How to get FAST RV Internet

How to get FAST RV Internet in 2024

This is a comprehensive look at how to get FAST RV Internet! This is your FREE RV Internet e-book and buying guide! It includes everything you need to know about RV internet. Getting reliable, fast RV internet is a big deal. We have made mistakes in the past, and you don’t want to make an expensive mistake.

Updated June 2024 with new Starlink information and FMCA Tech-connect plan changes.

Updated December 11. 2023 Cat 22 modems and other changes.

Updated April 27, 2024, T-Mobile Home Plan restrictions.

RV internet buyer’s-guide (e-book)

There are lots of details to get correct. I will explain how you can choose the best RV internet system. This is your RV internet buying guide. Since it is everything you need to know, it will be long. I will try to keep it short and still answer all the questions. To keep it short, I will omit things you don’t need to know. On this subject, you can get so far into the woods that you end up just going in circles.

Everything you need to know about RV internet

We have lived in my RV full-time for the last six years, so we have been working (if you call this work) on our RV internet solution for six years. I have quite a background dealing with this issue and have written several published articles about it. I will address every aspect of getting RV Internet while on the road. I will put links to some of the articles below, but they are all out of date. This stuff changes fast.

Garmin RV GPS
Garmin RV GPS

Another thing you should know about us is that we move frequently. So, we need RV internet solutions that work at multiple locations. I want an RV internet solution that will work everywhere we travel. We don’t usually use the internet while moving (except for music and backup navigation). So, RV Internet access while driving is not a concern for me. We also don’t require the internet for navigation because we have a stand-alone Garmin GPS. Our stand-alone GPS doesn’t need an internet connection to work.

Skip directly to the answer.

Here are links directly to my recommendations. If you want the details of why I chose my system, you can come back to the beginning. If you would rather have the answer, here is what I got, what I would do and recommend. I don’t get commissions or kickbacks. These links are for the best answers that I have found.

Table of Contents

Everything you need to know about RV internet

Notice that I didn’t say everything that there is to know about RV internet. The subject is much bigger than I am going to cover. If you want to know everything that there is to know about RV internet — I have friends who do that. Here is a link to the Mobile Internet Resource Center

Mobile Internet Resource Center
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Chris and Cherie are great and make it their business to know everything about RV internet. I, however, am going to tell you what you need to know about RV internet in 2024. I am going to warn you that the subject and answers change fast. I am willing to bet that even though there is only one more month remaining in this year (2023), some of this information will be out of date before the end of the year.

Still, I will attempt to keep this RV internet guide up-to-date with news as it changes. When I change the guide, I will also change the published date so that you will know that you are getting the most up-to-date information about RV internet solutions.

Tried and True

The RV internet solutions that I am going to tell you about are the ones that work for us. Every little part has been tested for at least six months. I have used some of these devices and RV internet solutions for five years without replacing them. The things I am going to present work great, but that doesn’t mean that there are no location-related challenges. The things I have tried that don’t work have been discarded and not included.

Four High gain FRP cellular antennas on my RV roof. Each is mounted to a magnet that I glued to the roof. When they hit a tree, The antennas would lay down rather than bust off.
Four FRP cellular antennas on my RV roof. Each is mounted to a magnet that I glued to the roof. When they hit a tree, The antennas would lay down rather than bust off. Both the magnet part and the antennas worked. What didn’t work well was the router.

Preview

I am going to introduce you to devices that get multiple signals at the same time from one internet provider and some unique devices that can combine internet signals from multiple providers. These devices provide a huge jump in performance and amazing results.

Who is this RV internet guide for?

We are full-time RVers and the internet, for us, is important for both entertainment and writing this blog. Without good reliable internet, I doubt that we would have made it six years on the road. Seeing the United States and Canada is important to us. Last year (2022) we crossed northern Idaho with no internet connections for weeks. This year (2023) we drove nearly 600 miles across Canada and didn’t have cell service at even one stop. You can’t have cell service when there are zero cell towers and no customers. I plan to do similar remote routes again, but I hope that I will be able to be connected at every stop.

This is my Mobile Must Have Road Warrior VR2 Internet Bundle ready for installation.
This is my Mobile Must Have Road Warrior VR2 Internet Bundle ready for installation. For my installation, I wanted the antenna on the driver’s side of the roof and the roof penetration box on the passenger side of the RV. To make sure I had enough cable I chose the 15-foot antenna cable. Two antennas are attached to the modem and four additional antennas are on top of the external antenna. I don’t use any of these smaller antennas, only the external antenna.

We are not done traveling yet, but that is another story. So, first, this guide is about our RV internet journey. Second, this RV internet guide is for people like us who live and travel in an RV full-time. Third, this guide is for part-time travelers. I am happy enough to recommend these solutions to people who don’t travel but live far enough away to make getting internet difficult.

This RV internet guide is very important for people who work and travel. For these income-earning RVers, the information in this article is critical. This includes if you are an RVer who works while traveling and even for the RVers who are just trying to extend their weekend travels by driving, say, on Thursday, then working from the campground on Friday, then enjoying their RV on the weekend, followed by working from the campground the next Monday. That would turn a two-day weekend into a four-day weekend.

If you like to camp at remote locations but still need to stay in touch with the outside world for emergencies and medical issues, this RV internet guide is for you.

My Parsec Husky Antenna laid out on my roof prior to installation to see how the wires would run to my roof penetration box.
My Parsec Husky Antenna was on my roof (looking forward) before installation to see how the wires would run to my roof penetration box. The antenna is on the driver’s side (left side) of the roof. I chose this location because trees are much more likely to impact the roof on the passenger side.

If you are a traveler who enjoys extended travel but doesn’t want to get away from it all, then this RV internet article is for you. If your goal is to completely disconnect then you probably do not want and certainly don’t need RV internet. As it currently stands, with the right equipment and plans, you can now have the internet at a remote location, say 100 miles from the nearest cell tower in remote the Yukon (yes, we did that and had internet access). Not only can you do that but the plans are affordable.

Assumptions and scope

The first assumption is that you live in the United States. Some parts of this article apply outside the United States, but nearly all my experience is with using the internet inside the United States. I once tried to get internet in Mexico via Google Fi and failed.

I had difficulty with RV internet in Canada, but I made it work. Now that I am back in the United States after crossing Canada, I dumped Google Fi and replaced it with Visible. Am I satisfied with Visible as part of my RV internet solution, not totally… Perhaps I will pick Google Fi back up if I go to Canada next year, probably not, but then again, maybe I go back to Cricket. When we started RVing, my RV internet solution was Cricket. It worked until it didn’t work.

FAST RV internet

I know the title says that I am going to tell you how to get fast RV internet. I am not focusing on the fastest RV internet. If you want the fastest cell-based (cell phone) internet, you need to be near the cell towers. Cell towers are usually found near cities. Usually, I do not want to be near cell towers or cities. The second place cell towers are found is near major roads. Usually, I do not want to be near major roads. More than fast RV internet, I want internet that is fast enough, but more than fast, I want my RV internet solution to be dependable.

Sufficiently fast

For me, it is more important to have reliable, sufficiently fast internet at remote locations. We typically camp a long distance from cell towers, which means that if cell-based internet is the answer, I am looking for lower-frequency signals. The higher the frequency, the shorter the range. The higher the frequency, the faster the speed. Lower frequency—longer range.

Peplink MAX Transit Duo Pro Mobile Router in my tech cabinet directly below my roof penetration junction box.
Peplink MAX Transit Duo Pro Mobile Router in my tech cabinet directly below my roof penetration junction box.

Some 5G sources are the highest-speed cell service sources and 5G sources don’t work well at the distances from cell towers that I prefer. I know that 5G is all the rage, but it only works near larger cities. I don’t target camping in larger cities. I want my RV internet solutions to work wherever I camp.

Data Speed – How much speed is enough?

Data speed is measured in Mega-bits per second (Mbps. Typically you should always hope for at least 3 Mbps on any device. If the number is less than 1 Mbps, every web page other than pure text will be slow. If 3 Mbps and this data speed is shared between multiple users, then 3 Mbps will seem slow. If you are going to upload a video then upload speed is much more important than download speed, At least 5 Mbps will give you a reasonably good upload speed. Anything less will be painful.

A Cat 4 router mounted inside of my tech cabinet. The four antennas are mounted vertically.
A Cat 6 router is inside my tech cabinet. The four antennas are mounted vertically. The FRP antennas on the roof worked better than these smaller indoor antennas. This Cat 6 router was out of date when I installed it. It worked but never produced sufficient speed.

When downloading video, you want at least 6 Mbps. How did I get these numbers? Honestly, I used my six years of getting internet in my RV as a point of reference. In terms of fast enough, everyone is different.

Some power users will scoff at me for suggesting that 5 Mbps is fast enough. I am not suggesting that it is good enough, but rather that it is the bare minimum.

Network Management

“Network management” is a buzzword that cell service providers use to explain why your service slows down during peak times and is blazing fast at 3 a.m. What it means is that some lower-priority customers will be intentionally slowed down so that the cell service provider can give some other customers higher data speeds. Network management is not the same thing as data probation. Data Probation is my word. Here is a link: Unlimited data & data probation

Hardware and access: you need both.

Hardware is like your phone (and might be your phone). The hardware might be a laptop or tablet computer. The fact is that hardware alone doesn’t get you anything. You also have to have access to data.

