Our Setup – Mobile Internet & Staying Connected

UPDATE 4/11/2018: Livinlite.net is now a Pepewave, WifiRanger and Weboost Authorized dealer with same-day free shipping within the continental United States. Click below to visit our store or email us at info@livinlite.net for additional information as we add additional products every day.

It’s been nearly 3 years since we cut ties with the stick & brick lifestyle and started living on the road. We’ve learned a lot in those three years, and our setup has evolved quite a bit over that time to ensure we stay connected for work and play. Mobile internet & staying connected on the road is essential for us. Whether it’s posting the blog post you are reading right now or making sure we can do our day jobs, we need to be connected at all times to maintain our mobile lifestyle.

To help folks decide what solution is best for them we’ve put together the following article which goes into the 3 main components we feel are most important for staying connected. We will then go into detail on what options are available for each component depending on what features are important to you, and what your budget is.

Mobile Internet & Staying Connected – Summary of Our Setup

There are 3 key components to our mobile internet setup. They work together to ensure we remain connected in 99% of the locations we visit. The 3 components are listed below along with a detailed summary of what each item is used for.

  1. Unlimited Data Plans – Since we use our setup for work and for streaming media (play) we consume quite a bit of data. We have unlimited data plans with Verizon and AT&T, two of the nations best carriers from a speed and coverage perspective. More on that below and if you are interested in getting your hands on an unlimited data plan yourself, click here to learn more.
  2. Mobile Router – An electronic device similar to a home router, but it uses wireless connections such as campground wifi or cellular connections (or a combination of both) to connect your devices to the internet. We will get into that more below as well.
  3. Cellular Booster – Cell boosters improve the cellular signal on your device by boosting the signal sent from the cell tower inside your mobile home or RV. These are especially helpful in rural areas where signal strength may be a problem.

Each of the 3 major components we’ve listed above play vital roles in our connectivity solution. Lets dive into each item further and discuss the various options out there for each component.

Unlimited Data Plans

Unlimited data is a topic in itself, actually it’s an entire blog in itself as there are just too many things that can be said about cellular data and how it works. Most carriers are currently, as of February 2018, offering so-called “unlimited” data plans but there are some restrictions that vary from carrier to carrier. Typically these plans range from $60-$90 per month and often come with a two year contract and discounted equipment access. With just about all carriers there are data caps, usually around 22GB per month in which if you hit that limit your service and speed “may” be impacted. Once you hit the data limit, it is possible that your connection will be slowed by the carrier. Some carriers “de-prioritized” users that are over their limit. This means that if you are in areas of high network congestion the carrier may slow down your speeds. The specifics vary by cellular carrier and change from month to month, making it hard to keep track.

Now 22GB is quite a lot of data, and if you are not streaming a ton of video or if you do not use the connection every day you should be fine. If 22GB isn’t enough then you’ll need to get your hands on data plan that is not subject to these restrictions (at least for now). There are two options for getting your hands on a truly unlimited data plan from one of the major carriers. The first is doing an “Assumption of Liability” or AOL where you purchased an existing data plan without restrictions from a third party, usually someone on ebay, and then transfer their contract into your name. This option is complicated and the carriers do not seem to want to allow this anymore so be careful and do your homework.

The second option is a rental agreement. Essentially you pay a third party customer not affiliated with the carrier a premium (usually $120-$150 per month) to use their device on a monthly basis. The 3rd party sends you a device that has an unlimited data plan without data caps (grandfathered in from plans no longer available) and you use the device and pay that 3rd party each month. Payments are made through a third party payment processor like Paypal to protect everyone’s privacy and identity.  This option also has risks, but in general you are limited to whatever amount you send on a monthly basis and you can cancel at anytime. We have a partner who offers this service and you can sign up here while supplies last. NEVER send funds directly to a 3rd party or give anyone any personal information, use a verifiable service like Paypal.  

If you are interested in an Assumption of Liability “AOL” or want to dive deeper into the topic, check out our article we did back in 2015 that covers much of the details on this process.

Mobile Routers

A “mobile router” or “mobile firewall” as it is also referred to, takes a single internet connection and splits it so it can be used by multiple devices located behind the mobile firewall. If you’ve ever used a Linksys, DLink or similar ‘home router’ it is essentially the same thing, but it uses cellular or wireless connections instead of your home cable model or DSL to connect your devices to the internet. Mobile routers come in all shapes and sizes and this also is a fairly large topic but we’ll try to keep it high level.

