How to Get Internet in Your RV

Find out how to get online in an RV—with a mobile hotspot device, a 4G LTE internet connection, satellite internet, or just your phone.
Best for weekend RVers
Best for urban travelers
Best for remote workers
Verizon
Verizon Jetpack + data plan
4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5
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    Best cellular network
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    $140/mo.

Kristin Cooke
Researcher & Writer
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Published on May 13, 2021

Are you wondering what the best way is to get internet in your RV? A lot of RV travelers have figured out how to stay connected to friends, family, news, and entertainment while they’re on the road. Many even work remotely or run a business while traveling the country. But, in most cases, it isn’t with satellite internet.

We don’t usually recommend satellite internet for casual RV travelers. It’s expensive and slow, although it does have the advantage of working almost everywhere. If you’re an archeologist working in a remote location, satellite internet will be the best choice, but most RVers tend to stay in more populated areas that often have cellular service at least part of the time. 

The most cost-effective internet solution for your RV might be a bit unconventional, but that’s what life on the road is all about. Many RVers stay connected using cellular data—using a mobile hotspot or a 4G LTE internet plan

Which internet option is best for my RV?

Should you get a mobile hotspot or spring for satellite internet? How about 4G LTE service and prepaid data cards? The best internet solution for your RV will depend on many factors: travel duration, location, and cost.

Pro tip
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Always have a backup internet plan for RV

To ensure better connectivity across the country, many RVers have a few mobile plans with different carriers—like one plan on AT&T’s network and one with Verizon. This redundancy gives you broader coverage than one network alone can provide, although it can’t deliver nationwide coverage like satellite internet can. If you’re working remotely in an RV, having an internet connection plan B (and sometimes a plan C) is essential.

Ask yourself, how vital is internet connectivity while traveling? If you have work deadlines to meet, health issues, or other concerns that require 24/7 connectivity, invest in the best internet you can get and have a backup plan (or two).

In this guide

Find your best internet option by answering the questions below.

  1. Do you travel in areas with cell phone service? If you stay primarily within established campgrounds, at popular lakes and beaches, at resorts, or with friends and families in cities, you will probably be within range of cellular service most of the time. If this sounds like you, get cellular internet for RV with a mobile hotspot or 4G LTE internet.
  2. Do you travel in extremely remote areas? If you go boondocking on public lands or in areas without any type of cellular service, the only way to get online will be with satellite internet. If this is your traveling scenario, get satellite internet for RV or at least a satellite phone for emergencies.
  3. How often do you travel? Some folks travel for months at a time while others are weekenders. If you travel a lot, you’ll need much more internet data than if you are a weekender or intermittent traveler. If your travel is seasonal, such as during summer or winter months, you’ll want to get internet service that is month-to-month rather than contracted for a long period of time.
  4. How much time will you spend online during your travels? Do you plan to spend half a day or more on the internet or on video calls with friends and family? If so, you’ll need to get an internet plan with enough data to stay connected.
  5. Are you working remotely? If you work remotely, and your livelihood depends on 24/7 connectivity, you’ll need to invest more heavily in your internet connection to stay productive while on the road and while camping. Remote workers need redundancy options so when one option doesn’t work, another is available. 
  6. While traveling, do you use the internet for entertainment? You’ll use a lot of data if you do things like stream Netflix, Hulu, or play video games. Don’t use satellite internet data for entertainment since it’s expensive and often too slow. Instead, get a cellular data setup for entertainment on the road. It won’t work everywhere, but streaming isn’t the only option in RVs—you can also use a DVD player or get satellite TV for your RV
Best for weekend RVers: AT&T Prepaid 100 GB plan + NETGEAR mobile hotspot
Our Rating
4 out of 5 stars
4
  • $55/mo.
  • 100 GB of data
  • Limited coverage area (AT&T network with no roaming)
  • Requires device purchase ($268 for NETGEAR mobile hotspot)

AT&T launched a new data-only plan in spring 2021 that gives you twice as much data as previous hotspot plans. Priced at $55 per month, you can get this plan and use it with a NETGEAR Nighthawk M1 Mobile Hotspot for internet in your RV.

