Wireless Internet Options for Boondockers

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There are loads of options for getting the Internet while in your RV, from having your own satellite dish to “borrowing” an open WiFi connection. Some are free and some are quite expensive. Similarly, some are easy and reliable, while other methods rely on luck and hope. Here I’m going to look at two options well suited to a fulltimer’s passion for never being tied down, while also providing the maximum amount of connectivity for those of us who need the Internet to do the jobs that keep gas in the tank: satellite and wireless service from a cell phone company. In particular, I’ll be looking at Dish Network’s satellite Internet service and comparing it with AT&T’s 3G Wireless Internet package.

Service Dish Network Satellite Internet AT&T LaptopConnect
Monthly Charge $69.95 $59.99 / computer
Able to Create a Home Network Yes No
Coverage Anywhere in the US with a clear view of the southern sky. AT&T’s 3G & EDGE networks + 17,000+ hot spots nationwide. Hot spot locator. Map of AT&T’s data coverage.
Speeds Downloads: 1Mbps / Uploads: 200kbps 3G Downloads: 600 Kbps–1.4 Mbps / Uploads: 500–800 Kbps. Edge: 70-135Kbps
Mac Compatible Yes Yes
Advantages
  • Ability to create a home network means you can establish a WiFi hotspot and supply access to all computers and smart phones
  • Home network also allows you to connect to wireless external drives and printers
  • No need to waste time with setup, just plug and play
  • Trees and buildings have minimal affect on service
  • Small “air card” fits in your pocket
Disadvantages
  • Must have a view of the southern sky to get a signal.
  • Takes 15 minutes or more to “point” your satellite device
  • Trees and buildings can eliminate service
  • Equipment is very bulky
  • Must be in the AT&T coverage area.
  • Inability to create a home network means each user/computer must have their own card and plan
  • Inability to create home network also means no ability to wirelessly connect to external drives and printers

What does this all mean? Unfortunately, both systems have serious drawbacks. The convenience of using an air card is a huge benefit, however not being able to set up a network is such a drawback as to almost eliminate AT&T as an option.