Most mobile routers today, have the ability to use either cellular data, public wifi networks or a combination of both as their internet source. They work by rebroadcasting that internet access wirelessly and/or wired to a small area for its owners use.  Mobile routers also act as firewalls, limiting the amount of traffic that can access devices from outside of your private network. There are still security issues with using any public wifi, but for the most part that risk is limited only to information you transmit to/from the internet when you correctly use a mobile router/firewall.

Mobile Routers come in all shapes and sizes. Here is a summary of some of the models we discussed in the above video and a summary of their pros and cons for your review. Livinlite offers hotspots with unlimited Verizon & AT&T data plans here (while supplies last).

MiFi Mobile Hotspot Probably the most commonly used mobile router, sold directly by Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and just about every cellular carrier. These tiny devices have cellular modems that pickup internet signals broadcasted by the cellular carriers and then rebroadcast those signals to a small local wireless network for private use. Many smartphones including the iPhone have mobile hotspot capabilities built right in, but they limit your ability to use your phone while they are in use which is why most serious users opt for a dedicated hotspot device.

Pros: Portable, inexpensive turn key solution that is supported by your mobile carrier. Some models support external antennas allowing you to improve cellular signal in remote locations. They also have a built in battery meaning they will continue to function for a few hours in the event of a power loss. Their single biggest pro in our opinion is that they are portable.

Cons: Limited to a single carrier (they will only work with the cellular carrier they were designed to work with), cellular antenna may not pickup cell signal in remote areas as well as units with a dedicated antenna, designed for up to 5-10 devices max, limited wireless power so you may need to remain close to the device to pickup a good signal, no option for wired connection (you can connect a single computer via tethering function however you will be limited to a single device in most cases).

Wifi Ranger One of the first companies to come to market with a product truly designed for RV & Marine use. The team at Wifi Ranger have been working on a perfected solution for wireless & cellular access for quite some time and we must say it has come a long way and is an extremely well designed solution. Most Wifi Ranger solutions come in two pieces, a roof mounted wifi receiver and an interior mounted router/wifi hotspot that rebroadcasts the roof signal inside of your RV. The interior router also has a USB port allowing it to use cellular internet as either it’s primary or secondary connection making for an excellent all around solution. The team at Wifi Ranger have developed custom software for these devices so that they can easily talk to each other acting as a single unified connectivity solution. Receive 5% off site wide at http://wifiranger.com by entering code WFRLIVIN at checkout.

Pros: A single unified solution, nothing more to buy other than a USB modem from your cellular carrier, excellent technical support provided by the manufacture, excellent warranty support ensuring replacement parts are quickly shipped if needed, wireless receiving range is excellent, picking up even the most distant signals, U.S. based company, support for wired/wireless connections, can broadcast your private wifi signal via the roof antenna giving you exceptional range even outside your RV (make sure to be careful with this feature as it may impact other campers and their ability to use campground wifi), 12V and 120V support for a variety of installation options.

Cons: Only supports a single cellular carrier at a time. You could switch to a second carrier, but you would need to remove the USB modem and replace it with another one from the second carrier. Less resilient than the Pepwave, meaning that if it looses connectivity it may manually need to be reconnected more often (probably not noticeable for most users), less customizable advanced router options than the Pepwave such as site-to-site VPN (still a very capable router with plenty of advanced features).

UPDATE 4/11/2018: LIVINLITE.NET IS NOW AN AUTHORIZED PEPEWAVE & WEBOOST GLOBAL RESELLER WITH SAME DAY SHIPPING IN THE USA. Please email info@livinlite.net for pricing and product information as our online store is under development. We are shipping now. 

Pepwave Mobile Router(s) We consider this the gold standard in mobile connectivity if you do not plan on using campground or public wifi on a regular basis. The Peplink Pepwave Max BR1 mobile router has an integrated cellular modem that supports Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile. The unit has two sim card slots and a single cellular modem that can switch between either carrier sim automatically. You can configure the device to prefer a specific carrier, switch based on connectivity or data usage. You can configure the Pepwave to notify you via email when data limits have been reached and there is even a mobile app for your cell phone to administer the device from the comfort of the couch.

The Pepwave supports wifi-as-wan, meaning it will also rebroadcast local campground wifi or other public wifi hotspots, however it does not natively support a roof antenna. You can add a roof antenna, but all wifi signal including the signal for broadcasting inside your coach will utilize that signal antenna located on the roof so plan accordingly and check ranges.

The Pepwave is designed for mobile applications, it has a metal housing, 12v DC terminals and has been troublefree for us after 3 years of continuous use.

Pros: Multiple carrier support, long range cellular diversity antennas maximize signal strength, wired WAN support for users who have wired internet access (DSL/CABLE), wired LAN support for desktops or wired printers or other items, high power 2G wireless antenna for maximum range, 12v power ports (no inverter needed).

