Mobile Internet Update

On the internet at Badlands National Park.

It’s been over two years since I last posted about how I stay connected on the road, and it’s changed since then. Time for an update!

First, some history.

For the first three years living in the Casita (2012-2015) I relied solely on public WiFi and mooching off of friends for getting online. If you’re not a big internet user and are on a budget and looking to save some money, I’m living proof that yes, you can go full-timing without a dedicated internet source.

If you do this though, don’t expect to be streaming videos (a lot of public WiFi isn’t fast enough for it), and do expect service at times to be frustratingly unreliable. Depending on where you like to camp, you also might have to drive a ways to find it. My go-to locations when WiFi wasn’t available at the campground I was staying at were Starbucks, McDonalds, and other fast food restaurants. Often laundromats have WiFi too.

Alas, free WiFi isn’t available inside Yellowstone where I work-camped the summer of 2015, and the park is so big that driving to find it was impractical. I’d heard that Verizon had a strong 4G signal at Old Faithful (it’s true, other carriers were marginal at best there), and I was already going through them for my phone plan (which at the time I only used for GPS and checking the weather). So when I arrived I upgraded my plan with Verizon to give me 3 GB instead of 1, and used my phone as a hotspot to get online with my computer.

And from May of 2015 to July of 2016 I survived on a 3 GB data plan, still pretty frugal compared to a lot of people’s internet solutions.

In July of 2016 I upgraded from the iPhone 4S that I’d had since hitting the road to the iPhone SE, which was also an upgrade from 3G to LTE. Having faster internet meant that pages, videos, and advertisements loaded faster and it used more data. So I upgraded from a 3 GB to 5 GB plan at that time to compensate.

Note that 5 GB on an LTE network (and 3 GB on a 3G network) was enough to keep this blog updated, respond to comments and e-mails, check Facebook and Instagram, navigate with Google Maps, and do some basic web surfing, but it was not enough to stream video, play games, or download big files.

And that’s why this summer I jumped on the Verizon Unlimited bandwagon, starting a YouTube channel cannot be done on 5 GB of data.

Since I upgraded a couple months ago, Verizon has already changed their plan offerings again (that happens a lot), and what I currently have as of 9/7/2017 would be considered their “beyond unlimited” plan. It’s still not true unlimited as speeds can be throttled after 22 GB, and hotspot data is throttled to 3G speeds after 15 GB, but I’m still not a huge data hog and so far that seems to be working fine for uploading videos. It also includes service in Mexico and Canada at no extra charge, which I made use of when I flew to Vancouver at the end of June.

Of course, this means my bill has gone up. My 5 GB plan cost me $61, and on unlimited I’m now at $83.71 a month including taxes and after the $5 credit for being on an automatic payment. But a $23 increase to not have to worry about data caps (which I did need to track diligently before) and to get to watch videos and upload my own seems like a fair trade-off.

Other carriers have unlimited plans too which might be cheaper or give you more un-throttled data, but I continue to stick with Verizon because they have the largest network, and I get a usable signal in some truly remote places with it.

And there you have it! Please note that I am not an expert on this subject, I only learned enough to find the best solution for me. There are a lot of other viable options out there. If you’re looking for comprehensive and unbiased information on mobile internet solutions, then you should check out the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center. It’s run by some friends of mine and they really know their stuff! And of course you’re welcome to share your own internet solutions in the comments below.

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18 Responses to Mobile Internet Update

  1. Connie September 8, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

    Thanks for the update Becky! I also went to Verizon unlimited (earlier this year). It’s worked well for my situation. I can do my online stuff and I get to watch movies and YouTube too 🙂

    • Becky September 10, 2017 at 6:21 pm #

      Glad it’s worked out well for you Connie.

  2. Teri September 8, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

    The Mobley AT&T device that you plug into the car dataport has worked great for my Class B. You can also get a regular plug to use it in your RV. It is only $20 a month and I have had no trouble steaming. I found the info initially on the Escapee discussion form.

    • Becky September 10, 2017 at 6:22 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Teri.

