If you’re a full-time RVer, or a boondocking RV adventurer, you undoubtedly know the frustration of being without internet access. If you’re frequently out of wi-fi range, or in places your cellphone can’t provide “hotspot” access, it’s time to consider RV satellite internet service.
Read on for information on what we consider some of the best RV satellite internet service options. We’ll also address some frequently asked questions, and look at some possible alternatives to satellite service.
RV Satellite Internet Options: An Overview
Not long ago, satellite internet delivery service was too slow and expensive for serious consideration even by RVers spending lots of time in remote areas. However, in the past few years, technology has improved and costs have decreased, making satellite internet a viable option for RV enthusiasts.
Satellite internet service for RVs is no different than the home satellite internet services used by households beyond the reach of ground-based wireless internet.
A small receiver, either a portable tripod-mounted model or one permanently attached to the RV, is oriented to capture the satellite signal. The dish transmits the signal to a modem inside the RV, and the modem sends signals to laptops, phones or whatever other devices are nearby.
Costs for leasing or buying RV satellite internet equipment can vary widely, as can the monthly costs for the service. And there are some drawbacks to RV satellite internet service. It won’t be as fast as other service options, and it may not work under thick tree cover, in canyons or similarly concealed spaces.
Read on for a look at three of the top RV satellite internet service providers in this now-expanding market.
One of the emerging players in the RV satellite internet market is Starlink, with its Starlink Roam service introduced in 2022. According to recent data, connection to Starlink Roam encompasses a one-time $599 outlay for the required equipment. The service itself was being billed recently at $150 per month. RVers can pause and reinstate their service as needed to save money.
There are no service contracts associated with Starlink Roam. While that allows the company to adjust its prices and service terms at any time, it also allows customers to cancel at any time, for any reason..
Starlink Roam most recently has been available primarily in the western half of the United States. However, the company is working to expand its service across the entire country.
Starlink Roam also has recently been rolling out its Flat High Performance hardware. With this equipment installed on your RV, you can access the internet while the vehicle is in motion. Flat High Performance is, however, available only in some Starlink markets.
Once you sign up with Starlink Roam, you’ll receive an installation kit including your satellite receiver, modem and associated cables. According to the company, set-up takes only a matter of minutes and you’re ready to roll. You will, though, have to adjust your receiver once you arrive at your destination.
ViaSat is one of two satellite internet service providers for the RV market that have been around for a number of years. Viasat bases its service prices on the internet connection speed chosen by users, with tiers at 25 Mbps, 50 Mbps, 75 Mbps and 100 Mbps.
Mbps is short for “megabits per second,” and 25 Mbps generally is considered a good, if not great, connection speed. Each of the ViaSat pricing tiers, however, has a cap on data streaming. If the cap is exceeded, streaming speeds are “throttled” — slowed down to make usage more cumbersome.
Prices for Viasat service range from $50 to $200 per month, according to recently published information. In addition to the monthly charge, Viasat users bear the expense of installing satellite receiving equipment. That equipment can cost from $300 to as much as $3,000.
HughesNet, the other veteran RV satellite internet provider, bases its monthly service charge on the amount of data that users expect to access each month. The data tiers for HughesNet service cover plans for 15 GB (gigabyte), 30 GB, 50 GB and 100 GB monthly.
For reference, a single gigabyte covers just a half-hour of video streaming, but can accommodate 18 hours of music streaming. In 2020, the average person used about 4.5 GB of data monthly, according to published data. But that figure almost certainly has risen in intervening years.
According to recently published information, HughesNet service prices ranged from $65 to $175 monthly, at 25 Mbps of connection speed. But, just as with Viasat, the connection speed is throttled back as applicable data caps are reached.
Also, just as with Viasat, HughesNet customers will have to pay for satellite internet receiving equipment.
Alternatives to RV Satellite Internet
If you’re new to the issue of digital connectivity on the road, you may be wondering if there are alternatives to RV satellite internet. The good news is that there are other ways to get on the internet from your RV. Read on for a quick look at mobile RV hotspots and cell phone boosters.
