The state of communications for rural and on or off the road RV’ers is changing quickly. This is a tale of two homes—our home residence and our home-on-the-road truck camper.
We live in a rural area on the very edge of any cell phone service on the west slope of the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. With AT&T having the best, but still awful signal at our location, we switched from Verizon, which had no signal, to AT&T when we moved here. We now have one signal bar of service and an iffy, occasionally throttled signal that comes from a line-of-sight cell tower some 18 miles away on Interstate-80.
As the only alternative in our area we tried a couple satellite internet providers like Wild Blue and later HughesNet which, because of the terrible latency, a very low data allowance, and excruciatingly slow service, we were unable to play a Youtube video or something from iTunes without constant interruptions, and even unable to transfer a photo from my cell phone to my computer, so we lived with it. It was a seething tower of frustration. In fact, it was about the only thing we disliked about living on the beautiful west slope.
To strengthen our cellphone signal at home we purchased and installed a Wilson home cell phone signal booster for $549.98. Adjusting the booster antenna on the 8-foot pole to find the best reception, we finally had very good reception and speed through our phone’s hotspot. We were lucky to have line-of-sight reception.
I immediately cancelled HughesNet. It’s nice to be on the canceling end of cancel culture for a change.
Things were looking up with an additional minimum of two bars and lightening, fast download speed plus much better audio using the phone when on a hotspot.
I was ready to purchase Wilson’s Drive Reach RV and hardwired DC-DC adapter when the news suddenly went into overdrive on March 28th when AT&T quietly announced their “Great Deal Plan.” This plan costs $55 per month for 100GB’s of data for your computer or tablet, or $75 per month for unlimited GB’s of data. We opted for the unlimited. We also got unlimited data GB’s for each of our cell phones.
This is really big news for truck camper and RV folks who spend a lot of time on the road or remote camping and want to work, play, and have advantages of data transfer and the internet.
The catch is you must purchase NetGear’s Nighthawk M1 Gigabit LTE Mobile hotspot router as the receiver indoors. It’s $280.63 through Amazon outright or pay in installments, and $8.34 per month through AT&T. This 4×1-inch square block acts like a phone that you can never use as a phone. Here’s the trick: it’s a mobile device that runs on a rechargeable battery or with the 110 volt AC charger and works anywhere with enough signal, no matter where you are. This is invaluable for us remote livers with a whiff of cell phone signal as it works both at home and on the road on your devices. Remember, with the Nighthawk router your cell phone is now out of the loop. The signal goes from the tower to mobile hotspot router to your device. So you actually have redundancy, if needed.
Mello Mike and several others on Truck Camper Adventure were touting the efficacy of using a Wilson WeBoost omni-directional antenna system for vehicles and the hotspot on your phone to use data while in a remote location. Previously we had used my phone’s hotspot when Hughes was down or we suffered another power outage, or we were on the road in the truck camper. But with all the AT&T signal woes, it was not a long-term solution for either home or on the road without buying a lot of expensive and duplicitous equipment and paying for AT&T cell data used via the hotspot.
Let’s compare HughesNet’s speed to AT&T’s through the Nighthawk. Hughes through their satellite dish, cable, modem, and router:
- ping: 856ms aka: latency
- down: 0.45 mbps
- up: 0.63 mbps
AT&T with home cell booster and Nighthawk router:
- ping: 21ms
- down: 23.01 mbps
- up: 3.58 mbps
To add a stopgap, a better signal pickup in the truck camper, I ordered a NetGear 6000450 Mimo Antenna with two TS-9 connectors for the mobile router and suction cups to the truck camper window. For best results we’ll test the signal when we get to camp to find the strongest signal and face the truck camper window toward that signal.
After our upcoming boondocking trip, I’ll give an update to see if we get the Wilson WeBoost Drive-X or the Wilson Drive Reach RV multi directional antenna for maximum signal.
Well, I read this article yesterday and I am in an At&t store at the moment and the $75 unlimited plan is no longer available. Very bummed as 100g when streaming even in 480p mode will go fast. But thanks for the info.
Jefe here. I’m glad so few people on here took advantage of AT&T’s “Great Deal Plan”. We enrolled and used it very successfully all around the West for a month. It was lightening fast and reliable while it lasted. After 30 days, AT&T pulled the plug. I was bummed to say the least. We had already dropped Hughesnet so there was no going back. We’re back to terrible internet even with the Netgear router with many interruptions when playing music or a vid on You Tube. The ATT store said we were using an illegal plan. What? They talked us into a so-called business plan @ $80 per month. They said it would be more stable. It is NOT more stable. The advertised 5G is not available in our area so we have a some time 3G to deal with. We are very disappointed and throughly displeased with AT&T.
My son Matt is an IT guy and said so many rural and RV people got on board with the “Great Deal” that the system and our local tower were oversold within a few weeks.
This whole episode is a pile of equestrian feces.
You can quote me on that.
My point was to use the AT&T Plan for both cell phones and computers/tablet at home and computer and cell in remote areas where there was previously limited access to broadband or enough signal for data transfer.
We’re just back from our 2200 mile trip through ID, MT, and northern Nevada. I tried using the Netgear mobile hotspot router while moving. It did not work out so well as the antenna pickup suction cupped to the back seat side window changed in relation to the cell towers as we moved.
Where it did shine was when we had very little signal in camp; on and off one bar, and the Netgear router and antenna improved the pickup by a bar or two, enough to play a Youtube vid.
The Wilson Drive X RV is now on my radar.
I read in the Wall Street Journal that AT&T is awash in unused TB’s of data. This may be one reason for their offer. Another may be Musk’s encroaching train of four to six low orbit satellites breathing down all cell phone companies necks which could make them obsolete.
To be clear, all your personal devices can use this router/antenna.
The only downside is when we had absolutely no signal. Then, all bets were off.
I’m happy with the result using my MacBook Pro laptop and our cell phones.
We participated in our church service from 900 miles away via Zoom on my laptop.
We, like a lot of other RV-ers like to do a little work while in the backcountry. This just makes it easier. I engrave music notation out in the wild. We listen to live broadcasts of music.
For a lot of on-the-road RV-ers that have AT&T already; poor satellite internet on their home computers, and weak cell coverage at their home, this is a twofer.
I have been using AT&T unlimited card in a Mofi router for years. It’s just that they are trying to get rid of the grandfathered cards like mine. No to compete with others they are offering what they call the great deal but it is twice what I am paying.
Personally, I feel you are missing the whole point of truck-camping. For us, it’s getting away from the rest of the world, even if it’s just for a few nights out in the woods. It’s decompressing from constantly being bombarded with media and wondering if what I’m being told is the truth or another fantastic tale to get me hooked into their story. I recommend quit chasing after the idea you need to stay ‘connected’ and just disconnect when you are at your destination. This week we were in the Sierras near Sierra City. We watched a pair of geese guide their three goslings across a pond. I caught a fish in that pond and we celebrated our 46th anniversary. And you know what? We didn’t miss out on a single thing that couldn’t wait until we got back into cell phone range.
I understand what I are saying but… To each there own. What works for u may not work for others.