Cons: Expensive at $300-$500+ depending on the model, not really portable, once you install in your rig its primary use will be in your rig, no roof antenna – this is best if you have cellular data and do not rely on wireless.

Pepewave also makes a portable option that has many of the features of it’s older cousin but for a fraction of the price. The Pepwave Surf on the Go Mobile Router is a feature packed mobile router capable of picking up campground wifi as well as connecting to a USB cellular modem. The device also has a single wired ethernet port allowing you to connect a wired device (or a switch to connect multiple wired devices). The unit comes with suction cups allowing it to be window mounted inside of your RV so that it can pickup campground wifi signals in addition to using USB cellular modems. The wireless antenna in this unit is quite a bit larger than that used by a MiFi improving your wireless range near your coach. This is an excellent option for those looking to improve their connectivity options while also keeping the portability and budget under control.

Cell Booster

Cell boosters use an exterior mounted antenna, usually located on the roof of your RV and boost the cellular signal, repeating the boosted signal inside your RV using a smaller interior antenna. Our booster routinely boosts a barely usable cellular signal into a suitable signal that works for both voice and data saving us from having to move probably once a month. This is an optional component in any installation, but we find it’s a mobile-must-have for us. WeBoost has been a leader in cellular boosters for over a decade and they have recently released a number of mobile booster options which are listed below.

What About Satellite Internet

Satellite internet is an option, especially for those looking to be connected in extremely remote areas where cell service is still not an option. In recent years satellite providers have improved the speed of satellite internet to now allow for streaming video (low definition), but the speeds are still much slower than 4G cellular and you will still need a clear line of site to the satellite. Now that may sound easy in a movable house, but in campgrounds and parks we have an obstructed satellite view about 10x more often then we find a lack of cellular signal. This has led us to seriously question our Direct TV Television subscription as we often cannot use it, if we had that problem with our internet, it would be a deal breaker.

Additional Resources

  • RV Success School – Marc & Julie from RV Love, fellow full-timers head up the RV Success School. If you are thinking about hitting the road, this is the gold standard in mobile life education.
  • RV Mobile Internet – Chris & Cherie from Technomadia, fellow full-timers, run a popular blog and member based service that has a tremendous amount of resources on the mobile internet topic.
  • Unlimited Cellular Data Rental – Looking for an unlimited data plan with Verizon or AT&T – check here.

Purchase Links (verified resellers Amazon or 3GStore)

Questions?

For questions concerning setting up a solution of your own, feel free to post comments below. We will work to reply to your questions within 24 hours of posting.


Erik

Comments

  1. kory johnson Says: October 9, 2018 at 7:12 am

    what I wanted to know is what do I need so I can stream movies youtub Netflix firestick thoses types of gadgets im about to move in to a 1991 remodel lance truckcamper and I want my comforts from home to come with since im new to all of this hopefully you could help me out. on what I may need to purchase

  2. Does the data used by the pepwave count as regular data or mobile hotspot data? Verizon currently has a 75GB unlimited plan which would meet our needs, but the unlimited mobile hotspot is only for 20GB which would not meet our needs.

    • Hey Justin, the pepewave shows up on Verizon as a hotspot not a phone so you would need a hotspot data plan in the device. That said most folks get an att true unlimited from us as a primary connection and then use a Verizon 20gb hotspot plan as the sim2/backup sim and that gets them both att/Verizon which gives the most coverage options for full timers and works great (but it costs 120/mo for att + 80 or so for the Verizon. That said 200/mo to be truly connected with unlimited works for many folks especially if it’s needed for work. Let us know if you have any other questions!

  3. […] Here is a great post by Erik about their cellular data setup […]

  4. Joseph Finley Says: June 19, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    Found this on YouTube while searching on the subject of full-time RVing. My wife is in technology and works remote full time whereas I’m a Sales Engineer and work from home unless on partner/customer visits within my territory. We are seriously considering this as an option once our last bird leaves the nest so to speak. What made you want to do this? If you covered it already, pardon as I have not watching all the vids yet.

  5. Chris Hamilton Says: March 29, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    Thanks for getting back so quickly and explaining..The POE thing is a dilemma for mobile users. Didn’t think of that..