With your phone, access is usually gained by getting a cell phone plan. Usually, a cell phone plan will have a certain amount of data included with the plan. On a cell phone, you also get voice and text access. On a data plan for a data-only device, since it isn’t a phone, you don’t get voice or text messages but instead, you get cell carrier-based data.

Four FRP antennas ready for installation. Frequency is optimized for 698~960/1700~2700MHz Polarization Vertical
Four FRP antennas are ready for installation. Each Antenna is 16 inches tall. The coax wire was one of the problems with this installation. Even though the antennas could have created a 5db gain, much of the gain was lost due to the wire size. The result is that these antennas only created a slight improvement compared to the indoor antennas.

I don’t have the most up-to-date hardware and am not interested in 5G data service. Perhaps someday, I will upgrade to 5G service, but since it doesn’t provide the access I need, I probably won’t do that unless 4G is unavailable. The providers did that very thing with the 3G to 4G conversion, and I survived.

The lines are blurry.

The previous paragraph references the most common phone plans. However, some clever people get phone access even if they don’t have a cell phone voice plan. One way to do this is via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). When you do this, you could use a virtual phone number from a service (Google Voice, for example), but you never really have a standard cell phone plan. Text messages can be obtained the same way. However, this is more advanced than I want in this article. I am trying to keep it simple yet comprehensive.

Carrier-constrained devices

Some devices (hardware) are carrier-constrained and only work on an individual cell phone company service. Some devices can move between carriers. Devices that move between carriers are called unlocked devices. In 2023-24, there is no reason to own carrier-constrained devices; all devices you consider should be unlocked by default. Be careful; not all devices are unlocked.

As an additional consideration, some phones don’t work on U.S.-based carriers but only function outside the United States. If you want service in the United States, make sure that the unlocked device works.

Sometimes, you can get both the hardware and the access from the carrier. Getting both the hardware and the access from the carrier is sometimes mandatory. Most of the time, the carrier will want to sell you both hardware and access both. This is because they control both the device and the access. Usually, when you get both from the carrier, they may give you good access and tie you to an out-of-date device. This usually is bad for you, and when I review data plans, I will point out some of the problems with these plans.

Be careful about unlocked devices.

Not all devices work on all frequencies, so even if you buy an unlocked device, it doesn’t mean that it is capable of getting every frequency. For example, if you buy an AT&T device and start using it on T-Mobile, it doesn’t mean that your device will get every T-Mobile frequency. It isn’t a big deal for most people, but this wouldn’t be an everything you need to know guide without mentioning it.

To scare you even more, don’t buy used unlocked devices. Some used unlocked devices have been blacklisted by cell phone carriers. The carriers then put the device in cell phone “detention” forever. Sometimes, this detention is never to provide service to that device again. You don’t want that to happen to you.

How do we use the internet?

  • Travel planning, tracking our travel and intended travel, making reservations, and things to do.
  • Entertainment, movies, videos, books
  • Writing this blog
  • Communications, emails, messages, FaceBook, and even phone calls (VoIP) when not in direct cell service areas.
  • Video phone calls
  • News and weather
  • Banking and bill-paying

How do we get internet?

  • Open networks (Campground WiFi & Public WiFi)
  • Cell-based internet, including cell phones, tablet computers, and cell-based hotspot devices
  • Cell-based routers and external antennas
  • Satellite-based internet
WiFi Logo
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(Campground WiFi & Public WiFi)

If open networks are your only option, do not expect them to be fast. These services were never designed to be fast and are (almost) never found in remote areas. There are exceptions to this, like if you are the only camper in the campground, but fast is exceedingly rare. If I am camping near an open network, I am camping too close to the city. I don’t rely on these services, with rare exceptions. Putting in a WiFi network at a campground is expensive to serve even twenty RVs. While campgrounds have good intentions, there is almost nothing.

Open Networks are WiFi sources that might be open by design or mistake. Open networks created by mistake are rare and becoming more rare. Even networks open by design and not requiring a password are rare. If you go to a coffee house and they offer free WiFi, then this is an open network. Sometimes, they require a password. This is an example of an open network.

Starbucks
Are there any Starbucks that don’t have Wi-Fi?

Due to the design of these Wi-Fi systems (and yes, due to government rules), these sources are short-range. Don’t expect to get fast service at long distances from the Wi-Fi broadcast antenna. Mostly, I think that if you get good service on an open network, you should consider yourself lucky.

Open network caution

Now that I mentioned Wi-Fi, I need to caution you. You are not the only person using an open network, and perhaps others on the open network are ready and willing to hurt you and your computer. Do not use an open network without adequate protection from malicious people. You are offering them an invitation to make you a victim.

Open network protection!!!

You must set up a private network to protect yourself from open network preditors. This is usually called a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN allows you to control access to what comes in so that predators can’t get in and access your data. Usually, you also want encryption associated with your VPN so that even if a predator gets your information, they can’t read it or do anything with it. How to set up a VPN and encryption is also beyond the scope of this article. If you use open networks, you need to protect yourself. Do your homework. Here is a link to a free VPN. Proton VPN Free

VPN symbol
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An additional benefit of a VPN is that it will allow you to access programming intended only for local audiences, even if you are not local. To do this, you will “pretend” to be local despite being remote. This benefit is above the scope of this article, but I needed to mention it to keep it comprehensive.

A VPN can slow down your internet data speed.

I don’t always use a VPN because it can cut your data speed. If your connection is private, there isn’t any reason to use a VPN. You need a VPN to protect yourself on a public network. To keep your speed up, you may want to use some tricks to encrypt only the data you want to keep private and not encrypt data that doesn’t matter if it is seen. This is called split tunneling.

Open network secret

The secret to getting the best Wi-Fi service from an open network is a great antenna. You will have the best Wi-Fi service with a great antenna, but it probably won’t be great, even if it is the best. I will investigate this later because antennas don’t work alone; you need other quality components to have a fast network.

Do we use open network internet?

Rarely, hardly ever. Open network internet is too slow (even though our set-up allows for the fastest open RV internet) and too unreliable to be useful. We don’t use it unless we know the source and trust the source. I have yet to find any useful campground internet sources.

Cellular internet data

For the last six years, cellular data plans have been our first and usually only solution to RV internet. When we first went RVing in 2017, we had two cell phones and one other cellular data device. Our cell phones operated on Cricket (AT&T network), and the cellular data device was a car-based internet solution called Mobley on the AT&T network.

ZTE Mobley 3G device
ZTE Mobley 3G device

Our Cricket answer worked until we reached northern Arizona in 2018, but it didn’t work. Cricket was not allowed on any of the local cell towers at that time. Then our Mobley didn’t work, and AT&T sent me a message saying my Mobley could never roam off their network again. So even though we still use our Mobley data plan as part of our RV internet solution, it is restricted to on-network only. So far, this hasn’t been an issue. Or maybe it is an issue, but I don’t know if it is.

Cricket wireless
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Since then, we have had cellular data plans on every U.S. network. The best overall were AT&T plans, followed by a close second, the Verizon plan. AT&T was not usually the fastest, but it was more than fast; it was consistently available. Six years ago, Verizon was better, but not anymore. Verizon isn’t better than the others. Above all, location determines which carrier is better.

I have used a Google FI cell phone based on the T-Mobile network for six months. When I signed up, I was supposed to be able to access either T-Mobile or AT&T, but they changed that. When we crossed the southbound border from Canada to the lower 48, I dropped the Google Fi plan and picked up Verizon’s Visible cell phone plan. Google Fi only worked well when we were in Canada. It didn’t work well in any of the lower 48 states or anywhere except at one location in Alaska.

Google Fi
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My Google Fi cell phone worked in Canada, and I recommend using Google Fi for service when in Canada. Since my Google Fi service wasn’t on the T-Mobile network in Canada, it worked fine. My Mobley AT&T service didn’t work in Canada. Rumor is that post-paid AT&T and Cricket (also AT&T) work in Canada.

The only cell network that worked in Alaska was AT&T. We still have the Mobley (particular car only AT&T) from six years ago, and it works fine except in Canada. It didn’t work well in Alaska but came back to life once we were in Washington, and now it works fine.

My report from Alaska is that cell service stinks. When it does work, there are too many customers all trying to make it work at the same time. My Verizon data plan didn’t work in Alaska or Canada but returned to life once we crossed Washington.

Redundancy is your friend.

As you can tell from the previous explanation, you can’t rely on any one cell phone company to work everywhere. To have the best chance of RV internet service, you need multiple carriers (2 is probably enough) to have cell service in most places where it is available.

Don’t jam your cell signal.

Yes, I jammed my cell phone signal. Here is the link to an article about how I figured it out. Cell Phone Jammer

Your cell phone

Your cell phone is a data source that should not be overlooked when constructing your RV internet solution. Most cell phones can “share” internet data with other devices. Depending on your cell phone plan, this can be a large or very limited amount of data.

Cell phone
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Hotspot & tethering from your phone

You use your cell phone as a hotspot when you connect the cell phone to another device via a WiFi or Bluetooth signal. Instead, You could tether a cell phone with a wire to the other device. Typically, you will burn through your monthly cell phone data allotment quickly if you use your cell phone data to supply data to an external device. In addition to your basic limited data, sometimes you will have hotspot caps on cell phone data to further restrict your data usage. Be careful to check for these restrictions. Cell phone carriers want to sell you service; they don’t want you to use it.

