A Frequently asked question on RV forums: What’s the best way to get online from my RV?
I’ve asked the same question for many years. I had a computer consulting company and needed to be available 24/7, even though (thankfully) i was rarely needed. At the Kerrville Music Festival back in the last century, I’d stay in a hotel so i could communicate and work during the day while I baked bread in the room. When the RV park opened at the festival site in 2000(?), I ran 2 telephone lines to my RV spot, one for talking and 1 for the modem (!!).. Different times indeed..
When we got electricity down in the lower meadow (around 2012+/-), wireless hotspots had reached the point where they were usable for me.
I still need (want?) to have as much internet access as possible.. And I need more than most RV’ers due to work and my internet addiction in general.
Here’s my hotspot and device line-up.
1. Sprint Hotspot
- $50 a month.
- No contract.
- Unlimited data.
- No charge for the hotspot, but you have to return it when you stop using it or pay $200.
- No MIMO antenna.
- Coverage map is weaker than verizon or at&t.
- Requires membership in FMCA ( which is not a bad thing )
2. Verizon Hotspot
- $20 a month added to my existing verizon bill.
- MIMO antenna connection.
- Stronger coverage map than Sprint
- 2 year contract
- 15GB monthly data limit
- $199 up front cost of hotspot
3. In addition to these, I also have an AT&T tablet which gives me unlimited data when watching Directv, and a limited amount of data (5GB) for everything else. (I need to upgrade that). I’ve had occasion where the AT&T signal was weak, and/or I was exceeding my AT&T data limit and I switched it to the Sprint or Verizon hotspot WIFI for some streaming.
4. Various computers which can connect to the hotspots, a router inside the RV which provides me with small network connectivity including the ability to print to a HP Officejet 250 portable printer.
At the campground at Cooperstown, Sprint was unable to connect. Verizon connected, but it was slow until i connected the MIMO antenna. With the antenna, I got up to 3 bars and increased throughput.
I’ve found the overall throughput of both hotspots to be similar in performance. I prefer to use the Sprint, since it does not have a data limit. I switch to the verizon whenever the Sprint signal is weak. If I’ve got a lot of data left on the Verizon towards the end of the monthly billing period, I’ll use that one as a primary for a bit.
If you are looking for a single hotspot, I’d encourage you to look for one with a MIMO connection. Of the “big three” (AT&T Verizon and Sprint), I’ve only found verizon hotspots with MIMO capability. The ability to add that external antenna will get you a signal when otherwise, you’d be out of luck. AT&T does not offer hotspots with decent amounts of data (as of this writing). If you also get a Directv subscription, streaming Directv does not count against your data cap.