Written by WiFiRanger Ambassador, Joel Weiss “docj”
Maintaining an internet connection is no longer a luxury for many RVers. Although conventional thought may be that the RV community is populated by retirees, there are an increasing number of working people who now live at least part time in their RVs. Add to that group the huge number of RV “vacationers” who travel with their families and who want to maintain connectivity for all their web-enabled devices. The bottom line is that millions of RVers want and need stable internet connections.
Combining Two Internet Sources: Cellular & WiFi
Although at some time in the future there may be world-wide space-based internet availability, that time is still some number of years away. For the moment, most RVers have to combine cellular-based internet coverage with WiFi-based internet provided by campgrounds, coffee shops, shopping centers, “big box” stores and other sources. Although it’s easy to ignore free WiFi as not being worth using, it should be noted that many RV campgrounds have in recent years been making substantial improvements to their WiFi systems. Furthermore, if you travel outside the US to Canada or Mexico, you will find that WiFi can be a very cost-effective solution for maintaining internet access. Even cellular coverage in the US does not uniformly provide high-speed 4G/LTE coverage. No single cellular Carrier (e.g. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile) provides 100% coverage everywhere in the US nor can the signal from any single Carrier be relied upon not to be “network managed” – even if you have a truly unlimited data plan.
Choosing a Cellular Carrier
With regard to cellular Carriers, my own personal RVing experience has been that Verizon still provides the broadest coverage over the largest percentage of the US, but even it has its limitations. Furthermore, unlimited Verizon plans (even the unlimited ones) are often subject to “network management” which can render them useless for streaming video. Therefore, IMO the “serious RVer” should, if they can afford to, maintain a second cellular account using a different Carrier. For my backup I use AT&T but I am carefully watching T-Mobile’s roll-out of its 600MHz system starting in December 2019.
For what it’s worth, if you do a lot of RVing in Canada (or Mexico) you will find that prepaid Verizon and AT&T accounts will not work outside of the US. Beyond US borders choices are limited to postpaid accounts and/or free WiFi. The good news is that if you’re traveling in Canada free WiFi is widespread and usually quite good.
Vehicle Connectivity Integration Systems (VCIS) Built Specifically for RVs
Ideally an RVer would want to have a VCIS that can connect to either WiFi or multiple cellular Carrier networks. This way you can use free WiFi when it is available while also being able to easily switch to cellular Carriers when the need arises (or even load balanced both at the same time). By having a system with both WiFi and cellular capability you can leave all your networked devices connected to a single, unchanging, secured private network. Then when you want to switch from cellular to WiFi or even change cellular Carriers, you can accomplish that change with a single keystroke!
There are a number of manufacturers of such systems, Converge™ by WiFiRanger™ is one I personally recommend to combine WiFi connectivity with any of the three largest cellular Carriers: Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile. There are 3 Converge™ models: Teton, Denali, & Everest. Starting early 2020 the Everest model will come equipped with Cat6 modems to accommodate two different cellular Carriers – on the same circuit board – allowing you to seamlessly switch to the Carrier with the best signal wherever your RV is parked. Another notable feature with Converge™ is ease of upgrades, what they call “tray swaps”. If you purchased the mid-priced Denali system and later want to upgrade to the higher-powered Everest for more WiFi reach and data throughput, WiFiRanger™ will ship you an Everest tray with everything pre-assembled. All you do is open the rooftop Fin (adhered to your vehicle’s rooftop) and place the new tray inside. No running new cables or having to pull off the original Fin enclosure on the roof. Just tray swap!
WiFiRanger™ vs Others
Winegard – also marketed under the ToGo Roadlink brand – is another connectivity system for RVs but is limited to a single AT&T – Category 4 modem with a less powerful WiFi system. Furrion sytems while sleek and farily reliable, restrict RVers to using their proprietary cellular data packages that are arguably over-priced. Lastly, King Systems are a third player in the RV Internet space but they don’t offer a combined WiFi+Cellular system; rather, King’s offer WiFi only.
Therefore, for me the choice is clear. Only Converge™ by WiFiRanger™ provides the ability to connect to any of the three major cellular carriers in addition to powerful dual-band WiFi capability.
Staying connected in your RV is becoming more and more reliable with public WiFi upgrades and the addition of more cell towers “out there”. But your connection is ONLY as good as the device(s) your RV uses to connect. When shopping be sure to look for companies that specialize in RV connectivity and that offer systems with easy hardware and software upgrades (both are very important). Happy travels!