As fulltime RVers, we have no problem signing a 2 year contract for Internet service from Verizon, but we know many people who only travel part time. What are their options for mobile Internet service? A couple years ago, your only option was to rely on Wi-Fi which is very UNreliable! Now there are several options for short term cellular Internet connections. The technology world moves fast, and nothing moves faster than cellular Internet plans, so take the information below as talking points only. Check with your provider, and/or your contract for the details that apply to you.
Verizon is the focus of much of the information in this article since it is what we use personally, and it is the most popular service among RVers. There are links at the bottom for information on other providers.
1. Putting your Contract on Vacation: Even if you do sign a 2 year contract with Verizon, for example, you can put your service (and payments) on vacation for up to 6 months. Be aware that vacation time will be added to the end of your contract. That means, if your contract period starts on 1/1/11 and goes thru 1/1/13, and you put it on vacation for 6 months, your contract now goes thru 7/1/13. Be sure to check with your service provider (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T etc.) for details based on your particular contract.
2. Bring your Own Device: People sign up for a two year contract because that is the way to get the device (Mi-Fi, or cellular modem) for a steeply discounted price. If you already have an appropriate modem or hotspot device, you can get service on a month to month basis. So, bring your own device and sign up for monthly service and you can turn the service off at any time. Standard monthly service plans offer 5GB for $50.
3. Prepaid Mobile Broadband: These plans can be pretty pricey, but it may be the best option to get your teenagers for your month-long summer vacation. For example, Verizon charges $50 for 1 GB – expires in 1 month or $80 for 5GB – expires in 1 month. There are no overages because, once you hit your limit the service is turned off.
4. Cellular Resellers: You can get service without a contract from Virgin Mobile (resells Sprint network) and Millenicom (resells Verizon network.) Also see the paragraph below on the 3GStore – you will find several options there, including monthly plans that resell Verizon, and DataJack which uses Sprint.
4. Pay-As-You-Go: TruConnect is a service using the Sprint network. You buy the device from them then pay $5/mo plus 3.9 cents per megabyte. This would only be good if you are a very sporadic user with low data needs. According to my calculations 5GB at 3.9 cents per MB = $169.68.
5. Smart Phone Internet: This is my favorite. First of all, you may find that you don’t even need to take your computer on short trips because you can do your email and browse the web straight from your phone. If you do take your computer, many smart phones today have a ‘Hotspot’ feature that costs extra from the service provider, but that feature can be turned on/off at will and you only pay for the time you have it on. When it’s on you have your own Wi-Fi hotspot powered by the phone’s data plan and up to 5 devices can connect to it. You can also use third party tethering software called PDANet. This allows you to tether your phone to the computer with a cable and use the phone’s data plan to power Internet browsing on our computer at no extra service charge. The PDANet software costs about $20 – one time fee. See this Geeks on Tour Video: Connecting to the Internet with Droid.
6. 3GStore: 3GStore has a reputation for being very knowledgeable and helpful in giving guidance thru the morass of mobile internet devices, service providers, data plans, and signal boosters. They are resellers for cellular services and they sell all the devices to make it work. We’ve had such good experience with them that we are an affiliate for 3GStore.com. They have several plans for short-term cellular Internet solutions.
Here are some links to more information
Discussion of Part-Time Internet solutions on RV.net Forums
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