    Ch

  6. Ed Bickford Says: March 27, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    Erik,

    Having been FT for almost a year now Internet access has been a constant pain. Although I retired from my corporate job I still have my tax practice keeping me busy. Glad to see your update, some good changes. I have the WeBoost and the WIFi Ranger and they are helpful. Nice to know about the PepWave, for around $500 it sounds worth it. I have a T-Mobile phone and my wife an AT&T, both unlimited. I’m able with the International upgrade ($25/mo) to get 50GB of hotspot use, but it’s not always available. Wife’s AT&T is more widely available but limited on the hotspot. I had checked my T Mobile account this morning and I used a little over 49GB for the billing period just ended. Tax time is always a bit heavy on the internet. With the WeBoost I am using an outdoor antenna that they provided that I can move to different windows depending on what works best, still have the “chocolate bar” for inside and get about the same results as you reported.
    FMCA which we are members have a deal with Verizon for an unlimited MIFI (slows down at $25GB) for $49.99/mo with a 2 year contract. Any thoughts on that?

    • Hi Ed, the 49.99 deal via FMCA is basically the standard Verizon unlimited plan available to anyone with a nice discount added for members. This means that you will see “deprioritization” at 22GB i believe but if you are using about 49GB per month this could be an excellent option for you in addition to the ATT lines (drop the T Mobile potentially). We find that an ATT/Verizon combo is excellent blend of coverage and data. Just keep in mind a truly unlimited (no cap) rental plan is around 120-130 so make sure your total adds up to less than that to maximize value. Let us know how you make out and thanks for the feedback and information!

  7. Chris Hamilton Says: March 27, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Hey Erik!
    Great insisght, especially on the Peplink/WifiRanger stuff..

    I’ve watched both of your videos and browsed the latest blog post…I see that you were using a Ubiquiti AP inside your coach and now that has changed. Any reason that you did not stay with that line of products and expand to the phone over IP for your phone?

    I ask because we are looking at going fulltime and we have a full Ubiquiti suite of stuff in our home that I could repurpose for our private coach network which would include a Ubiquiti AP, a networked printer, an NAS (business and Plex) and at least in the house, its all pretty seamless, even connecting from my desktop which is hardwired to the printer which is Wifi connected currently.

    • Hey Chris, ultimately we did away with the ubiquti AP inside the bus because of power usage. It wasnt terrible, but when boondocking every bit counts and since the pepewave already did wifi, we ended up just using the wifi in that unit instead. Those ubiquiti POE injectors suck a lot of power! As for VOIP solutions in general and through Ubiquiti we found that even though the internet connections via verizon and AT&T are good, sometimes the latency is an issue and VOIP phones have issue with call drops and echoing/delays that we don’t seem to have with our verizon home phone. Verizon has released a home phone that runs on their 4G network now so we’ll need to test that soon as well as the call quality is supposedly improved. Our jobs do offer us “softphones” which allow us to use VOIP software and headseats on our computers which we often use as backups or when we have the bandwidth to spare. As for repurposing the ubiquiti stuff inside your coach, yes that would absolutely work but you’ll need to ensure its running on an inverter all the time (instead of 12v which will be much more efficient) and you’ll also need to run your ubiquiti cloud controller either on a desktop, in the cloud or using a cloud key. We LOVE ubiquiti stuff and use it all the time for clients and for our stick/brick locations as it offers much more flexibility and bandwidth management options than just about anything else available for mobile/RV but there are some draw backs to implementing what is essentially a centrally managed/enterprise solution in your RV (the biggest one being if you’ve never used the stuff before it can be a real pain to setup lol). Since you are past all those hurdles and own the stuff already sure! Why Not! Also if you are looking for a roof antenna for wifi capture check out the ubiquiti bullet m2, i think its around 75 bucks and its a darn powerful antenna that can capture wifi from quite far away. Let us know if you have any questions and best of luck!

  8. Mark Hester Says: March 16, 2018 at 7:42 am

    Really great post. Re: the Pepwave, where do the SIMS come from that you insert? Could I just pop the SIM out of my hotspot or do I need to get a different type of SIM to use with the Pepwave? Or if you use the Unlimited Rental plans that you promote, do they just send you a SIM connected to an account?

    • Hi Mark, the sims are managed differently depending on the carrier. For AT&T, yes you can usually just take the sim out of a mifi hotspot (you might need a sim adapter as not all sims are the same size and the pepwave takes full size sims but those are less than 10 bucks on amazon). For Verizon, you will need to call them and tell them you have a new “mifi” and they will ask for the IMEI number of the pepewave and bind your mifi hotspot account to the modem in the Pepewave (you can use your existing mifi plan). Regarding the unlimited rental plans, yes they would either send you a sim or a complete mifi depending on your needs and existing hardware. You can also pickup a sim at Walmart for about 8 dollars (only allowed by ATT) and activate that sim with our unlimited partner as well if you need something really quickly. Let us know if you have any other questions! Amazon link for sim adapter (3-4 bucks) http://amzn.to/2FExXDS

  9. BoxinTheCompass Says: March 6, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Hi Erik
    As always great video of your setup

    One thing wifi in campgrounds is often booked up especially early evening.

