You know, when you are at home and you’re connecting up to the internet, and it’s a pretty simple thing. Usually there’s just a couple of internet providers in your area.
So you call up one of them and they come out and they turn you on and hook you up. From there, you’re on the internet and you don’t have to worry about much at all.
That’s because you’re in one place, and they’re in one place, and it all just seems to go pretty smoothly.
But getting RV internet service on the road while you’re traveling, well that’s a whole different challenge.
And for most people, it usually is going to involve getting a cell service signal for getting reliable internet service.
Of course, there are other ways to do it but we’re not going to go into that too much in this article. That’s because the vast majority of RVers are using a cellular service to get access to the internet.
But to do that you’re going to need the right equipment to be able to pull in the signal from cell towers wherever you go.
RV Internet Service – Using A Hotspot
And to make sure that the signal is a strong one, a lot of RVers use what’s called an internet hotspot.
These hotspots come in different varieties and they really are not very big. And they are portable, so they can be taken with you wherever you go.
In fact, even if they’re not connected to 120v home current, they have batteries so that you can still take them with you.
Now these hot spots are dedicated to one thing and one thing only. And that is connecting to a cell tower and getting a data stream from the internet.
They’re really not designed for phone calls at all. It’s a data-only type of device.
So first off, it connects to the cell tower and then sets up a hotspot Wi-Fi in your RV. And then that internet service is available to all the devices in your RV within its range.
The devices can then connect up to it, and therefore to the internet as well. Even your phones can connect that through hotspot. Also tablets, laptops, desktop computers, TVs and more.
But what should you be looking for in a quality RV internet hotspot? Quite frankly, it’s kind of hard to determine because there are so many out there for sale.
And there are so many price ranges too, so what do you choose?
Well, I have had to go through all of this process about looking for hotspot modems for internet service. And I did some research that I wanted to share with you.
RV Internet Service – Understanding Hotspot Modems
One important thing that I would really recommend is try to get the highest category modem in a hotspot you can afford.
Now these RV internet hotspot modems start down around Category 3 and they go up to Category 18 and higher.
So let me give you an idea about the difference in speed as you go up in modem categories.
Category 4 hotspots will usually have about a 150 megabits per second download speed. Category 6 doubles that to 300 megabits per second.
Then Category 9 improves to 450 megabits per second, and Category 18 modems to 1000 megabits per second.
And some of the latest hotspots use Category 18 modems at 1200 megabits per second.
Now let me emphasize something here. Don’t expect these numbers in real-world use.
Instead, it means that it in a lab somewhere they connected up to a signal source that had no other traffic on it. Not like a cell tower that has a lot of people using it at one time.
But what this information does for us is it gives us a way to compare category to category capability for hotspot modems.
So clearly we have Category 4 at 150 megabits per second and we have Category 18 at 1200 megabits per second. Why that’s a pretty serious difference in performance!
Advanced Tech In Modern Hotspots
And another point to understand is that more advanced technology is built into higher category modem hotspots.
For instance, higher category modems can connect to more bands for that particular cell carrier. So what do we mean by that?
Well, cell carriers distribute their signal on more than just one frequency or band. And very often there are multiple bands they will send it out on.
So the more bands that the modem in your hotspot can choose from, the better. That way it can find the band that has the strongest signal from the carrier.
But modern hotspots also can do something called carrier aggregation, which the higher category modems will allow you to use.
This means that it uses more simultaneous connections to the cell tower for a particular carrier.
Then it takes those connections and aggregates them into one data stream. This produces a faster and more reliable cell carrier connection.
These higher category modem hotspots also will have more antennas too. For instance, many modern RV internet hotpots use MIMO technology.
And that term stands for “multiple in – multiple out”. So what does that mean?
Well, the lower category hotspots will only have about two anntennas in them. But the higher category hotspots can have 4 internal antennas instead.
And they can also allow you to have more external antennas too. And that’s a real advantage!
This is because the more ears, or listening devices, that’s pulling in these frequencies or bands the better. And so higher category hotspots give you more antennas to listen to those frequencies.
My RV Internet Service Upgrade
Now, I also have added a second cell carrier to my repertoire for RV internet service. And I did that to make an internet backup for myself, to insure that I always have a good internet connection.
So at the same time that I got this second cellular carrier, I upgraded my hotspot too. This is because I wanted to see whether there is really a difference between hotpots in the real world.
Originally I bought a category 12 Velocity 2 hotspot and that was sufficient in most areas across the country.
But this time I decided to upgrade to a category 16 hotspot modem and see what happens. So I chose the Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 for my upgrade.
So let’s compare the stats between the category 12 Velocity 2 and the category 16 Nighthawk.
Comparing RV Internet Hotspots
Well, the Velocity 2 can access 7 bands in the AT&T network and that’s good. But the Nighthawk can access 11 bands.
Also, the Velocity 2 has 2 internal antennas whereas the Nighthawk has four. And the Nighthawk also has connections to use external antennas on top of that.
The velocity 2 has a limit of about 600 megabits per second download speed. But the Night Hawk has a 1000 megabit per second download speed.
Now once again, this is not real world use. This is just under the best possible circumstances.
But the Velocity 2 can also connect up to 10 devices in the Wi-Fi area in your RV at a time. On the other hand, the Nighthawk can connect up to 20 devices simultaneously.
And finally, the Velocity 2 can maintain about three simultaneous cellular connections at once. But the Nighthawk can maintain 4 connections simultaneously.
So those are all the stats. And clearly, in every category the Nighthawk performs better than the Velocity 2 on paper.
And I’ve got to say that I was surprised and amazed by the real world performance of the Netgear Nighthawk.
In fact, I can get a stronger signal almost anywhere I want to go with the Nighthawk.
My Upgraded Hotspot Modem Performance
Now to prove that, I’m at an RV park right now that is notorious for not being able to get solid internet access from a cell carrier.
And one reason for that is that the park is way away from most large cities. It’s also down in a canyon with mountains surrounding it.
So that’s about the worst internet cell signal situation you can get. And yet, with the Nighthawk I am still able to stream movies and have solid internet signal.
Now of course, I also am using a cell booster as I’ve described in other videos during my stay here. But if I replace the Nighthawk with the Velocity 2, my internet service speed drops in half.
And when I’m using the Nighthawk, I have seamless video streaming and strong internet. With the Velocity 2 the performance is much worse, marginal at best.
So it really does make a difference to get these higher category hotspot modems if you’re planning on full-time RVing.
In fact, I would recommend that you go for the highest category modem hotspot that you can afford. The upgraded technology will be very worth the added expense!
RV Internet Service – Recommendations
Now before I leave this subject I also want to recommend one more thing. And that is that if you will be spending quite a bit of time RVing, consider having more than one cell carrier.
I found that if you work over the internet, it is almost a necessity. Especially if you have to maintain a strong internet connection no matter where you are.
Now to do that, a lot of full-timer RVers use what’s called a reseller cellular carrier plan. And that is where resellers buy cell tower space from the major cellular carriers.
Then they resell that tower usage under their own brand name. So the key there is to get a good brand of reseller that has a solid reputation for customer service.
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.
Fortunately, there is a 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.
Just click on the link below to get information on all things related to mobile internet service. I am not affiliated with them, I just use the site for research.
In conclusion, I hope you have enjoyed this information on RV internet hotspots. I have really had to research a lot of this on my own.
And I felt that it was important to share what I have learned with others as well.
This is a very important topic for RVers, but especially for those that travel full-time or part-time.
If you have any other ideas for getting great RV internet service on the road, please comment below.
In the meantime, have safe and happy travels everyone!