Like any cellular data, you won’t get a signal in extremely remote areas. Before you sign up, check an AT&T coverage map to make sure you plan to travel primarily within AT&T coverage areas. AT&T is the second-best network provider in the nation and gives good value for your money. 

If you want to maximize your cellular connection in harder-to-reach locations, we recommend the MobilSat Enterprise Router and External Antenna setup. This will boost your wireless signal and give you better service in places like wonky campground settings. 

Best for streamers: Nomad Internet + Nomad Travel Router
Nomad Internet
Our Rating
3 out of 5 stars
3
  • $129–$149/mo.
  • Select from T-Mobile or Verizon network
  • No monthly contract
  • Unlimited data
  • Requires $149 device purchase (battery-operated travel router)
  • No roaming outside network coverage area
  • Limited coverage area

Not sure if T-Mobile is for you? If you travel city to city in your RV to experience the best of America’s beach towns, events, culture, festivals, and nightlife, then T-Mobile’s hotspot plans might be an excellent way to get internet for your RV. 

The carrier’s first 5G hotspot device—the T-Mobile Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 Mobile Hotspot—costs $336 (or $14 per month for 24 months). Pair this hotspot with a prepaid (contract-free) data plan, and you can stream and connect anywhere there’s T-Mobile service. T-Mobile prepaid data plans give you a set amount of priority data and then unlimited 3G data. Video streaming is in DVD quality (480p).T-Mobile’s network is strong in cities and suburban areas but isn’t as robust in rural areas as Verizon and AT&T. But T-Mobile’s 5G network is better than any of the other providers. So if you’re more of a city hopper, who travels from Las Vegas to Palm Springs to San Francisco, you can get faster and less expensive cellular data from T-Mobile than you’ll get from any other provider.

Best for boondockers: RV DataSat 840 Satellite Antenna + satellite data plan with Mobil Satellite Technologies
MobilSat Logo
Our Rating
4 out of 5 stars
4
  • Widest coverage area (far beyond cellular networks)
  • Slow data speeds (1–4 Mbps)
  • $6,995+ equipment fee
  • $69–$409/mo. for monthly satellite data service
  • Professional installation required
  • No roaming outside network coverage area
  • 1-year service contract required

If you’re traveling to extremely remote and rugged locations, the RV DataSat 840 Satellite Antenna is the best setup for you. This fold-down satellite dish is permanently installed on the roof of your RV or van. And best of all—it works far beyond cellular service areas. As long as you have a clear, unobstructed view of the sky, you can get a satellite signal in most parts of the US, Mexico, and Canada.

But before you jump into this option, be prepared for some upfront costs. A satellite antenna setup for RV from RV DataSat costs $6,995 and up and requires professional installation. 

Mobile satellite data is slow—ranging from 1–4 Mbps depending on which plan you pick—and costs between $69 to $409 per month. Entry-level data plans don’t have enough speed or data to stream video. If you want to do any kind of video streaming, you’ll have to spring for the pricier “Entertainment” plans that deliver speeds up to 4 Mbps. 

Best for urban travelers: 5G MiFi M2000 Mobile Hotspot + T-Mobile Prepaid data-only plan
T Mobile logo
Our Rating
3 out of 5 stars
3
  • $5–$50/mo.
  • 0.5–50 GB of data
  • No monthly contract
  • Limited coverage area (T-Mobile network with no roaming)
  • Requires device purchase ($336 for Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 mobile hotspot)

Nomad Internet is a great portable cellular internet option often known as 4G LTE home internet or wireless internet. If you want lots of low priced data for weekend trips and seasonal travel, 4G LTE is the way to go. 

With this setup, you can stream video, browse the internet, and check emails from any location you have a cellular connection. It isn’t going to work in extremely remote areas, but if you tend to explore on the edges of civilization, it can be a great option.

When you sign up, you’ll select a plan that’s either on the T-Mobile or Verizon network. Check out cell phone coverage maps before ordering your plan to make sure your hot travel spots will have service. All plans include unlimited data (although excessive data usage over 250 GB per month may flag a warning from the carrier).

