Nov 04

How to Stay Connected

by in RV Tips

Trailervania Wireless

Trailervania Wireless

Many of you know that Charlie and I both work online. This 2 year trip is dependent on a few things and one of those is the internet. Without the internet, we can’t work. Without work, we don’t get a paycheck. Without a paycheck, we don’t have a camper, and many other things. You get the idea. I did a TON of research on this topic and with cellular coverage getting better everyday, I was nervous but confident that we’d be able to connect in most places. : )

What happens when we can’t get a connection? Thankfully we’ve not had to deal with this yet. There have been several times when the campground wireless would slow to a crawl and getting anything done online was very frustrating. We’d mentally make a note of the time of day and eventually we could time when the internet was good and when it was bad. The demographic at RV parks consists of mostly retired folks so they’re out adventuring during the day. We knew we could work after 9am ish until around 1pm or 2pm. Around 1pm or 2pm maybe everyone is in their camper enjoying lunch and catching up on email, facebook, pinterest, etc. This became our lunch time to step away from the computer. Then between 2pm and 3pm the internet would free up again until around 6pm. After 6pm, forget it. I’m not even sure how people who are using the internet at that time even have the patience to stay connected. It’s worse than my first 2400 baud modem. LOL!

There were days where the schedule above didn’t work out and we had to resort to other options.

My job provides my with an iPhone and an iPad. Both of which now are 4G capable and both are hotspots. This works well, but you’ve gotta watch the usage as data limits apply. My job requires me to be online every Tuesday for our weekly Skype meeting (voice only so I can stay in my pajamas). I checked data usage prior to a meeting and then after. With 4 people on Skype voice only, the meeting lasted about 3.5 hours and used about 550MB (megabytes). Not bad since the work plan has a collective 10GB (gigabyte) usage limit. I use the word ‘limit’ loosely as Verizon will let us go over the 10 GB plan allowance and bill us for every 1 GB over.

How does Charlie stay online? We have a personal Verizon Wireless plan as well and purchased a 4G hotspot. She also has an iPad that’s 4G capable and a hotspot as well. Her iPhone can become a hotspot but it’s only 3G (slower than 4G) so she only uses it for a hotspot when absolutely necessary.

We realize not all places will have 4G, but so far the coverage with Verizon has been pretty good. The campground in GA was on the outskirts of 4G so our 3G signal was pretty good, although there seemed to be some interference as we would often bounce from the 3G network to the ‘O’ (older) network. Very odd and annoying, but again, the campground wireless was sufficient for most of our needs.

We arrived in Kissimmee, FL for our 5 months stay to avoid winter completely. The cable provider here is Bright House. We asked the front desk if they provided cable internet for long terms stays. They do, we signed up, and on day 2 we now have cable internet in our camper….just like home. It’s $29 per month and no data limits. We’ve got our Roku box connected up and we’re streaming from Netflix and Hulu once again. You can stream Netflix and Hulu from your computer or mobile device, but again, data limits apply so be very careful when doing this. HD shows/movies use a TON of bandwidth. Research shows that a standard definition movie or show streamed from netflix uses about 400MB (megabytes) per half hour. That same 30 minute show in high definition uses about 1.5GB (Gigabytes). Compression works a little differently for movies. A standard definition movie would need about 500MB to 700MB depending on the length of the movie and a high definition movies uses about 3.6GB (gigabytes) for a 2 hour film. If you have a 6GB plan from Verizon this means you could watch one HD movie, and about 3 standard definition movies and reach your limit. Needless to say, we’ve done zero streaming using our hotspots.

Here’s a few alternatives I’ve looked at but have not yet moved forward. Once we get out west, staying connected may become more difficult as coverage is more sparse. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, but at least it looks like we have options.

Exede Satellite Internet: Their pricing seems reasonable and they boast of speeds rivaling those of a home connection. I’ve not tested or tried this service, but they’ll be the first I call if the need for satellite internet arises. You’ll still have to be mindful of data limits.

Millenicom: I recently learned of this service. From what I can tell, they use Verizon towers, are 3G and 4G capable and don’t have data limits. Pricing is very reasonable.

As we plan future trips, if we decide to go ‘off grid’ we’ll do so for only a limited time as our livelihood depends on the internet. One of the top items on my bucket list is to make it to Montana, go completely off grid, turn everything off, and just stare up at the stars on a clear night.

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Brian Gilbert

Prior to August 28th, 2012 we had never spent the night in a camper or RV. Now we're full timers and have never looked back. If you've ever dreamed of doing the RV thing, do it. It's much easier than I ever imagined. The only thing I regret so far is not doing it sooner.

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