What to look for in a hotspot
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.
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.
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 should continue to expand throughout 2020, 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.