  3. Pamela September 8, 2017 at 7:37 pm #

    Hi, Becky – I was in Yellowstone with my 15 year old grandson in June this year. He had Verizon and I had Sprint. Guess who had service and who didn’t. Lesson learned. I do have a Verizon jet pack to boost an existing signal, but since I didn’t have my Casita with me, I had no jet pack. Didn’t even think about that. Happy Travels. Thanks for your blog. I really enjoy traveling along with you.

    • Becky September 10, 2017 at 6:23 pm #

      Well it’s good that at least one of you had signal Pamela. Thanks and I’m glad you’re continuing to enjoy IO!

  4. Marneen September 9, 2017 at 7:13 am #

    Thanks for this. Love hearing about other’s solutions and paths when it comes to mobile internet.
    Love your journey!
    🙂

    • Becky September 10, 2017 at 6:23 pm #

      You’re welcome Marneen! Thanks for following along.

  5. Jim September 9, 2017 at 9:33 am #

    Traveling around the US as a full timer for the last 13 years, I’ve seen a gradual change at RV parks and I’m happy to report that there are many more parks with free high speed Wifi than ever before. Over 2 Mbps is enough for streaming a movie. And I see more RV parks in that range these days. A gradual and welcome change.

    Still, the availability of at least ‘fast enough’ Wifi suits my lifestyle, but it would be nice to have high speed streaming speeds everywhere. Of course I tend to stay ON the beaten track these days, I’m not as adventurous as you are any more… 🙂
    Jim recently posted..Visit to Merrill, Oregon…My Profile

    • Becky September 10, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

      I’ve stayed at a lot of parks that have WiFi and it is so handy Jim! Glad it’s working for you.

  6. Sherry Currently on the road September 9, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

    Sounds like a fantastic plan to me for $83/month if it includes both phone minutes and data unlimited. We should definitely have done this. We’re paying twice that for two phones to share 700 minutes. One has ancient grandfathered unlimited data the other isn’t a smart phone. We have a verizon hotspot with only 5 GB of data.
    Sherry Currently on the road recently posted..Up, Down and Around Dorr MountainMy Profile

    • Becky September 10, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

      From what I’ve noticed the past couple years, data plans are getting bigger and less expensive. I use to pay $83 for 1 GB with Verizon back when I hit the road. But as I recall many of those grandfathered plans have no soft cap at which speed gets throttled so I couldn’t say if it would be good to switch or not.

  7. John Warren Simpson September 10, 2017 at 4:25 pm #

    I have recently started all this but so far am doing comfortably well with Verizon unlimited. It’s costing me $130 a month so I will have to check into this. I use the Internet a lot and haven’t had any problems so far. Getting used to how to operate the smartphone (LG5) has been a challenge. I’ve been situated in an RV park in Northern Nevada right off I-80 so signals have been strong. I got a cell phone signal booster from weBoost through Verizon no lessI I am looking forward to trying it out when I start wandering next month.
    Thanks always for sharing your experiences.

    • Becky September 10, 2017 at 6:32 pm #

      $130? Yeah I’d check into switching to their newer unlimited plans. Although if you have more than one line or are doing payment plans on devices that ups the monthly bill and could explain the higher cost.

  8. John September 11, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    Thanks for the update. It pains me for prices to be so high $84 a month is a ton. But I reliable and widely available internet service (with lots of data Gb) is something I definitely want when I hit the road. I wish I could do it for $40 but I will probably do the same as you given Verizon’s coverage in remote areas.
    John recently posted..Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, WisconsinMy Profile

    • Becky September 12, 2017 at 11:17 am #

      Compared to what it was like when I hit the road five years ago this is cheap! I paid $85 for my 1 GB back then…

  9. Kent September 12, 2017 at 2:17 am #

    Thanks much for this post Becky!

    Some days I feel a bit dense. I had the 8G plan and because of your post switched about five minutes after reading it. I’m now spending less on the *beyond unlimited and 15G plan than I did for the 8G.. Awesome!

    My assumption had been that I would need a Mobley device to get more hotspot data at a reasonable cost… (Good luck finding one.About as likely to find a lucky Leprechaun.)

    Cool Beans!

    • Becky September 12, 2017 at 11:22 am #

      Yes Kent is a good idea to check regularly to see what the latest plans cost and what they offer, in general they’re trending more GB for lower cost. Glad this helped you!

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