One of the early concerns I had, cause I like to poke holes in every plan, was how was I going to stay connected to clients and work on the road?
I think we take for granted that there’s basically internet everywhere in heavily populated areas. Being from Chicago, there’s always WiFi somewhere. It’s certainly not a new concept for me to work remotely, but the biggest issue is connectivity in a campground (which I have run into before) or when you’re in more remote areas. It’s not like the campsite we’ll be in will have a Starbucks with fast WiFi, so I started digging around online to see what I could discover. Despite my initial doomsday predictions, frankly it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
I was curious about our current at home data use. I work from home running my graphic design firm, we school from home, and there’s the extras like Netflix and Amazon Prime video streaming. We were averaging about 500 gigs of data a month! For work, besides emails, I do need to find images or other job assets, download and upload files to clients (averaging about 10mg-25mg each) and do research. These days everything is just always online and we use the internet constantly in the background more than we realize. I knew all of our habits would need to change on the road including my own. To start, I would need to be more conservative with how much I truly needed to always be online and do more offline most of the time. The most important part of internet connectivity was for my work, so we’d need to basically cut the kids off from any streaming etc unless we are connected to WiFi. (Insert moaning from the kids).
Where to start?
I came across a great site: rvmobileinterent.com that was a goldmine of info about RV mobile internet service options and equipment. The couple that runs the site are full time RV’ers and make their livelihood testing equipment and posting reviews etc. I was both excited and overwhelmed by the pros and cons of all of the options. There’s lot to consider in terms of equipment and data plans and it’s easy spend a lot of money on different antennas and boosters. While a lot of content on the site is free, they have access to Member Only content for $67 a year. After reading a lot of articles, I knew it was worth the cost for full access to the site, webinars and the community of members for support. Much love to these two – they helped me a ton and feel like I have a shoulder to lean on if I run into issues.
I started to assemble my wish list from what I read: mobile hot spot, cellular booster, wifi booster and various antennas. I still hadn’t made any final decisions, there was a lot to consider in terms of cost and need. No matter what equipment I got, I needed to figure out the whole cellular data thing. I decided early on that satellite and other options for data were not going to be as reliable or fit into the budget.
I’d need to switch to an unlimited data plan.
Unlimited cellular data plans were evolving literally week by week as I was reading about them. They aren’t really all that “unlimited” anymore from a speed perspective and all the carriers were cracking down. There are ways to work around that by sourcing and buying a grandfathered plan that is not subject to these new restrictions, but it seemed like a lot of trouble to go through that process.
I read about all of the differences between carriers online and what their plans terms were. We already were on Verizon under contract and had no desire to switch, so I called Verizon to understand what “unlimited data” really means on their network. There’s two main issues with all of these plans: throttling (slower speeds) and network management (delayed connections on congested towers). After a lengthy call with the nicest rep, I felt pretty good that the Unlimited Verizon plan would do the trick to keep me connected.
So with that info and everything I learned about equipment, here’s the set-up I landed on.
Verizon Unlimited Data Plan
Each device the plan gets 10gigs of 4G high speed data, after that it goes down to 3G. At 23 gigs of data I could get some network management, which in the words of the Verizon rep, means that I could wait and extra second or two to connect to a contested tower if we run into that. Factor in 3 iPhones and 2 cellular enabled iPads and we now have 50 gigs of high speed data to tap into. Both Bernadette and I are on this plan together and seems to provide the best value at this point. I know Verizon is on the higher end of pricing, but their network is the biggest and most reliable. My sister in law, for example, recently switched to T-mobile to save on her plan with their new promotion and she drops calls all the time in the Chicago area, so I think sticking with Verizon will be the best despite the cost, plus it’s a business write off.
Verizon 4G LTE Jetpack® AC&91L Hot Spot
After a lot of research I landed on the Verizon AC791L hot spot. I won’t get into all of the details, but it comes recommended by RV Mobile Internet – if you want to read their review you can find it here. With this added to the unlimited plan I now have 60 gigs of high speed data to tap into.
AT&T ZTE Mobley Hot Spot with Unlimited Data
Another great recommendation from the mobile internet blog was a deal AT&T was having on a connected car device. For $20 a month I get unlimited data on AT&T. It’s designed to create a hot spot in your car (when it’s running) by plugging into the vehicle’s OBD-II port. I also purchased an adaptor to use with a standard outlet if we need to use it in the RV. At $20 a month It was a no brainer back up plan to have.
Netgear 6000450 MIMO Antenna
The last piece is a cellular antenna. While I’d love to splurge and get a weBoost Drive 4G-X exterior mounted booster, we need to conserve spending for now and this one get’s great reviews and in some cases outperforms the $400+ boosters. Plus you can’t beat the $28 price. The hot spot I got has the proper MIMO antenna ports to plug this into – bonus!
So with that I think I have what I need to get started on the road working. 60 gigs at 4G and 72 gigs at 3G before any network management + the AT&T plan – it’s just a matter of switching between devices as needed. Wifi at coffee shops and other public places may have to be factored in as needed. We can always make adjustments as we go and I’m ready to be a little less connected online and take in the scenery and connect with the family more.