A Guide to Satellite Internet for RVs
Getting away from the hectic pace of everyday life, embracing open roads, and enjoying awe-inspiring starry nights draw many people to traveling in an RV. But heading out to those remote destinations also means limited access to the internet, even the mobile kind. This isn’t always ideal, especially if you need to work or stay in touch with friends and family while on the road. Life in an RV needs internet capabilities that stretch beyond fixed lines and satellite is the answer.
In this guide, we delve into what it takes to get an internet connection on the road. Our guide takes you through the hardware you need and which providers offer satellite internet for RV use.
When you run a cable or fiber line to your house for internet service, the connection runs via network towers to your modem, which then connects to your router. You will then connect to the router through a wired connection, or set up a Wi-Fi network for a cable-free connection.
A satellite connection requires you to have a satellite receiver, which is a small dish that receives the internet signal from a satellite in space. The receiver then connects to a modem and router, and the rest is pretty much the same as a cable or fiber connection.
To set up your satellite connection, it’s essential to know that not all satellite plans cover RVs and offer a fixed destination plan only. Therefore, letting your internet service provider (ISP) know that you’re planning on traveling to off-grid destinations can save you a lot of frustration.
While some satellite providers can relay signals directly to a modem, some setups require a bit more hardware, such as:
- The dish antenna: This is attached to the RV’s exterior and varies in size, depending on the service provider and connection required.
- The mount: The dish mount varies in style and flexibility. Higher-end mounts allow you to move the direction of the dish for the best possible signal with a digital control inside your RV. That means no climbing on the roof to adjust. For smaller dishes, there is the option to use a tripod instead, but this could mean moving the dish manually.
- Satellite compatible modem: Not all modems can support a satellite conversion which means opting for a modem recommended by the service provider might go a long way.
- Router: A router allows you to connect to the modem and use the satellite internet connection.
- Controller: This component is essential for automated units as it allows you to control the dish.
It’s also worth knowing that the setup can be entirely manual, where you would need to adjust the dish antenna until you find your connection sweet spot. An automated unit allows you to do all of that from the inside of the RV, which is handy when you’re already settled in for the night.
Benefits and drawbacks of satellite internet for RVs
While there are clear benefits to satellite internet for when you’re on the road in your RV, it’s worth knowing the drawbacks to make the most informed decision.
Why satellite internet might work for you
Satellite internet is an excellent choice for rural or remote locations that don’t have other internet options. When you’re in the open country with nothing but the night sky for entertainment, satellite internet offers several benefits:
- You can access satellite internet almost anywhere in the world, depending on the availability of satellite coverage. Innovations such as Starlink makes satellite internet a little more accessible.
- There are internet packages for those who already use a fixed satellite configuration at home, which allows you to take advantage of special offers.
- Once installed, it’s simple enough to use, and the entire process can be digital.
- Modern satellite packages don’t require a dish antenna and simply use a router and modem setup.
- Satellite internet offers more coverage than other mobile internet options.
- You can move around and connect to different satellites along your journey. You don’t have to remain in a fixed location.
Some providers offer combo deals for home satellite users to make the most of their RV journeys.
Reasons why you may want to consider satellite internet alternatives
While there are many reasons to opt for satellite internet for your RV, sometimes the offering falls short, and other connection types might be more suitable. Some drawbacks of satellite include:
- Potential service disruptions: Satellite connections can be fickle, and anything from adverse weather conditions to proximity to tall structures such as mountains can interfere with a connection. You would also have to get the angle of the antenna just right for a stable signal.
- High costs: Satellite is one of the more expensive internet options. The setup costs can be high considering all the gear, and monthly rates are higher than other types of internet.
- Slower speeds: Satellite is known as the slowest internet connection type and if you want a faster connection, be prepared to pay premium prices.
Users who opt for satellite to work remotely might be disappointed to know that work can’t continue while in transit. The RV must be parked and locked into a destination to connect to the satellite signal. For technology that can support a satellite connection while on the move, regular RV users will have to consider spending thousands of dollars.
Service providers for satellite internet
When choosing your satellite internet service provider, there are several things to consider, such as their area of service, the number of satellites available, and whether they offer flexible or combo plans for when you need multiple coverage types. You may have to layer services to ensure all your connectivity needs are met, such as combining mobile and satellite internet.
HughesNet is one of the largest suppliers of satellite internet and services customers from coast to coast in the US, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. Their data caps range from 15GB for $64.99/month to 75GB for $159.99/month for basic plans. Mobile plans can also be added to satellite service for an additional fee. Their download speed is around 25Mbps, and a 24-month contract is required.
Viasat offers connectivity across much of the US and provides a price lockdown for two years. Their plans range from $39.99/month for 12Mbps to $149.99 for a 100Mbps connection. While the plans are unlimited, soft data caps may set in when a certain data threshold has been reached.
With Starlink, RV users aren’t locked into long-term contracts and can pause and unpause their services in monthly increments. The standard plan is suitable for stationary vehicles, and the company offers plans that let you take their satellite internet service on their road.
The setup costs for Starlink are on the pricey side, with hardware costs coming in at around $599, excluding shipping and taxes. Access to the service will cost about $135/month, including an extra portability fee. Starlink speeds range between 50 and 250Mbps.
Special considerations for satellite internet for RVs
While satellite connection speeds have improved and costs have come down, there are still some factors to consider when thinking of satellite as your internet go-to on the open road.
Satellite internet dishes and TV dishes are not the same
A satellite dish also referred to as a dish antenna, is the receiver that allows you to receive the connection from a satellite in orbit. While satellite TV works the same way, a TV dish and internet dish can’t be used interchangeably as the dish needs to be configured to the frequency for either TV or internet. If you’re relying on satellite for both services, you’ll need two dishes or receivers.
High latency internet connections
The communication between satellites and receivers can take up to half a second, known as high latency connections. This means that there is a delay in the transmission. For gamers, this can be troublesome as low latency is necessary for better gameplay. Live streaming and video conferencing might also experience a delayed feed with satellite internet.
Large dishes and clunky hardware are a thing of the past. Many ISPs are moving towards a more streamlined internet connection where the dish is replaced with a simple receiver. However, that is still only available to home installations or fixed destinations. For RVs, dishes are still required for the best connection. Dishes are smaller in size nowadays and can provide decent connectivity.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Is satellite internet expensive?
The cost of satellite internet may be considered expensive compared with fixed-line connections such as cable, DSL, and fiber. For instance, a 100Mbps satellite connection can cost up to $150/month, and for DSL, the cost is often under $40/month. Hardware costs range from under $200 for a manual, tripod-mounted satellite dish to thousands of dollars for automated options.
Should I get satellite or mobile internet for my RV?
Several factors can affect the decision to go with mobile vs satellite internet. For starters, setup costs for satellite internet might seem excessive if road trips only happen once every couple of years. However, if you’re a regular in rural landscapes and far-off places, it may seem like a worthwhile investment.
The length of the trip will also play a role, and also what the internet will be used for. Satellite may work for those who need the internet for more than just emails and basic browsing. Also, mobile plans may have data caps or out of bundle surcharges that could end up more pricey than a satellite internet plan.
Is satellite internet slow?
Thanks to advancing technology, it’s not uncommon for satellite internet connections to run speeds between 12 and 100Mbps. The connection speed will depend on factors such as distance from the nearest satellite, dish configuration and angle, and access to clear skies.
*Pricing varies by location and availability. Speeds may vary. All prices subject to change; for current pricing and availability visit our internet service page. Prices as of 6/1/22.