Mobile RV Hotspots
While you’ll be limited to the coverage area of the digital service provider you choose, a mobile RV hotspot is a reasonable alternative to RV satellite internet service. Among the providers offering hotspot service are Verizon, Sprint and Skyroam, which uses a variety of cell service providers for its hotspot service.
Hotspots allow for the connection of multiple digital devices to the internet, and can offer battery life of as long as 24 hours. Prices for hotspot equipment are in the $200 range, with monthly service charges of roughly half that amount. There are also pay-as-you-go service charge options available.
Cell Phone Boosters
Cell phone boosters don’t create their own digital signal. Instead, they rely on the nearest cell phone tower they can locate, and boost that signal. Cell phone boosters comprise an outside antenna that captures the tower signal, an amplifier and an inside antenna that sends the signal throughout the RV.
Prices for cell phone boosters, some of which will work only with some cell service providers, can range from $100 to $500 or more.
RV Satellite Internet Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you’ve been introduced to RV satellite internet service, you likely have more detailed questions on staying digitally connected in the wilderness. Read on for some additional guidance on getting your RV satellite internet service up and running.
Are there ways to save money on RV satellite internet services?
While there are published rates available from companies providing RV satellite internet service, it pays to shop around for special deals. For example, both HughesNet and ViaSat routinely offer discounted prices for their services.
Also, you should watch for new companies entering the RV satellite internet market, to scope out whatever deals they may offer to entice customers.
Finally, if you’re in the market for a new RV, you should know that some manufacturers offer models with satellite internet reception equipment already installed. Incorporated into the overall cost of a new RV, satellite equipment could turn out to be a real bargain.
What factors should be weighed before investing in RV satellite internet service?
The first thing about which to be honest when considering the purchase of RV satellite internet access is the amount of data you’ll use. If you’ll only occasionally check email or tune into news or entertainment programming, you can probably get by with a low-tier data plan.
If, however, you’re working from the road, or traveling with young people staying in touch with friends, you’ll certainly need a top-tier data plan.
Don’t let an unrealistic view of your data usage put you in a position where your RV satellite internet connection is slowed to a crawl.
What are the limitations of RV satellite internet service?
Even with an RV satellite internet service provider and the required equipment, there’s no absolute guarantee that you’ll have service wherever you may roam. Even if your provider’s coverage map shows that service is available in a particular location, other factors come into play.
For instance, if you’re under a thick tree canopy, or in a narrow valley or canyon, you won’t be able to receive a satellite signal.
Satellites used for RV internet service are in “geosynchronous” orbit, always in the same spot relative to the planet’s rotation. If there are obstructions between your satellite receiving equipment and its associated satellite, you won’t get a signal.
Can a home satellite internet service plan be used with an RV?
As a general rule, you won’t be able to use any home-based satellite internet service to which you may subscribe with your RV. Still, it’s worth checking with your provider to find out if you can add RV service — at an additional charge, of course — to your plan.
But remember, unless your RV is already equipped with satellite equipment, you’ll still have to buy that equipment even with your residential satellite plan.
Wrapping Up the Best RV Satellite Internet Options
Now that you’ve learned something about RV satellite internet service options, you’re ready to make your own choice. As a reminder, major considerations include where you do your RVing, how service costs are structured, and how much you can afford to spend.
Finally, be sure to check out Beyond The Tent for lots more on equipping and using your RV. From help with choosing a generator to guidance on properly leveling your RV, Beyond The Tent is an indispensable resource for enhancing your RV experience.
- About the Author
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Jim Thompson grew up tent camping with his family, and was introduced to backpacking with the Boy Scouts. He attended a military college, where he was introduced to rappelling, an outdoor activity which he has not pursued.
Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Georgia, and spent 35 years as a newspaper writer and editor before become a writer for Apple Pie Media.
Jim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org