Best for remote workers: mobile hotspot + Verizon data plan
Verizon
Our Rating
4 out of 5 stars
4
  • $140/mo. data plan
  • 40 GB data
  • Requires device purchase (Verizon Ellipsis® Jetpack®
  • MHS900L) for $79.99 or $3.33/mo. for 2 yrs.
  • 10-hr. battery life
  • Not 5G compatible
  • Widest cellular coverage area but will not work in remote areas

If getting online is critical because you work remotely, get a hotspot with the best cellular carrier available: Verizon. You won’t have guaranteed service everywhere, but you’ll be highly likely to get good service in many locations. Get a cell phone signal booster like the weBoost Drive X RV for the best range, unless you want to spend a lot of time parked at coffee shops or in parking lots.

As a precaution, we strongly recommend that remote workers have redundancy options. Do this by adding another additional internet option, like a T-Mobile hotspot, a satellite plan, or a 4G LTE plan that runs on the AT&T network. With a few internet connectivity options, you’ll be more likely to find service wherever you travel and keep working on the move.

Should I get satellite internet for my RV?

Yes, it is possible to get satellite internet in an RV, but you’re looking at thousands of dollars in equipment if you opt for a mobile satellite dish, expensive service contracts (up to $400 a month or more), and extremely slow internet service.

Best satellite internet for your RV

DataSat 840 .84m RV and Camper Satellite AntennaIridium Go! Satellite Hotspot
MobilSatIridium Go! Satellite Hotspot
Equipment price$6,999.00+

$789.00*

Data limit10–100 GB/mo. of cellular data (depending on plan)1,000 minutes (talk and text)
Data plan price$79.99–$409.99/mo.$199.00
Get it

Amazon.com Prices (as of 05/6/21 10:37 MST). See full disclaimer.

If you will be working or living in your RV in remote areas without any type of cellular service, satellite internet will be the only way to get internet in your RV (other than campground Wi-Fi or driving into the nearest town to hunker down at a coffee shop). RVDataSat offers a variety of satellite internet equipment for RVs that can keep you connected from almost anywhere.

RVDataSat sells RV satellite internet dishes and antennas that are priced between $6,995 and $15,995. These satellite dishes are pretty cool—they can be used anywhere in the US, Canada, or Mexico, and they fold down during travel to minimize the risk of hitting trees or tunnels. To see a map of the satellite coverage area, go to the MobileSat website and scroll down to see the Ku-Band North America map.

Mobile satellite data is also expensive. Plans from MobilSat start around $79 per month for speeds up to 1 Mbps (yeah, you read that right), which is too slow to stream video or do video conferencing. At the high end, mobile satellite plans go up to $409 per month for speeds up to 4 Mbps. With these speeds, you can send and receive email, browse the internet (albeit slowly), and stream music.

For people who live in their RV for part of the year in a remote location, a satellite internet setup will be worth investing in. For weekend RVers looking to escape city life and connect with nature, it’s not an option we recommend. Using cellular data is cheaper and faster than satellite internet and, despite the fact that we're the satellite experts, cellular data is the RV internet solution we recommend for RVers 90% of the time.

Can I get HughesNet and Viasat in my RV?

No, you can’t purchase satellite internet service for your RV directly from HughesNet or Viasat. HughesNet and Viasat are excellent options for satellite internet at home and other stationary uses, but their packages aren’t suited for a moving RV. The satellite dishes you get to receive internet service at your home are not designed to be used in motion. At least—not for now.

Can I get Starlink for my RV?

You may have heard rumors about Starlink (from SpaceX) offering portable, on-the-road satellite internet service. Although it's not available yet, this rumor has been confirmed. In March 2021, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced via Twitter that Starlink is developing vehicle antennas so that semitrucks and RVs can get portable internet on the road. The antennas will be too big for average-sized vehicles but will be a boon for busses, trains, planes, yachts, and RVs. Plus, it will likely offer higher speeds and more data than other portable satellite services.

