these components work together for us.
1 – A dedicated 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.
Some RVers have a cell service plan that allows them to use their cell phone for this purpose. When the phone connects to the internet through the cell tower, it can share that connection with other devices.
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 is 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.
And finally, cell service plans often put restrictions on hotspot usage by your phone.
So, in view of all of this, I decided to use a dedicated hotspot that does only one thing and does it well – share an online internet connection.
Which Cell Service And Hotspot To Choose?
There are so many choices when it comes to your cell service carrier, 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 add lots of 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 two carriers that are most often used is Verizion and AT&T. The reason for this is simple. These two carriers have the most cell coverage in the US.
T-Mobile is not bad though. But Sprint is only usable mainly around larger urban areas.
But in my research I came across a reseller of AT&T cell service that has great reviews from a lot of RVers. It’s called OTR Mobile. Just click the link to visit their website.
I am not affiliated with them in any way, but I can recommend them based on my experience with their service so far. In fact, we have had an excellent RV internet connection almost everywhere we have gone across the country.
And the best part is the cost. We currently have an unlimited and unthrottled plan that only costs us $60 per month as of writing this.
We have used it for all of our computing needs online and also for streaming too. And it has worked very well for us, even in rural areas.
There are dedicated hotspots that you can buy with the service and we are satisfied with the Velocity 2 hotspot that we bought from OTR Mobile.
It connects up to 10 devices to the internet simultaneously. And we have used almost all of those connections so far.
Of course, you can buy more expensive and more capable hotspots if you like. But we can highly recommend OTR Mobile for the hotspot and the service that we currently have.
2 – A High Quality Cell Booster
The next step in this simple system is to purchase a high quality RV cell booster. And for us, the choice was to buy from the industry leader, WeBoost.
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 Drive-X 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.
After looking around for a long time I bought the RV bundle that TechnoRV offers. It 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 finally, it also includes equipment that allows me to attach the outside antenna to my RV without drilling 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 the RV bundle sold by TechnoRV approaches this issue from a whole different perspective.
What if you didn’t have to permanently mount your RV cell booster outside antenna? What if you could even raise your antenna far above the roof of your RV for the best cell service reception possible?
(This is an affiliate link for the product on TechnoRV. It does not cost you any extra to buy the product using my affiliate link if you choose to do so)
All of this is possible with the RV bundle from TechnoRV and here is how it works:
Our Outside RV Cell Booster Antenna
The TechnoRV bundle comes with 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.
In fact, just to be safe, I also include a second suction cup for extra stability.
The bundle also comes with a means of attaching the outside cell booster antenna to a painter’s pole. And you can easily buy one of these 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 to the antenna?
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.
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.
How About 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.
(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.
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.
So 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
- Low monthly cost through OTR Mobile
- 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 connectivity, please tell us in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.
Have safe and happy travels my friends!