Life En Route

Internet Access

We require reliable Internet access for work, so Internet was another one of those categories where we didn’t want to hold back. We have a robust solution that hasn’t failed us yet.

The primary sources of Internet for RVers are 4G/LTE unlimited plans. You can get plans from $25/mo to several hundred dollars per month, that appear to do the same thing on the surface. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it works.

Your bandwidth on a cell tower is delegated based on your plan – if the tower is nearly empty, you will probably have good performance with any plan. However, as the tower becomes congested, it will prioritize bandwidth according to where your plan lies on their network. Third party resellers – those like Cricket, etc are usually lowest on the totem pole. Native enterprise plans, on the other hand, are usually at the top of the priority list.

Due to that, we pay for grandfathered enterprise unlimited plans for both AT&T and Verizon through a reseller; bundling the plans together costs a bit over $200/mo. We use in excess of 600GB per month on them, without issue.

With the service figured out, we needed a good solution for a router. You can use individual hot spots, but we wanted a more powerful device and settled on a Cradlepoint AER1600 router after trying several alternatives.

The AER1600 router has a modular modem port, and we upgraded from the original CAT6 modem to a Cat18 modem, keeping the Cat6 as a backup. Cat18 is the latest modem technology with the most bands and available performance – having access to more bands means having an edge when struggling to find signal.

The modem supports dual SIMs with automatic carrier selection, so the same device is used for both AT&T and Verizon, and the router uses some user-defined health-check criteria to choose which carrier to use.

For low-signal locations, where we can’t get usable signal with antennas alone, we use a cell phone booster. The model we have is a weBoost Drive 4G-X, with a weBoost Omni Building Antenna on top of the ladder, and a weBoost Desktop Antenna on the inside of the RV. We often find ourselves in situations where we can use our mast-mounted antennas for Internet access and achieve much better speeds than with the weBoost, but need to use the weBoost to make calls. Other times, the weBoost is our last resort and the only way to reach the Internet.

For higher signal locations, we either use the 4×4 MIMO antennas it comes with, or a 2×2 MIMO setup mounted on the outside of our slide. The 2×2 MIMO setup on the slide just consists of two moderate gain, omni-directional antennas we purchased off Amazon. If we’re dissatisfied with one solution, we’ll try the other, then move onto the mast-mounted antennas or the booster.

For lower signal locations, or just for the best speeds, we have a 2×2 MIMO setup that consists of two log-periodic antennas mounted on a 20ft mast, that sits in the enclosure on the back of our rig.

With three antenna solutions, a booster, and solid cellular plans we haven’t found anywhere that we couldn’t have usable Internet.

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