Last Updated: August 2015
We’re constantly changing up our mobile internet arsenal to stay online as we roam this great country of ours.
Including our Overview of Mobile Internet Options for RVers
Disclaimer: We have no official affiliation with any of the companies discussed, and have nothing to gain (other than an occasional Amazon affiliate link) by sharing this information and links. We simply enjoy playing with technology and sharing our findings.
The rest of this post is about our specific personal setup, as staying online is essential to our technomadic lifestyle.
And for us it isn’t just about keeping a single laptop connected – we have an entire household full of technological geekery and gadgetry that we need to keep connected to the Internet, and to each other. We’ve tried out a lot of equipment and services since we hit the road in 2006, and we personally selected all of the below components on our own after extensive research.
Because we tend to push technology to its limits and beyond, we ended up forging friendships with some companies and have become beta testers for several of the newest offerings. We enjoy helping companies making products better suited for the needs of high bandwidth using technomads.. and we appreciate companies that strive to meet the needs of connected RVers.
This post gives a grand tour of our current mobile connectivity infrastructure that combines wired and wireless networking, and features cellular and WiFi.
Don’t get too attached to it however, this could all change in the blink of an eye! (Note, we are currently remodeling our bus – and will be making some equipment changes, and setting up for more head-to-head comparisons.)
Flagpole Mast & Antennas – When setup for a while and we need to reach a further away tower or access point, we deploy our FlagPole Buddy ($116 – 12′ / 1″ mount kit – ours provided by FlagPole Buddy) with an Ubiquity NanoStation M2 ($87 – provided by WiFiRanger) for WiFi repeating. The NanoStation ties in nicely to our WiFiRanger Go2 router. We also have directional wideband cellular antennas we can mount on the flagpole. We don’t stop for long too often, but we like having this option available.
Wilson Wide Band Directional Antenna – Worth The Hassle? (Member Only)
WiFiRanger Sky – Mounted on the roof of our bus is a WiFiRanger Sky ($399.99 – provided by WiFiRanger) and WifiRanger Mobile ($499 – no longer available) that we have been testing head-to-head courtesy of WiFiRanger. Both are standalone outdoor WiFi routers that features a powerful long-range WiFi antenna that can pickup hotspots vastly further away than our laptops alone can, especially considering they are mounted high up on the roof and not located inside a big metal tube (aka, our bus). Usually we tether the Sky to the WiFiRanger Go2 (#6) using power over ethernet (POE) and then let the Go2 create our local inside-the-bus hotspot. This is critical for us because our bus is metal, and getting signal from outside to the inside is difficult. We use this when we’re somewhere that setting up the flagpole doesn’t make sense, such as just passing through.
March 2015: We just got in their new Elite and Sky2 for testing, and will be sharing soon. All of our extensive reviews are posted at RVMobileInternet.com, and available first exclusively to our premium MIA members.
Cellular Boosters – The FCC implemented new rules in mid-2014, and manufacturers are just now releasing new products. If you don’t absolutely need boosting now – we recommend waiting a bit longer before investing in a booster.
Since June 2014 we have been using the Wilson Mobile 4G booster (aka 4G-M), and we consider it ‘tried and true’. We are currently assembling all of the newly released mobile 4G boosters (TopSignal Solid RF, weBoost 4G-X, weBoost RV 4G and Maximum Signal MaxAmp) in for testing, and will be choosing which becomes our new standard booster, and reporting on which models are best for which situations.
We will share our findings on our RV Mobile Internet Resource Center, and all of our reports will be initially available exclusively to our Mobile Internet Aficionados members.
To see what boosters are on our radar,
current status, initial thoughts and features:
Comparison: Mobile 4G Cellular Boosters
Mobile Hotspots (Verizon and AT&T) – We assumed liability of a grandfathered in unlimited Verizon account and now use it with a Novatel 6620L Jetpak. We also took advantage of the October 2014 double data promotions and upped our AT&T plan to 40GB (that we share with a few low bandwidth family members) and added a Unite Pro hotspot to the arsenal.