Unlimited data & data probation (throttling)

Rarely, you might have unlimited high-speed data on your cell-based internet plan. Usually, you will only find out how limited unlimited data is once you achieve your data cap. Then, you go on data probation until the end of your monthly renewal. Sometimes, the carrier won’t even tell you when you are on data probation (it has happened to me). When you are on probation, your low-speed data speed is worthless to the point that you can’t even look up an address or use a previously downloaded map for navigation. Throttleing is not the same thing as priority. Here is a link to the question of priority: Priority and deprioritized service

1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G and what is LTE

When cell phone providers talk about a “G,” they mean a generation of wireless technology. The current technology is 4G and, in some locations, 5G service. The older 1-3G services no longer work in the United States. Gradually, 5G service will spread, but it requires higher frequencies, which produces shorter ranges. So, to spread 5G to remote locations, providers will require 5G antennas on more cell towers.

4G or LTE

Usually, your provider will talk about LTE and 4G as if they are the same. Additionally, some providers add a plus symbol to LTE (LTE+). The plus symbol means that LTE+ is better than LTE without the plus symbol. The plus signal is mostly for advertising, but when in a good signal area, LTE+ can boost LTE performance.

CDMA, GSM, or LTE

Before 2020, your choice was CDMA, which stands for Code Division Multiple Access. You could also choose GSM, which stands for Global System for Mobile. Now, your only choice is LTE, which stands for Long-Term Evolution.

LTE
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LTE is a global 4G standard for cell-based voice and data. 5G is based on the same global standard but on higher frequencies. 5G is all the rage, but it is only available in larger cities. Companies who tout that they have the best 5G coverage are merely trying to win new customers. The companies that say it the loudest also have the worst overall service.

4G is sometimes better than 5G

Besides range being usually better on a 4G signal than a 5G signal, one place 4G shines is upload. Currently, nearly all uploads to cell towers are made using 4G. This is true even if you are in a 5G area and using 5G. If you use the internet to upload information via cell towers, a good solid 4G service is still the ticket.

Phase one 5G and Phase two 5G

The newest cell phone technology is phase two 5G. 5G has evolved because it is now available in longer-range signals and very short-range, high-data-rate millimeter wave signals. Even the longest-range 5G signals are limited to about twenty miles. Millimeter wave signals are measured in meters… not kilometers or miles.

Phase one 5G was an extension to 4G. 5G was better if you were inside a city. Since I don’t camp inside cities often, I ignored phase one, 5G, as not worth the extra money. I am glad I did because the phase two 5G systems are much better than the phase one 5G systems. Both of these 5G rollouts have made my decision to stay with 4G, which is a good one, and if you buy into a new system, 4G will be at a lower price than 5G every day.

If you want to future-proof your system and get the extra benefit of 5G, get a Cat 20 modem. Here is a quick link to the discussion on modems: Modems

Carrier Aggregation

Carrier aggregation is a technique used by cell phone companies to increase the data rate by assigning multiple frequency blocks to that user. This technique is used to increase 4G+ data rates above that of standard 4G data rates. Carrier aggregation increases speed but also decreases battery life. Carrier aggregation is similar to MIMO, but it works great with MIMO. Here is a link to MIMO: Multiple-input and multiple-output

It would be best if you also looked at the paragraphs about modems. Old modems can’t perform carrier aggregation. Here is a link to modem categories. New Cats and older dogs

On network or roaming

One standard (LTE) does not mean all devices will work on all carriers or all frequency bands. First, your device needs to be “invited” to join the network, and second, it needs to operate on the correct frequency band. Cell-based data providers operate on different radio “channels,” one carrier’s phone may not include channels used by the other carriers.  This becomes a huge issue when crossing international borders. For now, most of the time, most of the devices work on most of the carrier’s frequencies. Some frequency bands are even shared between carriers.

Measuring Data Speed

Data speed is the best measure of a quality cell signal. Bars on your phone are a statement of signal strength, not signal quality. You can have a strong signal on a congested frequency band, and you will have a strong but nearly worthless cell phone signal because of the congestion. To identify a quality signal, you need to measure your data rate. The go-to standard for measuring data rate is at this link. Speedtest

AT&T Speedtest
AT&T Speedtest

Understanding Speedtest

The first thing you learn from Speedtest is download speed. Most users want a fast download speed. The second number is upload speed. If you are uploading large files (like videos), fast upload speeds are more important than download speeds. Remember, upload is a 4G function.

Starlink speedtest
Starlink Speedtest

The third and often overlooked number is latency. This is the speed it takes for the server to hear and respond to your request. You want this number to be as low as possible. Anything less than or near 50 ms or less is good with latency. Numbers above 100 are bad. Response times of about 200 make the connection nearly worthless.

Fast Upload – Slow Download

Typically, on a speed test, if your upload speed is higher than your download speed, it means that your frequency band is congested and trying to support too many customers. I think this is the number one reason cell service in Alaska is poor. The second reason that cell service in Alaska is weak is that Alaska is huge, and cell towers are rare.

Frequency bands

Each cell phone carrier operates its network on limited available frequencies labeled as bands. It is possible to avoid congestion on a network by changing bands to avoid the bands with the most customers. If you don’t have a crystal ball,, you will have to change bands and perform data speed tests until you find one that meets your needs.

Before I switch bands, I usually try to use the device for about ten minutes to see if it self-corrects. Sometimes, painfully slow signals will get faster all on their own. This is because cell carriers want to spread their traffic across multiple bands to decrease conflicts and increase performance across the spectrum. Most of the time, this is a good thing, but sometimes, you can get shoved into an unwanted corner and ignored. This is especially true if you have high latency.

Emergency bands

Firstnet band 14
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AT&T has been established as the carrier for first responders and police networks. This is called FirstNet Band 14. If you are an AT&T customer and you switch your modem to Band 14, you have a better chance of getting a better data rate than on more commonly used congested bands.

Band 71 (low frequency)

T Mobile Band 71
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T-Mobile in the United States owns the license for most of Band 71, so if you are a T-Mobile customer, Band 71 can be a good frequency band for your use. To make this work, you need to be a T-Mobile customer and have a device (and antenna) capable of the 600 Mhz frequency. This frequency is lower than most cell phones, and unlike 5G, which has a higher frequency, the lower frequency allows for longer distances than typically available on cell phones.

The emergency band mentioned above, controlled by AT&T, Band 71, is a huge advantage for T-Mobile and for T-Mobile customers who can use this band. Does this advantage translate into great service? I am still waiting for more evidence… but it should be properly applied. Because Band 71 has a lower frequency, you should not expect the highest speeds from Band 71. Instead of higher speeds, Band 71 should give you good service at longer distances between you and the cell tower. If you are a T-Mobile customer, then any modem you buy should support Band 71. Here is another link about how to select a modem: Modems

Switching frequency bands

This is an advanced concept that you use to switch between frequency bands on your cell device. Friends swear by this “trick” to improve their data rates. Each device you choose will have slightly different methods for performing this switch. Of course, when you change locations, you may get nothing or almost nothing until you switch your modem back into the automatic selection mode.

Now that I said switching frequencies is an advanced option, if you have this ability, it can make a huge difference in performance, and you should learn how to do this on your device.

Older modems are restricted to only a few frequency bands, whereas newer modems can improve performance by tuning into more frequency bands.

Modems

We have talked about modems for a long time, but since I used the word in the above section, I felt the need to explain it here. All cell phone devices include modems.

What is a modem?

A modem is a device that connects your device to an outside data source. In a home, a modem is usually the first device connected to a wire that enters the house. Even though a router is not the same as a modem, most devices have modems and routers built into them. I will discuss routers soon enough.

What is a cellular-embedded modem?

A cellular-embedded modem connects you to a cellular data source (cell tower) without wires, but it does need a nearby cell tower.

New Cats and older dogs

Cat is the shortened term for the category. The current highest modem category I have seen is Cat 20. Category 20 is the newest best of the best as of 6 months ago. I wish I could tell you that a Category 12 modem is always better than a Category 7 modem, but I can’t say that. The thing I can say is that a Category 12 modem is better than a Category 6 modem if the Category 12 modem operates with 4 x 4 MIMO. Here is a link to MIMO: Multiple-input and multiple-output

Cat 3, 4 and 6

These modems are the old dogs. Right now, even though they still work, they only connect to one frequency band at a time, and thus, they do not have carrier aggregation. I didn’t like my first cellular-embedded router because it only had a Cat 6 modem. Carrier Aggregation is essential. Here is a link to Carrier Aggregation: Carrier Aggregation

Cat 7

You should pay attention to the modem category that you choose. The minimum acceptable modem is a Cat 7 modem. A category seven modem is optimized for T-Mobile, and a category 12 modem is optimized for AT&T and Verizon. If you want to use T-Mobile, choose a Cat 7 modem over a Cat 12 modem. I think that if you are going to get a Cellular Embedded Router, then I would get one with two modems. One Cat 7 and one Cat 12. Here is a link to Cellular Embedded Routers: What is a cellular-embedded router?

