Getting connected: internet on the road

By: Bill Savidan


Confused about the options available for accessing the internet while you travel? Motorhoming guru Bill Savidan has some helpful advice to get you started

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An increasing number of motorhomers want mobile internet. Not just for emails or web browsing, but for accessing streaming services like Netflix and YouTube. And of course, there is a growing number of people who need internet on the road for business purposes. Whatever the reason, the move to mobile internet is gaining momentum. In America the switch is so significant that a major aerial manufacturer has stopped production of satellite aerials in favour of ‘4G/Wi-Fi extenders’.

Mobile challenges

The internet is delivered to your RV as a data stream signal from a cellphone tower, the same as the signal to your cellphone. This signal is captured by a router, sometimes via an external aerial, and devices can then be connected via Wi-Fi (just like at home). 

The potential weak link in this chain of events is the strength of the cellphone signal. RV travellers tend to go places where the signal is weak and unreliable, which can mean conversations are interrupted and drop out. The signal needs help if it is to produce a reliable and robust internet connection. The latest antenna/router technology is designed to give this help.

Hardware and plans

There are a number of Wi-Fi/internet products on the market and more will emerge in the months ahead. 

Winegard Wi-Fi 3G/4G Winegard’s new ConnecT 2.0 is an integrated system that works in two ways. Firstly, through its high strength aerial, one mode receives Wi-Fi signals, like those found in holiday parks. It amplifies them before the router sends them on as Wi-Fi signals to your TV or device waiting to display the signal contents, a movie for example. 

In its other mode the ConnecT 2.0 links to the nationwide 4G cellphone tower network to provide a reliable internet connection while travelling New Zealand. The ConnecT 2.0 needs a broadband plan and a sim card to operate. It is not tied to any broadband plan provider. You can choose your provider, but you should take advice to ensure the ConnecT 2.0 will accept and work with the sim card you choose. The ConnecT 2.0 is only available through Jayco New Zealand dealers and retails for $977.50 incl GST plus fitting.

The Maxview Roam This system operates the same way as the ConnecT 2.0. Featuring a roof-mounted 3G/4G antenna cable linked to an internal powerful Wi-Fi modem/router, Roam is easily installed. It will generate a Wi-Fi network in and around your RV. Roam needs a broadband plan and a sim card to operate. Again, it is not tied to any broadband plan, but you should take advice to ensure it will accept and work with the sim card you choose. The Maxview Roam is available from RV Supplies and their agents, and retails for $695 incl GST plus fitting. 

RSE (NZ) Ltd RSE specialise in 12-volt mobile satellite TVs, antennas, and entertainment systems for RVs. They offer the LTE Wi-Fi Omnidirectional PUCK Antenna to improve router performance when the signal is marginal. They are also authorised agents for Wireless Nation Lifestyle broadband plans and are approved installers. In other words, a one-stop-shop. The LTE Wi-Fi Omnidirectional PUCK Antenna sells for $168 incl GST plus delivery charges.

Wireless Nation Wireless Nation offers mobile internet connections, but their approach is more holistic because as well as the hardware, they offer a ‘Lifestyle’ broadband plan to go with it – another one-stop-shop approach. Their hardware is a powerful 4G-enabled Huawei RBI modem that comes with a power supply adapter for 230-volt connection. A 24-volt/12-volt power supply adapter is available as an extra (also referred to as a DC to DC filter). Wireless Nation’s experience suggests that most clients don’t need an aerial, as long as the modem is not tucked away in a cupboard. When you buy, just tell them what sort of RV you have and they will advise you accordingly. DIY installation is relatively straightforward and Wireless Nation has a very user-friendly New Zealand-based helpline if you get stuck. Wireless Nation sells the 4G enabled RBI Huawei modem for $329 incl GST plus delivery charges. 

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Wireless Nation’s broadband plans have very flexible data options with an open term, meaning you can put your connection on hold or cancel anytime with 30 days’ notice. If you run out of data, your account will auto top-up with 1GB data packs, up to four times per month. Wireless Nation notify you when you have used 80 percent and 100 percent of your data and at any time you can look at Wireless Nation’s online portal to see how much remains for the month. Plans are both upgradable and downgradable. These are the sorts of features to seek when comparing broadband plans.

An unusual, but user-friendly feature of the Wireless Nation plan is the AM/PM data allocation.

To encourage the use of midnight to midday data (off peak) consumption, the data pack is split into two parts, AM data and PM or ‘Anytime’ data. By scheduling data-hungry tasks (like software updates or movie downloads) for when you are using AM data you save PM (Anytime) data for when it is needed. On the two larger Lifestyle plans, AM data can be upgraded to ‘unlimited’ for $28/month. See table (right) for the plans on offer.

After your motorhome travel is over, you can take the router inside and keep using it at home. It can take the place of your household copper wire or fibre connection. Or you can put it on hold until your next trip away in your RV.

How much data do I need?

Ask yourself ‘What do I use the internet for? Email, web research, news catch up, entertainment.’ Each activity uses different data volumes. Email text activity is light on data. An email created in an hour is transmitted in less than a second and uses kilobytes (a fraction of a megabyte) of data, while watching a super-high definition Netflix movie can chew through up to 15GB per hour. If you are unsure about your data requirements take advice from your proposed broadband plan provider. So if you are teetering on the brink and pondering whether you should or shouldn’t get mobile broadband, linger no longer – just leap on in. What we are seeing now is just a taste of the magic coming over the horizon with the 5G network.

 Price

$89.00/mth inc GST

$99.00/mth inc GST

$159.00/mth inc GST

Anytime (PM) 

65GB

120GB

200GB

AM Hours 

50GB 

50GB 

50GB

Total GBs

115GB

170GB

250GB

 

Fast facts

• Under the decimal system, data is measured in bytes, kilobytes (1000 bytes), megabytes (1000 kilobytes), gigabytes (1000 megabytes) and terabytes (1000 gigabytes).

• Watching TV via the internet uses data; sometimes, lots of data: 

- SD (standard definition) uses about 1GB per hour, 

- HD (high definition) uses about 2-3GB per hour (most common) 

- SHD/4k (super high definition) uses between 6GB and up to 15GB

 

NZMCA Partnerships

The NZMCA has partnered with both Wireless Nation and RSE to offer NZMCA members discounts on the Wireless Nation modem and their broadband plans. 

Find out more:

 

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