Not sure if you need a dedicated hotspot – here our article on the pros/cons:
MiFi/Jetpack, USB Modem or Smartphone Hotspotting?
April 2015: We just got in a PepWave MAX BR1 and MaxxFi Black for testing as an alternate router & hotspot combo. All of our extensive reviews are posted at RVMobileInternet.com, and available first exclusively to our premium MIA members.
iGadgets – The primary WiFi devices in use in our bus are our iPhones and iPads (purchased at market value). We use them quite often – including using the “Personal Hot Spot” feature to make them into MiFi-like internet access points themselves.
WiFiRanger Go2 (Router) – The heart of our system is the WiFiRanger G02 ($239.99 – ours provided by the folks at WiFiRanger, as we are a beta test site for them). The WiFiRanger is a smart router that can connect to a nearby WiFi hotspot automatically (such as campground WiFi, the MiFi, or any of our iPhone or iPad generated hotspots). It can also tether to and control a WiFiRanger Sky, Elite or Mobile mounted on the roof, and the Ubiquity NanoStation. To keep local traffic from clogging up the airways, the Go2 provides 4 wired ethernet ports that allows the router to network all our computers and entertainment devices. We have also tested a Pepwave SoHo (provided by 3GStore.com), and were impressed with it too. Jack Mayer wrote a great comparison between the two.
April 2015: We just got in both a Pepwave MAX BR1 and MaxxFi Black (our first impressions now posted) for testing and evaluation – both are combo WiFi as WAN routers and mobile hotspots. We working on a head-to-head comparison and review of these options that will be posted at RVMobileInternet.com, and available first exclusively to our premium MIA members.
July 2015: We have received WiFiRangers new Mini Pack, and Elite, for comparative testing.
Gigabit Ethernet Switch – Our TRENDnet 8-port gigabit ethernet switch ($30) is located in a cabinet under our desk, and provides a very fast data conduit directly between our computers. The switch is also connected to the WiFiRanger via a long ethernet cable that runs via conduit down through our bays and across to the bedroom cabinet where the WiFiRanger is installed. Using wired Gigabit ethernet is MUCH faster than WiFi, and avoids all sorts of interference issues. If you have lots of data to move between two computers, do yourself a favor and find a way to do it with wires!
15″ Retina MacBook Pro – Chris’ MacBook Pro (purchased at market cost) actually does not have an Ethernet port, but he uses an Apple Thunderbolt display as a monitor, which works as a docking station and provides his MacBook Pro with a true Gigabit Ethernet port while at his desk.
Mac Mini – Cherie uses a Mac Mini (purchased at market cost) as her main machine connected to a large external display. It is connected directly to the Ethernet switch, though she often gets online by tethering directly with her iPhone 5S on AT&T (she gets frustrated with all of the beta testing our setup is always under!).
LTTE – Libation: Technology Tribulation Elimination – Surviving via mobile internet can sometimes be frustrating, especially if you are used to the consistency of a plugged in connection like cable or DSL. For dealing with the inevitable frustrations, we suggest keeping a box or two of LTTE on hand as part of your tech arsenal essentials – it helps take the edge off when the bits just refuse to flow. We love Bota Box Old Vine Zin and RedVolultion (Cost – $14-19/box depending on local taxes)
Notes on Satellite Internet: Up until November 2013, we did travel with a tripod satellite setup from HughesNet. However between the prevalence of cellular & WiFi these days and no longer needing to be as connected as we once were due to shifts in our client load – after two years of non-use we ditched the setup. New in Summer 2015, there are now two new mobile satellite options.
Our current cellular mobile internet costs are:
- 2 iPhones on an AT&T Mobile Share Plan (25 GB/mo) – $75 (roughly, we actually share a 40GB plan snagged under a ‘double data’ deal with a few family members, which brings our costs way down.)
- iPad on AT&T with unlimited data – $30
- Verizon Grandfathered Unlimited Plan – $70
- T-Mobile iPad Plan – 1GB for $20/month gives us unlimited music streaming, unlimited international data and rollover data.