Category 7 modems can connect to T-Mobile Band 71 and AT&T Band 14 (Firstnet), which makes a Category 7 modem an excellent choice for a modem selection. A category seven modem is much better than a category six modem. If you are an AT&T or T-Mobile and want to take advantage of these bands, you want a category seven modem. Category 7 modems allow up to two frequencies at the same time. Cat 7 modems support up to 2 bands of carrier aggregation. Here is a link to Band 71 and Band 14 discussions: Frequency bands

Cat 12

A category 12 modem enables double the maximum theoretical speed of a category six modem. Theoretical speeds, however, never match actual speeds, and even though the modem is capable of 600 Mbps, I have only seen speeds less than 100 Mbps. If the tower isn’t putting out maximum speeds, then you won’t get maximum speeds.

Perhaps (hopefully someday) the newer category 12 modems will support Band 71 for T-Mobile customers and AT&T Band 14. The minimum modem category you should accept for 4G service is 7 & 12. This makes a great combination in a two-modem Cellular Embedded Router, and my Peplink router uses this combination. Cat 12 modems support up to 3 bands of carrier aggregation. Here is a link to Carrier Aggregation: Carrier Aggregation

Cat 20

Cat 20 modem: this modem is targeted at the 5G market. Cat 20 modems are currently the state of the art devices. Cat 20 modems support up to 7 bands of carrier aggregation. Here is a link to Carrier Aggregation: Carrier Aggregation

My two modem 4G router was the same price as a single modem 5G router. With my two modem 4G routers, I can use bonding to increase performance. Here is a link to bonding. Bonding

Modem grouping

Modems are grouped in these categories as follows:

LTE modems
  • Cat 3 = 100 Mbps down, 50 Mbps up, six frequency bands, no carrier aggregation
  • Cat 4 = 150 Mbps down, 50 Mbps up, six frequency bands, no carrier aggregation
LTE Advanced modems
  • Cat 6 = 300 Mbps down, 50 Mbps up, 16 frequency bands 2x carrier aggregation (no band 14, 71)
  • Cat 7 = 300 Mbps down, 100 Mbps up, 16 frequency bands 2x carrier aggregation includes band 14 and 71
  • Cat 12 = 600 Mbps down, 100 Mbps up, 26 frequency bands 3x carrier aggregation includes band 14 but no 71 (newer Cat 12 modems will connect to band 71}
  • Cat 16 = 1.0 Gbps down 150 Mbps up
LTE Advanced PRO modems (5G capable)
  • Cat 18 = 1.2 Gbpsdown, 150 Mbps up, 24? frequency bands 5x carrier aggregation includes band 14
  • Cat 20 = 2.0 Gbps down 316 Mbps up, 26 frequency bands 5x carrier aggregation includes band 14
  • Cat 22 = 2.5 Gbps down 316 Mbps up, 26 frequency bands 5x carrier aggregation includes band 14

*Remember, laboratory maximum speeds will not be real-life speeds. Generally, the higher the category will create the highest speeds.

Modem Chipsets

If that isn’t enough, you must be careful about the modem category. If you are considering purchasing a 5G device, you want a phase two 5G chip built into your modem. The Qualcomm chip that enables a phase two 5G are X62, X65, and X70. Please do not purchase a 5G modem containing a phase one chipset unless you don’t expect to have phase two service in your area (I have no idea how you would know this). If you don’t expect phase two service,, the best phase one chipset is the X55. The very best phase two chipset is the X65. Some geeky people may argue that the X55 chipset is better than the X62.

What is a hotspot?

Some cell-based devices we call phones, and others we call hotspots or routers. All these devices contain antennas, modems, and routers. Some of the devices (cell-based or cell-embedded routers have built-in modems) like hotspots you can connect several of your devices (computers and the like) to a network with a router. Later I will discuss the most powerful cell-based routers. All these devices have modems, and indeed, all these advanced devices have external antennas. We will get more on modems later but before that, we need to discuss antennas. We are also going to talk about hotspots in depth later here is a link: Dedicated hotspot

Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 4G Hotspot
Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 4G Hotspot

Antennas

All cell-based devices, as mentioned above, and all Wi-Fi devices have antennas. Most of the time, antennas are built into the devices. Usually, external antennas will have advantages over built-in antennas… but not always. To understand this, you first have to understand MIMO.

Multiple-input and multiple-output

Multiple input and multiple output (often called MIMO) are methods for multiplying the capacity of a radio link using multiple transmission and receiving antennas. MIMO is almost certainly built into your cell-based internet device.

As mentioned above, external antennas are sometimes not as good as those built into a device. When you connect an external antenna to a device, you disconnect the internal antenna(s). When you disconnect the internal antennas, you also disconnect the device’s ability to perform MIMO. If your device doesn’t support multiple external antennas with MIMO, then an external antenna will result in a lower data speed than the antenna(s) built into the device.

2 x 2 MIMO

Older hotspots used to have only two antennas. Even a couple of years ago, I purchased some replacement hotspots with 2 x 2 MIMO antennas and sent them back. The drop in performance was obvious. Any device you purchase should have 4 x 4 MIMO.

4 x 4 MIMO

Simplified for description purposes, 4 x 4 MIMO uses four antennas simultaneously to create a solid connection to a 4 x 4 MIMO transmitter. Both the transmitter and the device must have 4 x 4 MIMO for this to work. If you connect a single antenna to a device that has four antennas working at the same time, you will end up with a restricted signal.

8 x 8 MIMO?

The maximum number of MIMO antenna connections a single 4G modem can use is four. Some antennas are now advertising and selling antennas with eight built-in antennas. These could be connected to two modems, allowing each modem to use four antennas. You only need four antennas if your modem has four antenna connections. If you are trying to keep up-to-date and optimize for 5G, then an eight-connection antenna will be an advantage. As I previously mentioned, my objective is solid connection at long range; thus, four antennas and 4G are my choice.

More about Antennas

I am not yet done talking about antennas. I use an external antenna, but for now, most of the antennas I have been talking about are built into the device. As I work through device choices (starting with cell phones), I will return to external antennas. Which antenna did I choose? Here is a link to my antenna description: The best external antenna I have found.

Cell-based tablets

If you have a tablet, you can use your tablet computer to create a second data connection in addition to your cell phone. Not all tablets are cell-based; rather, most operate on a Wi-Fi connection and thus cannot connect directly to a cell tower. Typically, this is a feature of a higher-priced tablet than the ones I use, but if you have one and set it up, it is a very good way to connect.

Extra data on cell-based tablets?

Sometimes, a cell carrier will have separate data allotments for cell-based tablets associated with a cell phone plan. This makes a cell-based tablet a powerful option for getting more high-speed data before entering data probation. If the carrier sells you the tablet as an add-on to your cell phone plan, they might up your data allotment. You should check before buying a tablet, thinking you are getting a great deal.

I am not aware of any cell-based tablets that support external antennas.

Hotspotting and tethering from your cell-based tablet

Some tablets and plans also allow you to hotspot or tether from the tablet to a different device. See the discussion about hotspots and tethering. Here is a link to hotspot and tethering from your phone: Hotspot & tethering from your phone

Caution about cell-based tablets. Cell phones, hotspots, and tablet computers were not designed to be plugged in continuously. All the cautions associated with hotspots apply to tablet computers. Here is a link to hotspots: Dedicated hotspot

Cheating with a cell-based tablet plan

Sometimes, you can cheat and use the data plan purchased for a tablet on another device. I will mention this later as well. I will warn you upfront: if you cheat and get caught, the punishment for violating a carrier’s terms of service contract can be severe. See the discussion about cheating with data plans below. AT&T and Verizon monitor devices carefully to ensure that you are using the device you signed up for. At a minimum, if they catch you, they will cancel your plan.

Dedicated hotspot

We have successfully used dedicated hotspots for the last six years as part of our RV internet solution. We still use one in the car to bring our data source with us when in our car. We used our hotspots until we got a cell-dedicated router. Our cell-dedicated hotspots supported MIMO when using their internal antennas. We are now using our second cell-based router. I didn’t mention the first one because it didn’t work well. Here is a link to my discussioabout cell-based routers: Cell-embedded router

Inseego Verizon Jetpack Hotspot
Inseego Verizon Jetpack Hotspot

One of the problems that we had with our hotspots was that they were not designed for long-term use as an RV internet solution. They were not designed to be continuously plugged into a power source. So, after never discharging, the batteries would swell. The next step beyond a swollen battery is a fire.

A possible source of an unwanted fire

We never had a fire caused by our hotspots, but others have. All electronic devices get hot with long-term use. The same is true for hotspots. Unlike our cellular-embedded router (which also has lots of waste heat), our hotspots were not designed for continuous use. So, if you use a hotspot, you have been warned about prolonged charging.

In the last six years, we have had hotspot devices built by Netgear and Verizon. We have had battery problems on both devices but still recommend them for some users and applications. If your hotspot is continuously plugged in, you should get a device designed for this application. My answer is a much more advanced router-based cell solution from Peplink. Here is a link to the Best Cellular Embedded Routers: Best Cellular Embedded Routers

Which hotspots did we use (and like)

Specifically, the Verizon hotspot was the Verizon (Inseego) Jetpack4G LTE MiFi 8800L, and the AT&T hotspot was the Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 4G LTE. We always used the Verizon hotspot on Verizon and the Netgear on AT&T. The Netgear hotspot will also work on T-Mobile.

Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 4G Hotspot
Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 4G Hotspot

I tried hotspots from ZTE, Inseego, and Aircard but didn’t like them enough to keep or remotely recommend them. Both of our good hotspots have MIMO. Here is a link to my discussion about MIMO: Multiple-input and multiple-output

I want to mention again that these hotspots were not designed for continuous use and continuous battery charging.

