Mobile Internet Setup

While we travel the country in our RV, our livelihood depends on having good internet service. Here’s is the details of how it is all connected together, and a few tups for how to add the technology in our mobile internet setup to your own motorhome.

Cell Connection

iPhone and T-MobileWe have two ways to connect with the internet in our RV. First, we both have iPhone 7’s through T-Mobile. We pay for unlimited internet, so it comes out to $100 a month. The connection is decent most of the time. The only major problem with using T-Mobile for anything other than on the phone is the fact that it severely limits tethering. That means that while we use our phones directly, we get a decent speed. When we use it as a hotspot, whether through wifi, bluetooth, or a direct USB connection, the speed is slowed down dramatically. It works fine for browsing and email, but trying to download anything or stream a video is almost impossible.

ZTE Mobley and AT&TFor that reason, we have the hotspot. We were able to get a ZTE Mobley while AT&T was still having its $20 a month unlimited plan. With taxes and everything included, it comes to about $23 a month. While it is called “unlimited”, that’s a bit of a stretch. They will never cut us off completely or charge us more, but they do state that they can slow the connection down in high traffic areas or times. “Network Management” is the proper term. That being said, we have never seen a slowdown and we have gone well over the 22GB allowed every month. In one month alone, we broke 300GB and never saw a slowdown.

To make that connection better, we have installed a SureCall Fusion2Go 2.0 RV Cell Phone Signal Booster. This boosts the signal from almost nonexistent to useable. For a dBm strength, our highest at one point was -92 dBm, whereas without it, we had only -111 dBm. Also, see our review of the Fusion2Go.

Wifi Network

TP-Link AC1200That’s all well and good for getting us partway to the internet, but it still leaves our devices in the RV with no connection. For that reason, we have an internal Wifi network. We bought a TP-Link AC1200 Dual Band WiFi Range Extender, which allows us to connect through the Mobley or iPhones, depending on which gets better signal at the time. The TP-Link extender grabs nearby wifi signals, usually from the Mobley, and makes its own new network that we connect to. With this setup, if we need to hook up with a different wifi network that is in range, we can also do that. This way, if we are close to free wifi, we can connect the TP-Link to the free wifi, and all of our devices still connect to the internal network. See our review of the TP-Link AC1200.

Wired Network

We don’t have a wired network yet, but will be adding one soon. To do this, we need an ethernet switch. There is an outgoing ethernet port on the TP-Link, so we can just plug in the switch to that and connect whatever else we need to plug in with a physical, dedicated connection.

At the moment, we don’t have anything hard wired. As the Smart Home on Wheels project proceeds though, we will be adding a dedicated media hub and that will have to be hard wired in. We may be adding Apple TVs and getting rid of the Roku, and will hard wire those. Other things like solar control monitors, external cameras, and any smart device may be connected as well.

Devices on Our Network

Right now, we have two computers that we use almost all the time, one MacBook Pro 15″ and one MacBook Air 13″. We also have one Fire HD 8 Tablet, and two iPhone 7‘s. Then we have are current media hub, a small Lenovo Ideacentre Stick 300, which has a 4TB hard drive connected to it. To watch videos from the stick PC, we have two Roku Streaming Sticks, one for each TV. Finally, we have a Raspberry Pi 3 that I installed RetroPie on and have a ton of older games saved on. All of these devices currently connect to the wifi network, as none of them have dedicated ethernet ports. In the future, I would like to build or purchase a small form factor computer that runs Ubuntu to make it our media hub, and it will be connected over ethernet.

Looking Ahead

For information as we upgrade the systems, follow along with our Smart Home on Wheels series. Things are changing a little every day as we get more devices, better connection methods, and figure out that some ways just don’t work.