How to Get Internet in Your RV

Find out how to get online in an RV—with a hotspot device, a 4G LTE internet connection, or just your phone.


Are you wondering what’s the best way 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 almost all cases, it isn’t with satellite internet.

We don’t usually recommend satellite internet for RVs. It’s expensive and slow, although it has the advantage of working almost everywhere. A more realistic internet solution for your RV might be a bit unconventional, but that’s what life on the road is all about. Many RV-ers stay connected using cellular data—using a mobile hotspot or a 4G LTE internet plan.

In this guide.

Should I get satellite internet for my RV?

Getting satellite internet with a mobile satellite dish for your RV is not a simple process. 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. 

Viasat and HughesNet do not offer mobile satellite service for RVs, although they work with RVDataSat for basic satellite internet service (which delivers download speeds up to 2 Mbps). RVDataSat sells roaming satellite dishes priced between $6,995 and $15,995. Monthly roaming satellite internet service plans cost between $79.99 to $409.99 per month. 

If you’re an archeologist working in remote locations for months at a time, satellite internet from RVDataSat might be a good choice, but most RVers have better luck with a different solution. Using cellular data is cheaper and faster than satellite internet and phone, and despite the fact that we’re the satellite experts, it’s the solution we recommend 99% of the time.

Best internet options for your RV

Swipe left to see all →
Verizon mobile hotspot:
Inseego Jetpack 8800L 4G LTE

Infinite LTE Data 4G LTE InternetLadybug Wireless 4G LTE home internet
Inseego hotspotInfinite LTE DataLadybug Wireless rural internet
$$$$$$$$$$$
10–100 GB/mo. of cellular data (depending on plan)250 GB/mo. of cellular data 400 GB/mo. of cellular data
View on VerizonView on AmazonView on site

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.

You may have heard rumors about Starlink (from SpaceX) offering portable, on-the-road satellite internet service. So far, this is just a rumor. Starlink is open for beta testing in select parts of the US and Canada but doesn’t allow beta testers to take their satellite dish and use it while traveling. That might change in the future. We’ll keep you updated. 

Pro tip: The rental option

Pro top: 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 2020 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 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.

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 in 2020: RVs In, Airports Out

Our survey shows that 41% of Americans increased travel by RV, camping, and road trips in summer 2020.

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 for 2020:

  • 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 up 170% in 2020 over 2019 numbers, 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 destination states for road tripping in 2020: Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, and 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. 

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 Iridium Go!) are primarily designed for phone calls and text messaging only and are too slow for most internet activities.

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

Getting a mobile hotspot or 4G LTE home internet service are the best ways to get high-speed internet in your RV. You can either buy a hotspot device through your cell phone service provider or you can get a 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.

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