Better than a hotspot

The Peplink I mentioned isn’t a hotspot. It is not a hotspot because it is not battery-powered, and I will cover that RV internet device later. This device is called a cellular-embedded router. Here is a link: Cell-embedded router

“At Home” carrier-specific devices

I have included in my list of carrier cell phone plans one “home” internet solution currently allowed for RV use and not location-restricted to an address. An “At Home” device is like a hotspot without batteries, so it skips the issues associated with hotspot batteries. Edit: In June – 2024, T-Mobile started to enforce the no-mobile use of the “At Home” device.

Some customers have transferred their SIM chip to a more capable device, and some have successfully done this even though it violates the terms of service. See the above information about cell-based tablet plans. The same issues arise if you transfer your service to an unauthorized device. Here is a link to what may happen if you transfer your service to an unauthorized device. Cheating with a cell-based tablet plan

Here is a link to the T-Mobile Gateway Home Internet plan that T-Mobile used to allow for RV use. Verizon, too, has a 5G Home Internet plan and device, but Verizon clearly states that it is for home use only.

T Mobile Gateway
T Mobile Gateway

These carrier-sold devices are lower-level hotspots without batteries. They are similar to cellular-embedded routers, but each carrier device has a budget modem with a short-distance router. While they are better than hotspots for continuous use, they are not as good as advanced cellular-embedded routers, especially because cellular-embedded routers, unlike these carrier devices, have external antennas. Link to cellular-embedded routers: Cell-embedded router

Geo-Fencing

Some Home Internet Gateways have a geographic virtual fence, so you can’t take the gateway on the road in your RV. I think all these “Home” devices have terms of service language prohibiting roaming. Most of these Gateways will not allow you to use the SIM on other devices. I already explained that these Gateways are mostly just low-level modem/router combinations that are not capable of full speeds.

What about a cell phone booster?

Notice the word PHONE in the question. These are best used to make phone calls. At one location, I was able to get cell service when no one else could get service, and not only could I make phone calls, but I could also get some data. I used a cell phone booster with an external directional antenna to do this. I could do this again, probably at the same location, with my current external antenna, and not use my cell phone booster.

Escapee's Magazine
Our RV in the Smoky Mountains in the Escapee’s Magazine, notice our Cell Phone Booster.

In the above example, I went from nothing to something, proving that there was more than nothing, and the booster made it a little better. If there had been truly nothing, then after boosting, I would still have nothing.

Cell phone booster restrictions

One of the restrictions with a cell phone booster is that I was replacing a four-antenna device with one antenna for my hotspots. If you were getting MIMO before you boosted, you won’t get MIMO after you boost. Here is a link to my description of MIMO: Multiple-input and multiple-output

RV omnidirectional antenna on a three foot aluminum mast.
Omnidirectional Cell Phone Booster Antenna on a three-foot aluminum mast on our RV.

If you are using a cell phone booster and you are attempting to boost your cell phone signal, then a cell phone booster can turn an unusable signal into a usable signal. Sometimes, a cell phone booster will improve a cellular data device’s data rate. Many times, a cell phone booster will turn a good cellular data rate into a worse data rate.

Surecall Cell Phone booster during installation in my electronics cabinet with whip antenna.
Surecall Cell Phone booster during installation in my electronics cabinet with whip antenna. This internal antenna rebroadcasts the signal inside the RV.

Whatever you do with a cell phone booster, don’t turn it on and leave it on unless it is improving your data rate, and then only if it is improving your data rate. Here is a link to an article about using my cell phone booster. Do you need a cell phone booster?

External Antennas

You have an internal antenna inside your cell phone, especially if inside your RV; it will not work as well as outside your RV. The frame of your RV will create a Faraday Cage, and the cell signals, at a minimum, will get confused before they arrive at your device. Here is a link to Wikipedia about what is happening. Faraday Cage

Rather than using external antennas on my hotspots, I would move the device to a new location; often, a window on one side of the RV would produce a better signal than a location away from the window. The trick was picking the right window on the side of the RV with the cell tower. You also don’t want your hotspot sitting in the sun. They get warm enough without the sun shining on them.

Antenna Elevation

You need your antenna outside the RV to get the best cell signal. Secondly, antenna height has a measurable effect on antenna performance. Usually, higher antennas have better performance. This elevation answer isn’t always true about higher being better, but it is true often enough that it is usually the answer. Sometimes a low antenna especially over water can deliver great results.

Ground Plane

The surface under your antenna also plays a role. A ground plane is an electronic “reflecting” surface that can enhance antenna performance. Some antennas will not work without a ground plane. You do not need a ground plane on every antenna. Here is a link to the Wikipedia discussion about ground planes. Ground planes

On my RV, attached to the roof, I mounted a galvanized steel sheet under the antenna to create a ground plane. If I wanted it to work as a ground plane, I would have needed to attach a grounding wire to this sheet of steel. This sheet of steel also provides me with a magnetic mounting point for my antenna. After I affixed the ground plane, all I had to do was place the magnetic feet of the antenna on the steel, and my mounting for the antenna was complete.

Not all antennas need a ground plane; sometimes, the manufacturer builds one into the antenna. Ground planes enhance the performance of most antennas, and additional ground planes on antennas that don’t need ground planes do not decrease antenna performance.

The best external antenna that I have found

The very best external antennas work best with advanced cell-based routers. The external antenna that we use is the Parsec Husky Pro 7-in-1 Antenna. This antenna was designed to be used with advanced cell-based routers for use on emergency vehicles. Inside the antenna are four cell phone antennas, two Wi-Fi antennas, and a GPS antenna.

Parsec Husky Antenna
Parsec Husky Antenna

One of the Wi-Fi antennas broadcasts my Wi-Fi signal outside my RV and the other Wi-Fi antenna is dedicated to picking up Wi-Fi signals from say a campground Wi-Fi source. Using this antenna, we have had good connections with our cell phones to the Wi-Fi for more than one hundred yards outside of our RV. Parsec Husky Pro 7-in-1

The Parsec Husky Pro antenna is designed to be a high-gain (cell and Wi-Fi) antenna. High gain means that very little signal is lost due to antenna size. It is the only antenna that I recommend. Usually, to get high performance from an antenna, you need to point it correctly to increase signal strength. Pointing the antenna is not needed with the Husky Pro.

Other friends of mine have very good antennas made by Poynting and Parsec. They were also very impressed when they picked up my Wi-Fi signal from distances that they did not believe would work. In every case, they all commented on how powerful my Parsec Husky Pro was and that they would opt for my antenna over theirs even though my antenna was more costly than theirs. Sometimes, you have to pay more to get more.

Parsec also has a Husky Pro 9-in-1 Antenna, adding two additional Wi-Fi antennas to my 7-in-1 Antenna. Unless you have a specific application that requires the 9-in-1 Antenna, I don’t see any reason to spend the extra money on the Husky Pro 9-in-1 Antenna. Parsec Husky Pro 9-in-1

I also mentioned antennas that have eight cell antennas so that you could connect two routers to the same antenna and thus have 8 x 8 MIMO. I would bet that the Parsec Great Pyrenees is also a very good antenna, but I don’t have any personal experience to support my opinion. Parsec Great Pyrenees 8 x 8 antenna

Parsec Great Pyrenees Antenna
Parsec Great Pyrenees Antenna

I already mentioned using magnetic feet and adding a ground plane to my RV roof. The galvanized sheet metal wasn’t necessary to improve the antenna’s function, but the mounting was easy without putting any holes in my roof. As for cable routing, I already had a hole in my roof, and that was the location where the air horns were mounted.

Cell embedded router

What is a router?

A router is a device that allows multiple users to connect to one data source so that each user gets the right answer. If you only had a modem without a router, then only one user could connect to the Internet, and you would have to have a different account for each user. My router has ten devices connected to it, all simultaneously. You get the idea of how this can add up quickly: two computers, two cell phones, two tablet computers, two TVs.

What is a cellular-embedded router?

A cell phone provider is the data source for a cellular-embedded router. My cellular-embedded router has two modems (with three different cell phone providers) and two additional (one wireless and one wired) wide-area network connections. I do not have the most advanced router. Soon, I hope to connect my wired RJ-45 connection to a Starlink Antenna.

Peplink MAX Transit Duo Pro Mobile Router in my tech cabinet directly below my roof penetration junction box.
Peplink MAX Transit Duo Pro Mobile Router in my tech cabinet directly below my roof penetration junction box.

You should get a dual modem cellular-embedded router.

For the last six years, we have had two hotspots. Last year, we got our first cellular-embedded router, but it didn’t work well. Before going to Canada last spring, we finally got our awesome Peplink Router. The only problem during our trip through Canada and Alaska was data sources, not our equipment. Remember I said that you had to have both hardware and access. We had great hardware all summer and very poor access. Here is a link to our router Peplink Max Duo Transit Pro

Bonding together multiple data sources

Remember I told you I would tell you how to combine multiple data sources into one seamless signal as if you were getting all your data from one source? Here is how I do that very powerful “trick.”

Bonding is a service that provides a server that can combine multiple signals from multiple modems into one data stream. It is like asking several friends the same question at the same time and having all ten of them answer the question simultaneously. Like my example, bonding can be great, but it can get a little confusing if you don’t do it right. For normal internet surfing, bonding doesn’t seem to improve things. However, bonding can provide a much better data stream when streaming video (Netflix doesn’t like it) or video phone calls.