As far as a timeline for launching the portable service, Elon Musk said he anticipates that Starlink will go mobile in late 2021. There isn’t information available on how much equipment or plans will cost to get Starlink in your truck or RV. Currently, stationary Starlink satellite internet service costs $99 per month, with a $499 upfront investment for equipment. If Starlink keeps costs similar for its portable service, it’ll be a great option for RVers. We’ll keep you updated as the mobile version of the Starlink service rolls out.

Currently, Starlink satellite internet service is open for beta testing in select parts of the US and Canada. Some parts of the US won’t have Starlink service available to them until late 2022. Additionally, Starlink doesn’t allow beta testers to take their satellite dish and use it while traveling. It is currently possible to move your Starlink service to a new location, but there is no guarantee that you’ll have service at the new location. 

Pro tip
Info
The rental option

Rent a satellite hotspot for remote travels

If you won’t have cellular service where you’re staying, and you must have access to the internet, you can rent a satellite hotspot. This saves you from having to pay $600 or more for the device. Check into options on renting a satellite hotspot, which can also give you phone service in extremely remote areas. 

Prices for renting a satellite vary depending on how long you need it, but you can rent an Iridium Go for around $60 a week. But keep in mind that such a device is used almost exclusively for SMS messages, basic HTML emails, and calls. A single web page can take minutes or even an hour to load via a satellite hotspot. 

What you’ll need for internet in your RV

We recommend getting internet for RV with a mobile hotspot device or a mobile-friendly 4G LTE home internet plan that isn’t tied to a fixed location.

To get cellular internet for an RV, you will need to have a router/modem and a data plan. The router could be a mobile hotspot device or it could be the modem/router that comes with your 4G LTE internet plan.

If you’re not going to use much data, you could also hotspot for free using your mobile phone plan (depending on how much data you will use). For more information on how to hotspot off your phone, check out our article on mobile hotspotting, which includes a review of the best mobile phone plans for hotspotting.

An internet hotspot

Since you’ll be far away from any landline internet connection (unless you hook up to the free Wi-Fi from the RV park or a coffee shop or shell out thousands of dollars for a dish), your internet access will come using either a cellular or satellite hotspot.

Cellular internet options (i.e., mobile hotspots) are generally faster and cheaper. Of course, the major concern of cellular internet—or “hotspotting”—is coverage, which can’t compare to residential satellite internet service. That said, it’s still better than nothing.

But 4G and 3G (and even 5G in some cases) cellular coverage in 2021 is better than it’s ever been—case in point: national network coverage maps.

An internet service plan

In addition to the hotspot device, you’ll need a service plan. The catch is that hotspots are typically designed for use with a single provider’s network, so you’ll need to make sure your service provider and hotspot match. If you go with a cellular hotspot, the most popular providers are Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Sprint has some good hotspot options as well. For satellite hotspots, we recommend going with Iridium.

What to look for in a hotspot

Network compatibility

If you opt to go with a cellular hotspot, you’ll need an accompanying service plan. To keep things simple, you probably want to go with the same provider you currently use for cell phone service. This keeps all your services on one bill and tends to be simpler.

There are two situations where we’d recommend going with a different provider than your cell phone service for hotspot service:

  • Your cell provider doesn’t offer a great hotspot device or service plan.
  • Your cell provider doesn’t offer good coverage in the areas you plan to use the hotspot.

In these cases, it’s probably worthwhile to go with a different provider and deal with a second bill to get a better service.

Maximum connected devices

Hotspots can support only a limited number of devices connected at once. In many cases, this limit will be more than you’re ever likely to need, but it’s still a good idea to check it. You don’t want to end up on vacation unable to support everyone’s devices.

Battery life

If you plan to use your hotspot outside the RV where you can’t keep it plugged in, you’ll want to make sure it has a decent battery life. Most hotspots offer between 15 and 20 hours of battery life, which we think is enough (unless you really just go to the woods to be online all day—we won’t judge). The main exceptions are 5G hotspots, which tend to offer more towards 5–10 hours. That’s a big difference, and it’s something to keep in mind if you’re considering a 5G hotspot.

