Travel around the country in your RV and you need WiFi? With the right equipment and gear, you can be connected to the internet wherever you go including rural, backwoods National Parks or a lively RV campground! With an RV internet connection, you can work remotely, homeschool the kids, stream videos or games and video chat with co-workers and loved ones.
What is RV WiFi? It’s an internet connection that works like any other WiFi. It connects to your phone, tablet, computer and any other WiFi enabled device. You can browse and stream like you would at home. There are two primary options for RV WiFi: streaming from a cellular data provider like AT&T or using a signal pulled from a local WiFi network.
Determine Your Internet Needs
The first step to installing RV WiFi is deciding your level of connectivity that you will need. Are you just checking your email or Facebook? Working? Homeschooling? Video chat? Playing video games?
Using the internet occasionally like email or online shopping, you will need minimal setup and service. Depending on where you will be camping, you most likely can use the campground WiFI or hotspot from your cellular service provider.
If you are planning on streaming videos, you’ll need more equipment and a reliable connection. Working remotely or homeschooling, we’d recommend you have at least 100 GBs of data per month, therefore, unlimited data is your best option.
Wifi at Campgrounds
Many campgrounds and RV parks offer WiFi, but getting a good connection can be difficult. Relying solely on campground WiFi is difficult due to bad connectivity rate and only recommended for minimal internet activity. Campground WiFi is known to be slow because other metal can get between your RV and the router which weakens the signal. The more people connected to the free campground WiFi, the slower the signal can be. Rural campgrounds rely on satellite internet, DSL or fixed wireless internet which can be slower sources.
Common terms for RV WiFi
Before you decide which route to go with your RV internet, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the common RV WiFi terms below.
Your internet speed determines what you can do online, no matter how you are connected to the internet. Google has a speed test function. If you type in “speed test” into your Google search bar and click on “run speed test” you can determine the speed of your internet. There are also other websites and apps that you can use to see your internet speed. Your goal is 1 megabit per second (or 1 Mbps) for basic internet browsing but for streaming you need between 4 to 5 Mbps.
This is a device that provides internet connection from cellular data that is password protected. Many companies have different names for their hotspots. AT&T calls theirs “Unite”, Netgear is referred to as “Nighthawk”, T-mobile uses the term “Hotspot” and Version calls their “Jetpack''. These devices are usually around $100 or more each. You can use your smartphone as a hotspot as well. This is called Tethering and can be slower than using a dedicated device to hotspot. Tethering is not a recommended long term, practical solution.
A booster gives your cellular data a boost which increases your signal from one bar to two. This enhances the signal and increases the speed. Booster devices cost anywhere between $50 and $500. Repeater, Extender or Ranger These devices extend your existing WiFi and fix connectivity problems if you are too far from the router. Some newer RVs have these devices already built in.
You can use a router for your RV WiFi like you do at home! WiFi repeaters use an antenna on the roof and a router inside the RV that broadcasts your RV WiFi connection.
An unlimited data plan is a good option for RV connection, therefore, you are not limited to how much internet you can use or susceptible to additional fees that prevent you from going over your data. Unlimited data is a better plan so you don’t worry about going over your usage and can use the internet as much as you need.
Throttling is when providers slow down your internet signal which typically happens when you reach your data limits or when too many people are connected to a tower at once. To avoid this, you can choose to have two providers, one for your smartphone and one for your hotspot, so when one device is slow, you can connect to the other provider.
Which RV WiFi solution is best to fit your needs?
Using cellular data is the most popular internet option for RVers. AT&T and Verizon are known for having the best coverage nationwide for unlimited hotspot. It's smart to have one provider for your hotspot and one for your cell phone, in case one isn't working, you can opt to use the other. If you plan to be in rural areas, a cell phone booster is also recommended. You can buy one on amazon for around $30 like this one here. A more expensive option is an omnidirectional antenna to boost your connection.
Public WiFi is good for your basic needs but not always reliable. If you use campground WiFi, purchase an extender to put in your RV to increase connectivity. In addition to RV parks and campgrounds, you can find free, public WiFi at businesses such as coffee shops, libraries and local restaurants.
Satellite internet options, such as HughesNet, offer high speed internet anywhere in the country. It requires a dish to be added to the top of your RV roof. This option is good for long term stays where WiFi and cellular are not available like rural, backwoods camping. Keep in mind, adding a satellite dish will increase the height of your RV.
Skyroam is a global internet plan that allows you to cross borders. Designed for international travelers, you can purchase unlimited data with different plan options such as 24 hour service, weekly or monthly packages. This is recommended for areas outside of North America since most cellular plans work in Canada and Mexico.
Installing RV WiFi
Professional installation of WiFi equipment can be recommended for certain devices. Remember to read your manufacturer's guide to installation to make sure you have the right tools handy. If you have to drill holes in your roof to attach an antenna or satellite, make sure you seal the holes properly with manufactured recommended sealant. Always check your manufacturer recommendations for mounting locations and make sure you have a clear line of sight. A power switch may need to be installed as well. If you need assistance with installing your WiFi equipment, the staff at Lakeshore RV in Muskegon is happy to help!
To stay connected, we recommend maximizing your internet coverage by using a combination of the connection options. No single internet option will give you 100% connectivity rate at all times in your RV. For basic internet connection, using public WiFi and streaming from a smartphone will be enough to fulfill your minimal internet needs. If you’re working remotely, streaming, playing video games and homeschooling, we recommend a combination of the following:
This will cover you in most situations whether you are camping in the backwoods or at a busy RV park. This combination will give you the option to mix and match to maximize your needs. It’s important to take the time to properly set up your equipment and reach out to a professional if you’re unfamiliar with installing the internet accessories.
Adding RV WiFi allows you to see the world, explore new places and still work remotely from your RV or homeschool your kids. For further information connecting your WiFi equipment, reach out to the professionals at Lakeshore RV in Muskegon Michigan! Happy camping!