There are a few limitations to bonding. First, you are going to double your data usage. This is because the data is received and sent to the bonding server and then received again after it goes to the bonding server. Secondly, bonding always incorporates a Virtual Private Network function. The VPN is why Netflix doesn’t like bonding.

My favorite bonding service is the Speed Fusion Protect Connect service provided by Peplink, Which is why I chose a Peplink Router. If you want to discuss bonding as part of your cell-based router answer, I encourage you to contact real experts at Mobile Must Have.

Best Cellular Embedded Routers

The best Cellular Embedded Routers I have found are the Peplink series routers. They are made for industry applications, and thus, they do not have commercial “plastic” construction. They are robust and made from aluminum and steel. The construction is 100% engineering. Anything that is unnecessary, like extra plastic to make it look better but doesn’t have a function, is not included.

Electronic components are not 100% efficient, and they all produce waste heat. In routers, the best way to dissipate waste heat is through metal construction and designs that conduct heat well. This means that the box your electronics live in should be made of metal to conduct extra heat away from the components. This doesn’t mean that every metal box router is better; obviously, the internal components make the router a good one.

Don’t overlook the single modem routers even if you only have one cell phone plan. All the ones below have two SIM slots to switch between cellular carriers. Here is a link to SIMS: What is a SIM?

Peplink MAX Transit Duo Pro
Peplink MAX Transit Duo Pro

This is the router that is my choice. It is optimized for me and less expensive because it is not a 5G router. As I have explained, until the Cat 20 modem release, 5 G was not important to me. This router has two 4G modems. Both CAT-7/CAT-12 LTE-A Modems. I combined this router with a Parsec Husky external antenna. Here is a link to my router. Peplink MAX Transit Duo Pro

Peplink MAX Transit Duo Pro Antenna side
Peplink MAX Transit Duo Pro Antenna side

A key feature of this router is that I can use bonding to combine the signals from two (or more) different data sources. Here is a link to bonding: Bonding together multiple data sources

I didn’t choose this router because it only has one modem and thus will only support one Mobile cell data plan. Single CAT-7 LTE-A Modem. Here is a link to this router. Peplink MAX BR1 MINI

Peplink MAX BR1 Mini CAT 7
Peplink MAX BR1 Mini CAT 7

I suggest you combine this router with a Parsec Husky external antenna. Here is a link: The best external antenna that I have found.

If you want 5G and only have one mobile cell data plan, this is a great router at a discount. It has a single 5G Cat 20 Modem x62 Chipset.

Peplink MAX BR1 Pro 5G
Peplink MAX BR1 Pro 5G

I would choose the Parsec Great Pyrenees antenna. Here is a link to this router. Peplink MAX BR1 Pro

This is a great router if you want 5G and have two mobile cell data plans. It has two CAT-20 Modems x62 Chipset. Here is a link to this router. I would choose the Parsec Great Pyrenees antenna. Here is a link to this router. Peplink Max BR2 Pro

Peplink MAX BR2 PRO Dual 5G
Peplink MAX BR2 PRO Dual 5G

These are not the only choices. Here is a good selection of routers. Mobile Must Have, Routers

Cell Data Service Plans

What is a SIM?

Before 2023, the way you changed your network provider was to remove a small plastic chip about the size of your fingernail from your modem or cell phone and insert a new chip from your new provider into your device. This plastic chip joins your device to a cell carrier, allowing service on the new carrier.

AT&T Prepaid Sim Card on a buisness sized card
AT&T Prepaid SIM Card on a business card

With the advent of more advanced cell devices, some newer devices can change carriers based on a software program called a virtual SIM. Sometimes, the virtual SIM is called an E-SIM.

Most cell-based devices only accept one SIM at a time in the device. Cellular-embedded routers can often have multiple SIMs in the device and thus switch between services. My router has two modems and four SIM slots. Since my cell-based router has two modems, I have an AT&T SIM, a Verizon in one modem, and a third T-Mobile SIM in the same device for the second modem. This means I could select whichever carrier had the best service at my current location. Not only could I switch, but sometimes I could also select multiple carriers and combine their signals. Here is a link to bonding: Bonding together multiple data sources

Two SIMS on a single modem?

Some advanced routers have two SIM slots per modem. The second SIM slot is a backup to the primary SIM slot. The two SIM slots do not work simultaneously. One example might come into play if your primary data plan on SIM number one is exceeded. You could switch to the second SIM and continue using the modem. Or you could have one provider in one slot and another in the other SIM slot.

Two SIM slots on a single modem
Two SIM slots on a single modem

Do you need a SIM Injector?

You may need a SIM injector if you have multiple cellular data plans. A SIM injector allows you to have more SIMs available for your modem. Your modem can only use one SIM at a time, and my modem only has two SIM slots for each modem. I can switch between SIM A and SIM B using software in my modem. I could switch between up to eight different SIMs with a SIM injector. Here is a link to the SIM injector that would work great with my cell-embedded router. Peplink SIM injector

Peplink SIM injector
Peplink SIM injector

Cell service providers

In the United States, there are three cell service providers, all of which have multiple service levels. All the service providers offer (limited) unlimited data. Please see my comments about data probation to learn more about unlimited data. Unlimited data & data probation

What about Dish Network?

Now that I said there are three cell service providers, there is a fourth provider; it is in its infancy. As part of the deal when T-Moblile purchased Sprint, some Sprint assets were made available to create a fourth carrier. Mostly, it was a regulatory issue.

Dish Network Map of coverage area combining their network with AT&T and T-Mobile.
Dish Network Map of coverage area combining their network with AT&T and T-Mobile.

Even though Dish Network is inexperienced and owns almost no towers, they can roam on AT&T and T-Mobile networks without any restrictions. If Dish had a data plan, this feature would rocket them to the top of the heap (they do not have a data plan). Not only can they roam between AT&T and T-Mobile networks, but they are first-tier and not deprioritized. User reports at this time are very negative, putting a big stop to making any conversions to the Dish Network Boost Infinite cell service. Make sure you understand data priority. Link to data priority: Priority and deprioritized service

Without getting too geeky (I know it is way too late for that), Dish Network is now advertising as if it has been a cell provider and not just a satellite TV provider. Honestly, until I see some positive reviews, I will not include more Dish Network info in this already too-long e-book. Besides that, Dish doesn’t have any data plans. I will let you know if that changes. Then Dish might be a great choice due to their unrestricted roaming ability.

General comments about cell service providers

In the United States, three cell service providers operate cell networks and sell cell services directly to customers. These companies are AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. If you have cell service in the United States in 2023, one or more than one of these companies are involved.

Priority and deprioritized service

Depending on how you purchase service and sometimes based on how much data you use, your data speeds will either be first-tier (the best service they can provide) priority service or deprioritized service. Depriortized service can take many forms, and all these service levels are slower than those of the same company’s first-tier service plans. Sometimes, deprioritized service is equal to first-tier service. Sometimes, they call deprioritized service “best effort” service. In all cases, deprioritized service will be at a lower priority level than first-tier users.

Deprioritized service is more of a purchase agreement question than what I call data probation. Many customers intentionally purchase discounted service that is a lower priority to save money. Priority service is like flying first class versus going on the bus. Both end up in the same place, but flying first class will get you there faster. Previously, I said I used so much data that Google Fi put my device on probation for the remainder of the month. Probation is not a question of priority but rather a question of punishment.

You don’t have to buy your data directly from one of these companies. Instead, you might consider buying data in bulk from what I call a “data consolidator.” Or maybe you might want to buy discounted lower-tier data from a “Mobile Virtual Network Operator. Here is a link to my discussion about data consolidators: Data consolidators

How much data do you need?

Your needs will vary. I may use lots more data than you use. Teenagers probably use the most data and more than any adult with a job. Still, over a month, I am going to guess that I could not live with anything less than 100 GB.

My system details last summer in Alaska were two unlimited AT&T 4G SIMs (one is in the car). One Verizon SIM with unlimited data. One AT&T phone with unlimited data. One Google Fi phone with unlimited data (one sim in the phone and one in my router). Google Fi had severe data probation at 50 GB. My router could connect to all three major U. S. networks in Alaska, but only AT&T worked. When friends were near, my router and antenna could also reach out and connect to any one of the four nearby Starlink routers. Here is a link to my antenna: The best external antenna that I have found.

Cellular Data Plans Overview

When choosing which plans to describe in this section, I have targeted plans with at least 50 gigabytes of monthly data. Most of these are data-only plans. I have attempted to normalize the price to 100 GB per month for the big three carriers. Larger data plans cost more per month. I am only targeting retail consumers. Each carrier targets a similar yet different business plan, usually with different benefits. Don’t expect me to provide exact price quotes. Prices change frequently. Make your own decisions.

These plans are data-only, not cell phone plans.