5G support

Although 5G coverage is still spotty (especially in rural areas) and hard to make use of, it is a thing, and if you’re lucky enough to be in a coverage area, you’ll get superfast speeds (up to 1,000 Mbps with Verizon). 5G coverage will continue to expand throughout the next few years, so hotspots with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps might be a perk of the not-too-distant future.

Here are a few 5G hotspot options:

As they currently stand, there are a couple issues with 5G hotspots. First, they’re very expensive—several times the cost of a typical 4G hotspot. Second, the battery life tends to be much worse than equivalent 4G devices.

Overall, we think most people would be just fine with a 4G or LTE hotspot at this time, but this is more of a personal decision—if you think you’ll have 5G coverage where you’re RVing and want to take advantage of the speeds, go for it.

Can I just use my phone to connect to the internet in my RV?

You can use your phone as an internet connection while in your RV (or out of it for that matter—just as long as you have a cell signal). Most phones these days have a mobile hotspot feature built in that serves the same purpose as the dedicated hotspots we discussed earlier.

Verizon has the largest 4G coverage in the US while T-Mobile has the largest 5G network in the US. (Just know that although its 5G network is technically the largest, it’s certainly not the fastest.) But if you want to save money, we recommend skipping big, brand-name providers and signing up for service from a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that uses the same cellular network as bigger providers but under a smaller name.

Don’t let the overly complicated acronym deter you—MVNOs are common. It’s likely you’ve heard of some, like Tello, StraightTalk, Republic Wireless, and Mint Mobile.

One downside to this is you’ll get deprioritized traffic. The big providers save their best traffic for their direct customers and then siphon the rest of it off to the MVNO providers. Still, it’s usually good enough to get by on, and it can save you a bundle.

But as simple and easy as just using your cell phone may sound, there are a few reasons you might want a dedicated hotspot instead of just relying on your cell phone plan:

Data limits: Most cell plans have a limited data allotment for hotspot usage, and you may not want to burn your personal hotspot data up supplying internet to the people you're camping with. Also, be sure to check with your provider that your phone plan allows hotspotting before you do it. Otherwise you could be in for some unpleasant surprises.

Battery life: If you’ve got a bunch of people connected to your phone’s mobile hotspot, it’ll eat through your battery really fast. A dedicated hotspot device will last much longer, and you’ll still have your phone available and free from being constantly plugged in.

Range: Dedicated mobile hotspots usually have a longer range, so people won’t have to cluster around your phone to get a solid connection. Things in an RV are already crowded enough without dealing with that.


Traveling America: RVs in, airports out

Our survey shows that 41% of Americans increased travel by RV, camping, and road trips in summertime.

infographic

Road tripping in an RV has reached its heyday during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it makes sense. With RV travel, you can sate your wanderlust and maintain social distancing guidelines at the same time. We surveyed hundreds of Americans to find out just how much RVs factored into their summer plans.

Of our respondents, 76% said they felt safe traveling in an RV during the pandemic, while only 34% said they would feel safe traveling by airplane and staying in traditional lodgings. In fact, nearly half of respondents had to cancel or shift travel plans in the past year:

  • 47% canceled airline travel.
  • 41% increased their travel by RV, camping, or road trips.

We also discovered that when RV road trippers bring their creature comforts with them, that includes their internet—almost 84% of respondents said they want internet access while traveling in an RV.  Additionally, 80% of respondents said they bring their technology with them when they go RVing (phones, tablets, gaming consoles, laptops, etc.). 

As for working remotely, 59% of respondents reported that they’ve worked from an RV. If you’re wondering how everybody’s staying connected on the road, check out our guide to internet options for camping and RV.

How to get your rig

The only thundercloud to the bright spot of RV travel is that it’s harder to find a good rig than it was last year. RV sales are soaring during the pandemic, which is good news if you’re selling but not if you’re buying. In fact, 56% of RV owners in our survey said they bought or rented an RV due to COVID-19. If you don’t happen to own a cozy home on wheels, you can rent your dream rig for your next adventure from sites like RVshare or Cruise America

Where were people planning on visiting this summer graph

Where are all the RVs headed?