    An alternative is to use PlayOn, you can schedule now a download of a recording off netlix at 3 am when there will be more available bandwidth. Then you can watch later at your own time of convenience.

    Satellite internet users use PlayOn as they have unlimited data in the wee hours of the morning on their plans like between midnight and 5 am…. It works good for when in campgrounds with congested wifi.

    Also the recording is made in mp4 format so it streams nicely

    PlayOn requires a PC, I don’t recall if they released a Mac version yet.

    Thanks again for nice article!

    Regards,
    Preston

  10. Keith E Says: March 2, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    Hi Erik, wanted to say thanks for the info. We met with Mark and Julie (RVLove) about 2 years ago and they told me about your site. Went to it and saw your setup. I have the PepWave MAX BR1 and the WeBoost Drive 4G-X. Also have the directional WiFi antenna wired into the PepWave and mounted on the RV TV antenna which I can rotate from inside our Canyon Star. Have an AT&T and Verizon 30GB plan which I can use 50+ GB per month so have to try alternate carriers each month to get the rollover data. Must say all has worked very reliable. I use my cell phone for most WebEx conferences and it works ok for calls but would like to have the WeBoost internal antenna to be useful more than 3 inches from the antenna… Thanks for the info!

    • thats awesome Keith, we’ve learned a lot since we made that post but most of our setup remains unchanged. If you want an unlimited data plan (truly unlimited) its available on our website with 50% off your first month included in the deal for livinlite customers. Both at&t and verizon. I agree it would be awesome if the weboost gave more range inside the coach, that is one of the benefits of our larger unit but we probably only get 6-8 feet of solid boosting but every bit helps. The other option is to add a verizon home phone and place it near the booster then use a cordless phone to get all around the bus with the boosted signal. A bit more complicated but it does really work 100% for us so we love it. Best of luck and let us know if you have any questions!

  11. Excellent tour and info. I have been looking at the WeBoost Drive 4G for RVs but the M/H has a TPO roof and I’m hesitant about drilling holes in it. Also antenna grounding may be an issue.

    For net access we just tether our PC/tablets to our cells and LTE tablets. We do run into data limits if we stream too much. We streamed to the TV via Apple’s Lighning AV adapter and counts as a LTE device so limitless. Works great with YouTube but no longer works wtih Hulu, it worked with Hulu for a while but no longer and no idea why, oh the commercials come across but not the programs!

    We don’t use the campground’s wifi for security reasons. That is probably just my paranoia. Are you secure with the CG wifi?

    Can’t wait for the next video.

    • Hi Steve, sounds like a workable setup and thanks so much for sharing. We use VPN whenever we are using campground wifi to secure our connection. There are a number of VPN websites that allow you to pass all web traffic through a secure vpn (we bounce it off our office located in CT but thats not available for most folks). The cellular option is the easiest for sure! The hulu issue is a know issue with the App and hulu reports they are working to expand HDMI and airplay options but i’m not sure thats working yet. In the meantime you may want to pickup a roku, they are around 30 bucks, can connect to your phone hotspot and will have the hulu app (and netflix and just about every other app you can think of) all available within the small player that will plug directly into your tv. Here is a link to roku

      http://amzn.to/2Fa7DBy

  12. Reginald Vickers Says: February 26, 2018 at 9:40 pm

    Looks like your link https://livinlite.net/unlimited-cellular-data gives me a 404 error.

  13. Cherie Ve Ard Says: February 26, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    Great share.. and thanks for the link to the Mobile Internet Resource Center. We’ve added this post to our growing round-up of full time RVing mobile internet setups for folks to check out (https://www.rvmobileinternet.com/resources/other-full-time-rver-mobile-internet-setups/).

    • Thanks Cherie! It’s a full time job (as you know) keeping up to date with all the changes, especially with cellular data so we’ll send folks your way as we know you are the experts on the topic! Hope all is well and hopefully we’ll see you on the road soon. If you want us to include any other links that are helpful to folks looking to connect on the road just let us know!

  14. Bernice Ramsey Says: February 26, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks for the info. We are parked two rows in front of you at Sherwood Forest. We are in an Aspire also,

    • How cool is that. I was wondering who had that nice gold paint scheme and that full awning that we’ve been eying!! I’m unfortunately flying out to NYC tonight but Kala is around if you guys want to come say hi! Thanks for watching and hope to see you before you leave!!

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