AT&T
How to get FAST RV Internet in 2024 69
AT&T coverage map
AT&T coverage map
  • As a comment about AT&T Business plans, these plans all have speed limits, whereas the consumer prepaid Unlimited plan does not. AT&T isn’t known for being the fastest, so even if you qualify as a business customer, you may not want an AT&T business plan.
  • Business Unlimited Premium Data: “Only” $80 per month but has a 200 GB high-speed data cap.
  • The AT&T Data Connect (data only) plan is $90 monthly for 100 GB.
  • Unlimited Tablet Plan (business) $20 at 10 GB hotspot data.
  • Cricket, owned by AT&T, offers the same Data Connect plan as above, calling it the Simply Data Plan, which costs $90/m and includes an additional 50 GB of data for 150 GB.
Verizon Logo
How to get FAST RV Internet in 2024 70
Verizon coverage map
Verizon coverage map
  • Data Only Plan 150 GB $100 per month. The $30 discount is based on multiple lines on a single plan.
  • Mobile Hotspot Plan 150 GB of data can be purchased for $110 high-speed data with a $30 discount based on multiple lines on a single plan.
  • Visible, owned by Verizon, is canceling Visible plans when the SIM was used in data devices as a violation of terms of service. Verizon considers Visible as a phone-only plan.
T Mobile Logo
How to get FAST RV Internet in 2024 71
T Mobile coverage map
T Mobile coverage map
  • Business $150/month for 300 GB of high-speed data. Hotspot Plan: $90 per month for 100 GB and 4G
  • Mobile Internet Plan: $50 for 100 GB of data.
  • The Tablet Unlimited Plan is $70 and includes 10 GB of Hotspot Data, discounted by $30 when added to an existing phone plan.
  • Home and Small Business Plan $70 per month. 300 GB.
  • T-Mobile is now enforcing the terms of service that prohibit the use of the T-Mobile Home plan as a mobile service. It is announcing new plans that allow mobile services for about $100 more per month than the T-Mobile Home plan.

Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO)

General comments about mobile virtual network operators.

Associated with and operating as virtual providers, these companies (sometimes owned by cell service providers) operate as if they owned the cell networks. They are not cell service providers but rather are cell service resellers for cell service providers. Generally, they sell budget cell phone plans.

Well-known mobile virtual network operators who offer data-only plans and the cellular networks they are selling or, in some cases, owned by the cell service provider. These budget plans offer lower-tier deprioritized service in all cases (or perhaps nearly all cases).

  • Boost Infinite, owned by Dish Network, uses AT&T and T-Mobile networks.
  • Cricket, owned by AT&T using the AT&T network
  • Consumer Cellular using the AT&T and T-Mobile networks
  • FreedomPop using the AT&T network
  • Google Fi Wireless, owned by Google and using the T-Mobile network
  • Metro, formerly called Metro PCS and owned by T-Mobile, uses the T-Mobile network
  • Mint Mobile, owned by T-Mobile, uses the T-Mobile network
  • Straight Talk, using the AT&T and T-Mobile networks
  • US Mobile uses the T-Mobile or Verizon Network (depending on the plan). US Mobile calls its Verizon data plan “Warp 5G” but does not advertise the Verizon name. For the T-Mobile network, US Mobile refers to it as GSM and sells 4G deprioritized service.

Notes about most MVNO data plans. MVNO plans are always deprioritized plan. Don’t expect first-tier speeds from an MVNO. MVNOs usually are restricted to an unbelievably low level of included data.

Family Motorcoach Association

There are a few associations that have cellular data plans. The one that is focused on RV internet is this one from the Family Motorcoach Association.

Family Motor Coach Association
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  • FMCA Tech-Connect, AT&T hotspot unlimited data for $60. It requires an active membership and modem rental for a one-time fee of $40. Using a different modem is not authorized. Network management after 100 GB per month at the highest tier speed. T-Mobile hotspot, unlimited data for $60. It requires an active membership and modem rental for a one-time fee of $40. Using a different modem is not authorized. Network management after 100 GB per month at the highest tier speed. FMCA Tech-Connect Voice T-Mobile, unlimited data for $20 monthly, Network Management after 50GB. You can sign up for voice service without the hotspot service. FMCA Tech-connect

Data consolidators

Legitimate resellers often are prohibited from advertising that they are operating on a company network. Typically, they will say that it is the red plan (Verizon) or blue plan (AT&T) instead of saying Verizon or AT&T.

Mobile Must Have
How to get FAST RV Internet in 2024 73
  • Mobile Must Have offers high-speed, high-quantity data at below-market prices from every carrier supporting their Peplink Router sales. Similar to an association, to purchase discount data from Mobile-Must-Have, you must have already purchased hardware from them.
  • Mobile Must Have example plan: (carrier T-Mobile) offers 1000 GB of 5G data for $175. If you have a strong 5G T-Mobile signal, you should be able to achieve up to 50 Mbps or more. Mobile Must Have also has high-speed, high-quantity data plans for the other two carriers.

If you consume (or want to consume) large quantities of data, you should check out these plans from Mobile Must Have. Here is a link. Mobile Must Have

Other legitimate resellers

Other than the MVNOs mentioned above, there are other resellers of cellular data that I won’t mention because I can’t tell legitimate resellers from the others available. One way to tell is to find out how long the reseller has been in business. Give them at least a couple of years to prove themselves before you send them money. Even then, there are no guarantees. Proceed at your own risk. Don’t pay in advance.

Other resellers

With other data resellers, look for things like what happened in Texas, where the Attorney General is suing a scam reseller for false advertising. This well-known RV internet provider was (and may still be) creating an RV internet Ponzi scheme. While they were getting shut down by the cell phone carriers, they were selling new plans with full-speed access. Then, when the buyers used the device and plan, they would end up with a service on data probation without any cause or remedy.

Hundreds of other resellers of data operate in a less-than-legitimate way. The catchphrase is that they work (at least for a while) until they don’t work. When they disappear, they do so with your money and maybe worse. You, as the consumer, may unsuspectingly buy one of these plans, and before they go away, the cell provider may blacklist your device. After that, your data is shut off, and your device becomes worthless.

This blacklisting is the reason that I would not buy a used hotspot or router. What if the one you buy was blacklisted.

Best Cellular Router/Antenna/Data Plan Bundles

All these bundles are from Mobile Must Have. Mobile Must Have sells hardware (Peplink routers), antennas, and data plan(s). I have used all of the above. Mobile Must Have also sells bundles, including Starlink. I will cover Starlink later, but here is a link if you want to skip ahead: Satellite-based internet

Mobile Must Have Road Warrior VR2 Internet Bundle

Road Warrior VR2 Internet Bundle
How to get FAST RV Internet in 2024 74

This is the internet bundle that we use. It is 4G and emphasizes range and stability over speed. It includes the Peplink MAX Transit Duo Pro Router (two modems), and the Parsec Husky antenna and has the option of a data plan(s) from any of the three United States internet providers. Here is a link Road Warrior VR2 Internet Bundle

Mobile Must Have Speed Demon Mobile Internet Bundle

Speed Demon Mobile Internet Bundle
How to get FAST RV Internet in 2024 75

If you want 5G but don’t have an unlimited budget, this is the plan for you. It includes the Peplink MAX BR1 Pro 5G Mobile Router (X55) an option of having (an X62 router is also an option) and the Parsec Husky Antenna. You can choose a data plan(s) from any of the three United States internet providers. Remember that this router only has one Cat 20 modem. Here is a link. Speed Demon Mobile Internet Bundle

Mobile Must Have Ultimate Road Warrior Internet Bundle

Ultimate Road Warrior Internet Bundle
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If the best setup is in your budget, this is the best. It includes a dual Cat 20 Peplink MAX BR2 Pro Dual 5G Mobile Router (x55) an option of having an x62 router and a Parsec Great Pyrenees and has the option of a data plan(s) from any of the three United States internet providers. Remember that this router only has two Cat 20 modems. Here is a link. Ultimate Road Warrior Internet Bundle

If you have cell service at your house, these bundles should interest you, especially if you don’t have cable internet. Just make sure to specify extra-long antenna wires.

Satellite-based internet

Like the above three cell phone companies, there are three satellite-based internet companies. Because these companies use satellites rather than cell phone towers, they can provide service in remote locations. Since they use satellites rather than cell phone signals, they all need a clear sky view.

Trees are a problem

The biggest issue with all satellite internet providers is that trees can destroy the satellite signal before it reaches your antenna.

Starlink Starndard Antenna and router
Starlink “Actuated ” Antenna and router

Upload speeds are a problem

Upload speeds are marginal on all satellite providers. Satellites are much better at sending data down to the user than receiving requests from a user. High latency is a problem with geosynchronous satellites. This is why low-earth orbit satellites are better than geosynchronous satellites.

Low earth orbit is better.

Starlink satellites are in low earth orbit, and each one zooms around the world at very high speeds. Each satellite makes more than eleven trips around the world each day. Because the satellites are in low earth orbit, when you send a command to a Starlink satellite, it doesn’t have very far to go. Typically, these Starlink satellites are 700 -3000 kilometers high.

Satellite Tracker Space Station
Satellite Tracker Space Station

There are more than 5,000 Starlink satellites in low-earth orbit, with many more planned for the future. At the beginning of 2023, I didn’t think there were enough Starlink satellites to create a stable internet solution. This has changed. Starlink is still launching satellites, and most new launches focus on expanding for more customers. Current customers are getting good service.

Viasat antenna
Viasat antenna

The other two satellite providers are HughesNet and Viasat. I don’t have personal experience with HughesNet or Viasat, but both place satellites in geosynchronous orbits. These satellites maintain the same position above the Earth and are more than 35,000 kilometers high. They move around the Earth, matching its rotation. When you send a request to a geosynchronous satellite, it takes more than ten times longer for the satellite to receive the request than if it were in a low-Earth orbit.