We consider our base connectivity charge to be $195/mo. (Please note, not all of our current plans are available to new customers.. so you’d not be able to replicate our setup and certainly not our low costs for this amount of bandwidth. But paying attention to deals as the carriers offers them is key.. which is part of what we offer through Mobile Internet Aficionados.)
- The Four Major US Carriers – Which is Best for RVers?
- How to Find Cellular Coverage
- Comparison: Cellular Carrier Data Pricing & Plan Guide (Member Only)
DEAL ALERTS: We are not affiliates and do not have any financial relationship with any the below companies – but they are fans of our blog and are offering you some savings. We get absolutely nothing aside from good will if you use these codes. (Some products above are linked to Amazon, which are affiliate links – it helps fund the hosting costs of this site.)
- PowerfulSignal specializes in cellular boosting equipment, and offers our readers free ground shipping if you use the promo code ‘Technomadia’ when you place your order.
- WiFiRanger – Save 5% off your order by using coupon code ‘WFRTechno’.
Installation & Cabling
So just how do we route all these cables around the bus?
When we replaced our refrigerator a couple years ago, we took the opportunity to route conduit from the roof of the bus, through the fridge vent and then into our cabinetry to our tech cabinet.
This allows us to more easily switch out cabling as needed, as we’re constantly changing out gear as we test and evolve our system.
Our The Mobile Internet Handbook has a lot more tips and tricks for installation and mounting of mobile internet gear.
Do I Really Need This Much ??
Our system is fairly comprehensive, and is designed to keep us online most of the time. As we work online, it’s important to us – but we can go out of touch for a couple days at a time. And of course, part of our work is testing mobile internet gear – so that we can report back to you what works for what situations.
What will be ideal for you, will likely vary. Some may need far less, and some may need far more. It’s highly dependent upon your needs, your travel style, your RV type, your budget and what existing setup you have.
We like the redundancy of multiple cellular networks and the combined coverage footprint we get with Verizon & AT&T – there are places where one excels over the other. We also are finding T-Mobile to be increasingly more useful in our setup, particularly for crossing into Mexico and Canada.
Public WiFi hotspot usage is hit or miss – sometimes we find some that is usable, but a lot of the time it’s not to be depended upon.
But when we do find it.. it’s worthwhile having the gear on board to take advantage of it.
Curious how our other RVing peers keep online?
Links to other Full Time RVer Mobile Internet Posts
RV Mobile Internet is Our Passion
We’re Here to Help You
After years of sharing about our own mobile internet connectivity, and answering lots of questions on it – we now dedicate a lot of our time helping our RVing community keep connected via our site, RVMobileInternet.com.
We try to provide as much as we can as a free public service with news, articles, guides and a discussion group. And we do offer some paid services that funds our time & efforts. We’re proud to be completely funded by our readers & members – thank you!
Internet for RVers Facebook Group – Got questions? Want to stay in the know? We host this free open Facebook group where we share news stories, articles and answer basic questions.
Mobile Internet News Feed – We track the industry news daily, and report things that might impact RVers from an RVers perspective. Check out the News Center, Subscribe via RSS or even get our free monthly summary newsletter (which is different than our Technomadia monthly newsletter – our personal travel journal.)
The Mobile Internet Handbook – 2015 US RVers Edition is the third edition of our 236 pages of mobile internet goodness. It goes over all of this stuff in detail to help you decide just what makes best sense for your setup. Available in PDF, Kindle, iBooks and Print – starting at just $9.99. We update this book every 9-12 months to keep it current.
Mobile Internet Aficionados (aka MIA) is our premium membership group designed to help those who rely on mobile internet for their RVing lifestyle. We provide exclusive in-depth guides, product overviews, member Q&A forums to address questions in far more depth than we can in a Facebook group, video sessions and an alert newsletter if there’s breaking news that impacts RVers. It’s kinda like our classroom to go along with the book (and includes free copies of the book).
Mobile Internet Advising – Overwhelmed by all the options? Not sure what is right for you? We offer a service of helping you assess your needs to come up with the ideal setup that balances your desires, travel style and budget. We start with a quick written interview, do a 45-minute phone/video private session, followup with a written report and give you access to our membership group for follow-up resources.