By now, most of us are hankering for a change of scenery. According to our respondents, here are the top five destination states for road-tripping.

  • Florida
  • California
  • Texas
  • Arizona
  • New Jersey

Since most of these states sport ocean views, we assume it’s the allure of sandy beaches and salty breezes that beckons us. (Or maybe folks are looking for Bigfoot in California, Texas, and Florida?) As for Arizona—the land of eternal sun and cloudless skies—its balmy temperatures make up for the lack of ocean views, particularly in winter. 

National parks, scenic byways, ghost towns, coastal villages, and glaciers are all within your grasp when you travel in an RV. Mask on or mask off, you can enjoy most of the trip from the safety of the captain’s chair. 

Methodology

The analysts at SatelliteInternet.com surveyed hundreds of Americans about their travel plans during 2020. 

Related articles

FAQ about satellite internet for RVs

How much does it cost to get internet in an RV?

Getting internet in an RV costs about $200 for a mobile hotspot device plus you’ll also pay for the data service—which usually costs about $10 per gigabyte of data. If you opt to use a hotspot on your cell phone plan, check with your provider for specific data rates and plan costs. 4G LTE Home Internet plans offer much cheaper data with monthly service—generally 250 GB or more for about $99 per month. But, 4G LTE equipment can be a little more expensive ($200 and up) than a mobile hotspot, which does add to the cost.

What’s the difference between a cellular hotspot and a satellite hotspot?

Both a cellular hotspot and a satellite hotspot will give you a mobile internet connection, but there are some major differences between the two. A cellular hotspot can potentially give you faster speeds, while a satellite hotspot can work in more remote areas. It’s up to you to decide which will work best for the kind of RV trips you typically take.

Some satellite hotspots (like the Iridium Go!) are primarily designed for phone calls, GPS, and text messaging and are too slow for most internet activities. Satellite hotspots are great for emergencies, for day-to-day navigation, and for checking in with friends and family by text or phone. 

What’s the best way to get internet in my RV?

Getting cellular internet (with a mobile hotspot or a 4G LTE home internet plan) is the best way to get high-speed internet in your RV most of the time. Once you wander away from cellular coverage areas, though, a satellite internet plan or a satellite hotspot will be the only way to connect.

To get cellular service for your RV, you can either buy a hotspot device through your cell phone service provider, buy an unlocked mobile hotspot on Amazon and get prepaid SIM cards for occasional use, or you can get a cellular plan that allows you to use your phone as a hotspot. If you sign up for 4G LTE service, you may be able to use an unlocked hotspot device you own or you may be required to use the one set up to work with the service.

Should I get a 5G hotspot for rural internet?

You probably shouldn’t get a 5G hotspot yet unless you live in an area with great 5G coverage. And if you’re living in a rural area—or your RV travels take you to beaches, National Parks, lakes, resorts, and small towns—you probably won’t get much use of it on the road.

You probably shouldn’t get a 5G hotspot yet unless you live in an area with great 5G coverage. 5G hotspots are much more expensive than 4G hotspot models, and the service is not yet widespread enough to justify the cost—unless you’ve got money to burn. This may change over the course of the next year or two as carriers roll out 5G service to more locations and improve the accompanying technology. Most providers will let you check 5G coverage for their service in your area on their site.

Other resources

Disclaimer

Amazon.com prices as of 5/6/21 10:37 MST. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. SatelliteInternet.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Kristin Cooke
Written by
Kristin Cooke
After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Utah, Kristin learned to geek speak while working as a technical recruiter, interviewing software developers and tech companies. For over 20 years, she has created award-winning content for technology, health, and finance companies. Kristin is an advocate for affordable internet for all and writes about rural internet solutions, satellite internet news, and tech products at SatelliteInternet.com. Her work has been featured in New York Post, PCMag, Forbes, Business Insider, Telecompetitor, Space.com, and The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.