HughesNet Satellite Dish
HughesNet Satellite Dish

Remember that any request you send to a satellite requires multiple connections. When getting your request to the satellite, you have a time delay, and then the satellite sends the request to its ground station. Then, the request travels from the ground station to the server. Then, the server sends the request to the internet. Then, the information is gathered and sent back to the server, and the route repeats backward, up to the satellite, and back to you. It is so convoluted that it is amazing that the satellite internet works at all.

I have used Starlink successfully since May 2023. I didn’t own the Starlink service; instead, other people we were visiting Alaska with had Starlink, and I was allowed to log into their router. The Starlink service was acceptable in Alaska, but I also had problems dropping out. Starlink service in Alaska was way better than cell service.

I have not used HughesNet or Viasat. These two services didn’t interest me because their satellites are further away than Starlink satellites. The result of the orbital distance is that Starlink satellites will have much higher speeds than HughesNet and Viasat.

The problem with low earth orbit

Since each satellite is moving fast, they streak across the sky quickly. The satellite does not have an overhead antenna for very long. This means that you have hundreds of satellites that perform well compared to geosynchronous satellites. My evaluation was that until Starlink had enough satellites, it wasn’t worth my money. This changed in the spring of 2023. Before 2023, Starlink didn’t have enough satellites to provide continuous coverage. Starlink is launching new satellites frequently, and coverage problems causing dropouts are not as frequent. Here is a link to a Starlink satellite tracker. Starlink Satellite Tracker

Starlink Satellite Tracker
Starlink Satellite Tracker

As you can see from the tracker, there are many satellites. Also, most satellites are far from land at any one time. This means that even though there are 4000 satellites, only a couple hundred will serve the United States anytime. There are far more cell towers than available Starlink satellites.

Instead of covering issues, the new problem will be that there will be too many customers, causing slowdowns. It is kind of like a freeway. It is wide open when no one uses it and crawls when everyone wants to use it simultaneously.

Data Limits

HughesNet and Viasat have limited data allowances, while Starlink has a generous limit of one Terra Byte per month. With HughesNet and Viasat, you can always increase your data limits for more money, which is when Starlink prices become very attractive.

Starlink started with a round disk that is still functional but obsolete. Most customers use Starlink “Actuated” and “Mobile” now use a rectangular dish with built-in motors to point it in the correct direction. There is a new Starlink “Standard” Dish that is larger but not quite as large as the “High Performance” model.

Priority customers get a high-performance dish twice the size of the “Actuated “dish. The high-performance dish is mounted with a fixed orientation. The newest Starlink dish, the “Standard,” is similar to the “Priority” dish (yet smaller) and does not use motors. It is so new that you cannot order one.

The hardware prices are $600 for the small “Actuated ” or “Standard” dish and $2500 for the larger “Priority” dish.

In addition to the Starlink antenna, the Starlink hardware has a router and cable.

There are three different basic Starlink plans. The basic plan is for Starlink “Actuated ” and “Standard”. Both assume you will use the antenna at a location that does not move. As opposed to stationary plans, there is Starlink “Mobile.”

“Mobile” is not the same as “in motion.” Mobile is a plan that can be used at different locations. The Starlink mobile plans are divided into Mobile Regional and Mobile Global. For businesses, there is Starlink’s “Priority” plan. Then there is the similar-named Starlink “Mobility.” Starlink also has “Maritime” and “Aviation” plans.

Without getting too detailed, you can get either the stationary plan (called “Standard”) or the roaming plan“Mobile.” The equipment for both is the same. The price for the Starlink basic plan is $120 per month. The cost for Starlink “Mobile” is $150 per month for “Regional” service and $200 per month for “Global” service. The price for Starlink “Priority” is $250 per month.

Starlink’s basic stationary plan allows service only in one country, whereas Starlink’s “Mobile” plan provides service in all the countries (as permitted by regulation) on one continent. “Mobile” does not allow coverage over designated ocean locations.

Starlink “Mobility” is its newest internet plan. Data plans start at $250 per month. Remember that Starlink’s “Mobility” differs from Starlink’s “Mobile.”

On the “Mobile” plan, you pay a higher price ($30 per month more than Starlink “Standard”) and get deprioritized service. Having Starlink “Mobile” means that you take a back seat to the Starlink “Standard” and “Priority” customers. Starlink describes Starlink “Mobile” as a best-effort service. This means that if you have Starlink “Mobile,” you will be continuously pushed to the back of the service line.

Upgrades

Starlink “Mobile” plan customers can purchase access to “Mobile Priority Data” for increased service fees at $2 per GB. With these upgrades, your internet traffic gets a higher level of service on the network. Higher-priority data will have faster speeds in times of network congestion. Depending on your plan, you can add upgrades, or you may not need upgrades because they are already included in the basic price.

Also called “Mobile Priority” at Starlink, the “Global “Mobile Priority Plan” allows use anywhere, including during ocean crossings and at high speeds.

Installation of a primary Starlink antenna and router is straightforward. Plug it in and wait. After about fifteen minutes, it should work.

Starlink customer support is only obtained via problem requests. You cannot call Starlink to sort out a problem.

The cable between the router and the dish is the most vulnerable part of the service. Some people buy an extra cable with their initial purchase because getting a replacement takes time. While waiting for a new cable, you will not receive service.

Even though this section of this e-book is smaller than the previous long discussion on cellular data, Starlink does not entirely replace cellular data. Make sure to read the section above about trees. This is a significant limitation for RVs. Most of the time, we like camping with ample tree cover. One of the ways that we are going to address the tree problem is antenna position. I don’t expect ever to mount the Starlink antenna in one position. Instead, I want to use a pole mount and, as needed, also keep the Starlink standard mount.

The newest antenna might be even better than the motorized antenna because then I could point it toward the open sky and expect it to keep pointing in that direction.

Data rate slowdowns should be expected in areas with many Starlink customers. More satellites will help keep data rates higher but don’t expect enough satellites to overcome localized slowdowns.

One way to save money is to suspend the Starlink service when you don’t need it. For Starlink “Mobile” customers, you can suspend service. Other customers can stop the service and then restart it without penalty. You can’t drop your other non-Starlink data services if you suspend your service.

Our RV has a huge solar array so we can camp without a power hookup. Starlink, however, uses nearly as much electricity as my residential refrigerator. Assuming we didn’t need air conditioning, our RV could go without sunshine for 2.5 days and still have some battery power in reserve. I no longer know if I ran Starlink and the other stuff in my RV.

Since I also have a big solar array and don’t expect long, cloudy periods when we are camping without sunshine, I don’t think I will have a problem. Yet, having Starlink may cause arguments for more solar panels.

When off-grid, I watch the battery power consumption carefully. Inside the Starlink antenna, an icemelt function increases power consumption.

Starlink routers plug into alternating current 110-120 volts in North America. This is an issue on small RVs that do not typically have large inverters. On these RVs, you will either have to get an inverter capable of handling the job or make a DC conversion (most likely invalidating your warranty).

Starlink didn’t make it easy and seems to have an excellent built-in router, but the Starlink/Peplink combination is very powerful. It would be best to have a Starlink adapter to hook your Starlink to an external router. Then, you use the Starlink software to bypass the internal Starlink router. Then, all your devices can connect to your Peplink router.

The biggest reason to connect your Starlink data through your Peplink Router is that you can use bonding to combine your cellular data and Starlink data inside your router. I haven’t tried this yet, but I will report back when I have this working. Here is a link to my discussion about bonding: Bonding together multiple data sources

Recommendations and endorsements

This is my first time including a section like this on my blog. As you can tell from the links, I like some specific companies. I am going to point out two companies that I admire. I am not associated with these two companies other than making these free recommendations.

Mobile Internet Resource Center

Mobile Internet Resource Center
Mobile Internet Resource Center

Mobile Internet Resource Center is first because I mentioned them in this e-book. For lack of a better term, this is a subscription club similar to Consumer Reports. You can join the club and get insider information. The Mobile Internet Resource Center makes it their business to know everything that there is to know about everything that affects getting data in your RV (or boat). Here is a link. If you want the best information I recommend joining the “club.” Mobile Information Resource Center

Mobile Must Have

Mobile Must Have
Mobile Must Have

Mobile Must Have is a company that sells the devices that I included in my recommendations. You can get the very best hardware and even sign up for cellular data and Starlink service at Mobile Must Have, which makes them a one-stop shopping service. Here is a link to their website, Mobile Must Have

Please subscribe and join us on our journey.

We will add you to our email list and send you updates once a week. Here is a link. Subscribe

As you know, our blog income is zero, allowing us to be independent and tell the truth.  We do not get income or commissions. No, we don’t make paid endorsements.  We don’t make recommendations; instead, we will tell you what we like (or dislike). The links are only provided as a quick reference to help our readers.

Mobile Internet Resource Center

Peplink becomes Starlink Authorized Technology Provider

Mobile Must Have

For Starlink service, call Moblie Must Have

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4 thoughts on “How to get FAST RV Internet in 2024”

    1. I know that other vendors have adapted a DC power supply to feed the Starlink. That will save on inverter overhead but doesn’t make up for how power-hungry Starlink is. Your best practice will be to sleep the Starlink when you are not using it. Only use the snow melt when you know that it has snow on it.

  1. Pingback: News, Peplink becomes Starlink Authorized Technology Provider - FoxRVTravel

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