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Portable Satellite Internet for RV Campers: What You Need to Know

Are you looking for a reliable and fast portable satellite internet connection for your RV? Learn more about Starlink, HughesNet and Viasat, and find out what else you need to know about satellite internet in your RV.

Camping is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But it can also mean disconnecting from the world and all its conveniences.

For some, this may be an ideal situation. However, for those who need internet access for work or recreation, it can create problems.

Fortunately, there’s now a solution: portable satellite internet.

This on-the-go WiFi solution makes it easy to stay connected no matter where you’re camping.

With satellite internet, you can have a good internet connection even when camping in the middle of nowhere!

In this article, we’ll talk about:

  • why satellite internet is great for RVs, 
  • give you some advice on picking the best option for you, and 
  • check out some other ways to get internet while camping.
Guide to Portable Satellite Internet For RV Campers

Understanding Portable Satellite Internet for RVs

Imagine being in a remote camp, far from cell towers and WiFi hotspots, yet still able to access the online world.

We spent four years touring the southern half of South America. To have internet access like that was a pipe dream!

Yet only a year or two later, it’s become a reality with satellite internet for RVs.

With satellites going around the Earth, you can have a strong internet connection almost anywhere. 

That’s super helpful for people who like to explore places that are not very popular or crowded.

How Portable Satellite Internet Works

Satellite internet is like a high-tech game of catch between your devices, a satellite dish, and satellites orbiting the Earth.

Let’s break it down in simple terms:

  1. When you want to access the internet on your device, it sends a request (like wanting to load a webpage) to a satellite dish installed on or near your RV.
  2. The satellite dish catches this request and throws it up to a satellite orbiting high above the Earth.
  3. The satellite catches the request, communicates with a ground station (a facility connected to the internet), and gets the information you need (like loading the webpage).
  4. The satellite then throws the information back down to your satellite dish, which catches it and sends it to your device.

Thanks to this game of catch between your device, the satellite dish, and the satellite in space, you’re now browsing the internet.

Traditional internet connections work in a similar way, except they pass the information through cables or fiber-optic connections instead of via satellite.

a diagram showign how satellite internet for RV campers works

Types of Satellite Internet: Geosynchronous vs. Low Earth Orbit

Not all internet satellites are created equal. There are two main types:

  • Geosynchronous, and
  • Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

To make the right choice for your RV lifestyle, it’s essential to understand how these systems work and how they affect their performance.

Geosynchronous Satellites

Picture a tall, invisible tower reaching 22,236 miles (35,786 km) above the Earth.

At the top of this tower, a satellite stays in the same spot as the Earth rotates. That’s a geosynchronous satellite!

Since this satellite seemingly remains in one place, your RV’s satellite dish can easily point at it and maintain a constant connection.

It’s like having a friend who always stands in the same spot, making it easy to find them whenever you need to chat.

Pros of Geosynchronous Satellites for RVers

  • Stable connection: Geosynchronous satellites remain in a fixed position relative to the Earth, making it easier for your RV’s satellite dish to maintain a constant connection. This means fewer interruptions while browsing or streaming content.
  • Wider coverage area: A single geosynchronous satellite can cover much of the Earth, providing internet access even in remote locations. This is ideal for RVers who love exploring off the beaten path without sacrificing connectivity.

Cons of Geosynchronous Satellites for RVers

  • Higher latency: The long distance between geosynchronous satellites and the Earth can result in higher latency (data transmission delays). This might be an issue when gaming online or video calling.
  • Signal obstruction: A clear line of sight is needed for geosynchronous satellites to maintain a strong signal. Obstructions like tall trees, buildings, or even mountains could interfere with the connection, limiting where you can park your RV and still have reliable internet access.

Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellites

Imagine a group of friends running around a track much closer to the ground, about 1,200 miles (2,000 km) above the Earth.

These friends are the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites.

Because they’re closer to the Earth and constantly moving your RV’s satellite dish must keep track of and switch between them to maintain a connection.

It’s like trying to speak with friends who are always on the move – you need to keep an eye on them to stay connected.

Pros of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellites for RVers

  • Lower latency: Since LEO satellites are closer to the Earth, data transmission is faster, resulting in lower latency. This benefits RVers needing quicker response time for gaming or video calling activities.
  • Less signal obstruction: LEO satellite systems are less likely to be affected by obstructions like trees or buildings, as multiple satellites work together to maintain a connection. This provides RVers with more flexibility when choosing their parking spots.

Cons of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellites for RVers

  • Limited availability: LEO satellite internet services are limited to a single provider – Starlink. This means that, for the time being, there might be fewer options for providers and plans. But watch this space; Amazon’s Project Kuiper is about to join the race.

