RVers, do you need Starlink?
Starlink is a satellite internet constellation project developed by SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk. It aims to provide global broadband internet coverage by deploying a large network of small, low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, and offer high-speed internet access to areas where cellular signals can't reach.
But it also comes with a hefty monthly price tag. The question for most RVers is- is it worth it? Or are WiFi and/or 5G services better options? The answer is not a simple yes or no, it varies based on individual needs.
Campgrounds with free WiFi
If you stay at a campground that offers free WiFi service, you may already have access to high speed data at no charge. WiFi is a short range data service that requires you be near a WiFi hotspot, and one you have access to. You may encounter free WiFi at many hotels, truck stops, and coffeeshops. Because the signal range varies from 50 feet to just a few hundred feet from a WiFi access point, many RVers have trouble getting good speeds inside their RV.
The ALFA WiFi Camp Pro 3 is a WiFi signal booster for RVs that can improve signal inside your RV and get you faster speed. If your campground uses the new faster 5 Ghz technology, the speeds may be even faster.
The best part about WiFi, is there is no monthly fee to use it. Campgrounds provide free WiFi access as an amenity. So after the upfront cost of the booster hardware, WiFi is basically free for you.
Cellular 4G & 5G data
If your campground does not have WiFi, you may still be able to get Internet using your cell phone as a hotspot. Many carriers like T-Mobile and Verizon allow you to use your phone in hotspot mode, so that you can share 4G or 5G data with WiFi enabled devices inside your RV.
But 4G and 5G reception can be spotty in RV parks, and 4G may not be fast enough for video streaming or other bandwidth intensive tasks. In 2023, 5G coverage is still limited to urban areas in most cases.
Stay tuned for a new 5G booster from Rokland technologies coming summer 2023. Our soon-to-launch 5G booster for RVs will come with low-cost data. There will be a monthly fee as there is with Starlink, but the cost will be less.
Off the beaten path?
If you are off the beaten path most of the time, Starlink may be worth it. In areas where you have no WiFi or cellular coverage, Starlink may be your only option. While there are somewhat expensive monthly fees, the cost of the service is expected to decrease over time. And the big plus is for most users service will be fast and reliable, even out in the middle of nowhere since it is satellite based.
What about while on the road?
If you're driving, a WiFi booster can't help you. With range limited to a few thousand feet even with a booster, your WiFi connection will be gone before you can even get a browser open if your vehicle is moving. Cellular data could work well in urban areas, but big portions of rural interstate have weak or no cellular signal. A cellular booster could help, but chance are you will encounter some outages in signal while driving.
Starlink's more expensive mobile plan does allow you to get Internet access while your RV is in motion, and could appeal to RVers looking for a way to access the Internet while going from point to point. But all other Starlink plans will not function when mobile, and hence are only good when stationary. Therefore, if signing up for Starlink, be sure that your plan supports mobile access if needed. And be cautious- one Starlink user recently pointed out his terms of service changed restricting his service after signing up.