As we ramble the country we do our best to stay connected with family, friends, and the world in general with blog posts, phone conversations, video chats, and just surfing the web.
Recently we’ve heard a lot of chatter in the RV community about cell boosters. It seems that in limited situations they are the best choice for improving connectivity, but at a pretty significant price. Most of us are likely to find a $30 Mimo more than adequate to improve our signal with it’s dual antennas rather than spending $500 for booster that has just one antenna and in fact degrades the cell signal in many instances. This is our understanding, and concurs with Chris & Cherie in an excellent video on their Mobile Internet Resource Center channel titled Mimo vs Boosters. There they detail the pros and cons of both technologies as well as the cost benefit ratio in very understandable terms.
They also discuss the fact that the number of bars on your cell phone is all but meaningless. To better understand how to get a good idea of your internet speed, read their article Understanding Your Internet Speeds. We use the Ookla Speedtest app on our phones to get a much better gauge of the strength of our connection. We’ve found it easy to convert our thinking from “how many bars” to “download and upload speeds in mbps”. Another useful app in determining coverage is the CoverageMap app. Besides giving you a data speed reading at your current location, you can check the map to see the mobile internet strength in your current neighborhood or at the campground you are thinking about staying at.
Personally our connectivity needs are intermediate. We’re bloggers so we want frequent robust internet for keeping our readers abreast of our adventures and we need to be able to connect our laptops to the internet easily from wherever we are. Also we want to video chat with family as well as stream video news and entertainment.
Some of you may have simpler needs than ours, perhaps just a cell phone for calls and internet access is plenty. And there are folks that need a bullet proof solid reliable connection for business and for uploads of video blogs. We’ll address the intermediate range, where we operate and offer resources for more advanced systems.
Currently we have two of the iPhone 12 Mini and a Verizon MiFi 7730L (newer models are available) coupled with the Netgear 6000450 MIMO Antenna. The Mimo needs to pointed at the closest cell tower so we have the iPhone app, Find Tower, to aid us in determining in which direction to point the Mimo. We have the Verizon Get More Unlimited Plan. Although it allows for throttling after reaching 30GB of data on our phones, we’ve not yet experienced that. The Get More is a definite improvement over our older Verizon Unlimited Plan especially since our new phones are 5G capable.
With that we have to think about how we use our devices. Our laptops and Wifi-iPad rely on the phones or Jetpack for a hotspot internet connection and we have a limit of 75GB/month among those three devices so we have some little rules:
- Use only the phones for any video chats or streaming. We use Apple’s Lightning Digital AV Adapter and an HDMI cable to connect one of the phones to view streamed video on our [email protected]’s Jensen TV.
- Use the Jetpack hotspot only for laptop connectivity, and sparingly.
- Save any major uploads or downloads until we have a reliable and secure WiFi connection.
A word about WiFi. Yes, some campgrounds offer free WiFi but rarely have we found any that offer a robust, truly high speed connection. Basically to provide excellent internet to the large number of potential users is a costly and highly technical proposition. Thus the reality is that at best, most campground WiFi is adequate only for for checking email and basic web searches. And it goes without saying that any public WiFi is a potential security risk. We usually save the aforementioned major uploads and downloads until we are visiting family or friends and can utilize their private secure WiFi connections.
Thus cellular mobile broadband is our go-to both for speed and security. The Verizon network has for the most part has served us well, it has broad coverage throughout the country. Because we do sometimes find ourselves in spots when others have signal but we don’t, we are considering adding another carrier for backup coverage since our new phones have dual sim card capability but in all we are pleased with the balance we have struck between data connectivity, simplicity of use, and cost.