Pros & Cons of RV Satellite Internet

Understanding the pros and cons of satellite internet for your RV camper is essential, as they can significantly impact your overall experience.

Depending on whether you opt for a geosynchronous or Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite service, some advantages and disadvantages may be more or less relevant.

In the following section, we’ll delve into the pros and cons of RV satellite internet, considering how these factors relate to the type of satellite service you choose.

Pros of RV Satellite Internet

  • Widespread coverage: Satellite internet provides coverage in remote areas where traditional internet options like DSL, cable, or fiber may be unavailable. This allows RVers to connect to the internet even when exploring off-grid locations.
  • High-speed access: Starlink internet offers speeds of between 50-200 Mbps, and that’s mighty fast by any standards.
  • Independence from cellular networks: Satellite internet doesn’t rely on a cellular network, which can be a significant advantage for RVers who often travel to areas with weak or no cellular signal.
  • Consistent connection: With an RV satellite internet setup, you can maintain a stable connection while traveling, ensuring you stay connected for work, communication, or entertainment purposes.
  • Multiple users and devices: Satellite internet systems can typically support multiple devices and users simultaneously, making it ideal for RVers traveling with family or friends.

Cons of RV Satellite Internet

  • Higher costs: RV satellite internet equipment and monthly plans can be more expensive than other internet options. The initial setup cost and ongoing fees might deter budget-conscious RVers.
  • Slower speeds and latency: Unless you’re using an LEO satellite internet service like Starlink, you can expect generally slower speeds than those offered by wired connections like cable or fiber. Additionally, latency can be higher, affecting activities like video calling or online gaming.
  • Weather sensitivity: Satellite internet connections can be affected by severe weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, which could lead to temporary disruptions in service.
  • Setup and alignment: Installing and setting up an RV satellite internet system can be complex, and the dish needs to be correctly positioned to establish a connection. For some RVers, this might be a challenge, especially when frequently changing locations.
  • Signal obstruction: A clear line of sight is needed to maintain a strong satellite signal. Obstructions can interfere with the connection, limiting parking options for RVers.

Top Portable Satellite Internet Options for RVs

Among the various portable satellite internet options available for RVs, Starlink RV, HughesNet, and Viasat stand out as the most popular.

Starlink RV, backed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, offers high-speed internet access even in remote locations, with up to 200 Mbps speeds.

Its RV-specific plans – Starlink Roam – also provide the flexibility to include in-motion hardware. It’s pricey but attractive if you need a reliable connection while on the move, with no data cap.

On the other hand, HughesNet and Viasat have been around for a while and offer a range of plans and speeds to meet various needs.

However, their services require additional equipment from resellers and use geosynchronous satellites.

While their offerings may differ from Starlink, they’re still viable alternatives for those seeking portable satellite internet for their RV adventures.

Starlink Roam

Starlink Roam is revolutionizing the satellite internet landscape with its high-speed, low-latency internet service.

Offering speeds of up to 200 Mbps, even in remote areas, Starlink Roam is an attractive choice for RV users who need fast and reliable internet access on the go.

However, the service does come at a price. The standard Starlink Roam setup has a one-time hardware cost of $599 and a monthly fee of $135 for an uncapped portable satellite internet service.

If you want in-motion access – that one-time hardware cost is a staggering $2500 and $250 per month!

Despite the initial investment, Starlink’s commitment to high-speed internet access and RV-specific plans make it a top choice for RV users seeking the best portable satellite internet.

A close-up view of a Starlink satellite dish and its compact design, ideal for portable use.

HughesNet & Viasat

HughesNet and Viasat, two well-established satellite internet providers, offer a variety of plans and speeds to suit different RV users’ needs.

To start with either provider, you’ll need to purchase equipment from resellers and install it yourself or hire a professional installer.

You can expect to pay between $400 and $4000 for the essential hardware.

Once you start going over the $500 price point for the hardware, we’d question why you wouldn’t just stick with Starlink Roam.

Monthly plans are based on download speeds, each with a data cap. Depending on the plan, you could pay between $70 and $300 monthly.

While these services differ from Starlink, they remain viable alternatives for RV users seeking portable satellite internet.

Weighing the pros and cons of each provider can help you determine which option best aligns with your lifestyle and connectivity needs.

Equipment Essentials for RV Satellite Internet

Setting up satellite internet in your RV requires specific equipment, including a satellite dish, receiver, modem, router, and power source.

Each provider may have different equipment requirements, so it’s essential to research and purchase the necessary components based on your chosen satellite internet service.

A Starlink satellite dish mounted on an RV roof, providing high-speed internet access in a remote location.

Starlink Roam

Everything you need is in the box.

The satellite dish is already connected to its power supply and router out of the box, so the setup process is simple.

  1. Place the satellite dish on the tripod outside in a spot with a good view of the sky. 
  2. Plug-in to mains power.
  3. The satellite dish will automatically connect to overhead satellites, and the router will power up.
  4. Set up the router’s WiFi name and password in the Starlink app.
  5. Login from as many devices as you want for super-fast internet access from your RV.
A Starlink satellite dish mounted on a tripod providing high-speed internet access in a remote location.

HughesNet & Viasat

There are several ways of setting up both of these systems. First, you’ll need a satellite dish, a modem/router, and enough coaxial cable to join the two.

Unless the dish includes a mount, you’ll also need a tripod or roof mount. Mounted satellite dishes may require professional installation.

When you have all the components, follow these steps:

  • Find a suitable spot to set up your satellite dish with an unobstructed view of the sky.
  • Mount the dish and connect it to the modem/router via a coaxial cable.
  • Connect the modem/router to a power source.
  • Set up the modem/router’s WiFi name and password.
  • Login to the internet from any device in your RV.

Prices and setup vary depending on what products you buy.

Affordability & How Costs Might Change

The affordability of satellite internet for RVs can vary greatly depending on your provider and select service plans.

Starlink Roam, with its monthly fee of $135, unlimited data, and one-time hardware cost of $599, offers a more affordable option if you use a lot of data or need a high-speed connection.

Plans from HughesNet & Viasat start at around $100 for 100 GB per month, rising to over $175 for 200 GB. And even then, you can expect a speed of around 25-25mbps compared to Starlink’s 135mbps.

As technology advances and competition increases, satellite internet costs for RVs could change.

This could result in more affordable options or new providers entering the market, offering even better services for RV users.

If you’re not ready to take the plunge with a satellite internet provider yet, watch what happens in the market. 

With Amazon’s Project Kuiper coming soon and others, there will undoubtedly be new deals to compete with Starlink’s current offering.

A SpaceX Starlink satellite deployed into orbit, expanding the global internet coverage.

Do I Need Satellite Internet in My RV

The decision to get satellite internet for your RV depends on your lifestyle.

If you’re a full-time RVer who travels frequently and spends most of their time off-grid, satellite internet is a great option. It allows you to stay connected no matter where you are to keep up with work, family, and friends.

On the other hand, if you only take occasional trips or stay in one spot for long periods, then more budget-friendly alternatives may be more suitable.

Ultimately, deciding whether to get satellite internet in your RV is based on personal circumstances.

Consider aspects of your lifestyle that would lend themselves to satellite internet and those that wouldn’t before making a decision.

Weighing the pros and cons of satellite internet and exploring alternative options can help you decide whether it’s the right choice for your RV lifestyle.

A happy family using their devices outdoors, thanks to the reliable connection provided by Starlink satellite internet.

Alternatives for RV WiFi

If you’re not convinced satellite internet is the right choice for your RV, alternative portable internet solutions exist.

We’ve written a popular article on how to get WiFi in an RV. For in-depth info, we recommend you start there.

Nonetheless, here’s a summary of the alternatives ways to get WiFi for RV campers:

  • Public WiFi networks, available in places like cafes, libraries, and campgrounds, provide internet access either for free or for a fee.
  • WiFi extenders amplify an existing WiFi network, increasing its range and allowing you to connect to the internet from a greater distance.
  • Cellular hotspots create a WiFi network by tapping into cellular data, allowing you to connect multiple devices simultaneously. You’ll need a compatible SIM card, mobile hotspot device, and a data plan from your chosen provider.

While these options may offer a different level of coverage than satellite internet, they can still be a viable solution for staying connected.

It’s essential to ensure your connection is secure when utilizing public WiFi networks or WiFi extenders to protect your personal information and maintain a safe online experience.

A slow internet connection is super frustrating.

Do I Still Need a Satellite TV Antenna with Satellite Internet in My RV?

The answer is it depends.

Satellite internet and satellite TV are two different things. Although they both do their job in a similar way, they are not designed to do the same thing.

Satellite internet is a broadband internet connection that uses a satellite dish to send and receive data from the web.

So if you enjoy watching RV TV streaming channels, like Netflix or YouTube, there’s no need for a separate TV antenna.

However, if you still want access to your favorite over-the-air channels, you’ll need a portable TV satellite dish for your RV.

Portable Satellite Dishes for RVs

Read more: Best Satellite Dishes For RV Campers This Year

In Conclusion

Mobile satellite internet for RVs offers a world of connectivity possibilities for those who love to explore off the beaten path.

Understanding how this technology works, the pros and cons, and the top providers can help you decide what”s best for you.

As you weigh your options, consider:

  • the costs,
  • equipment requirements, and
  • potential limitations of mobile internet services.

Keep in mind that there are alternative.