One of the great dilemmas RVers face is staying connected. Like many full-timers, we’ve tried most everything for better communications: hotspots, WiFi repeaters, extenders/boosters, antennas, satellite receivers, yada, yada. A few worked spuriously, others barely. All were overpriced for the service provided.
Crappy connectivity is disruptive
While in Montana three Septembers ago, friends invited us over to their Class A to watch the Texas Longhorns play some unworthy team on their outside TV. As the owner tried positioning their satellite receiver to its azimuth, it was soon apparent what worked in Florida would not work in mountainous Montana. The largest topographical obstacle in Florida is known to locals as Mount Trashmore, the methane dump! But in Montana, with the satellite positioned barely above the horizon, only two alternatives existed: Move the mountain or go to the top for reception. Neither was possible, so we simply drank alcoholic beverages and complained like adults asking ourselves why we pay for inadequate service. How many of us wish to park close to a metropolitan area for better signal strength?
Spurious campground internet
The preponderance of RV parks and campgrounds provide basic internet service. We’ve stayed in campgrounds where the office staff fully admitted their WiFi was less than adequate. In other words, the signal is weak and non-responsive. Cable TV, sometimes offered, is typically the minimal service, with some local channel’s reception less than old-fashioned rabbit ears. As technology morphs, campground WiFi certainly won’t support the advent of streaming for today’s lifestyle beyond the basics. And you won’t get to watch the NFL or MLB teams when you want.
We kept trialing
As full-timers, we don’t rely on others’ internet to live day-to-day. Rather, we set out to correct our internet/communication deficiency. Starting two years ago, we began trialing a host of signal repeaters or boosters that were recommended, even by Consumer Reports and electronic/tech publications. Depending upon location, sometimes they helped but never reliably, especially as we migrated. Hotspots worked spottily, with Verizon being the best, but limited the amount of data one could use before throttling occurred. The movies we watched quickly used up our monthly data allotment, leaving us back at square one … deficient! AT&T was the next best hotspot with similar throttling restrictions. And in our opinion, Sprint/T-Mobile was in the distant rear. Until Elon Musk launches enough satellites to reliably deliver StarLink here or on the moon, consistent alternatives are few and far between.
From that industry
So, we all are on the same page. We tested many devices for several weeks, not just a couple of days, as we moved around. No different than any consumer, we purchased each product with no prior inoculation to the manufacturer to receive any device for free or other incentive. My spouse’s background is one of electrical engineering, where he toiled in the electronics field designing different systems currently in use today. When the StarLink portable RV unit is available, we will test it, as well. But until global satellite connectivity becomes a reality, we will endeavor to use the best alternative.
Today’s alternative earned our respect
All Over Internet (aoiwireless.com) is a company we ran into while spending last winter in Arizona. We purchased a Beta unit from AOI in early February 2021. It is a small, seamless driven WiFi receiver that locates and transmits the best signal presently from AT&T and T-Mobile. It works well while driving, finding the strongest signal and changing between networks without operator intervention. Easy and simple to use! According to AOI, they are adding a third cell provider in the near-term for consistent strong coverage. AOI offers two data packages:
- 50 GB
- 300 GB (for streaming TV series, news, weather and sports)
We chose 300 GB, which has turned out to be more than enough for our lifestyle, as my spouse still consults on and off as an engineering consultant and frequently transmits large AutoCAD files. Since February, we’ve been able to work on our computers simultaneously, talk and text from cell phones, all while streaming news, weather, live TV and movies reliably! This has been our savior with little to no downtime since February. It is and continues to work in remote areas, providing there is cell service. And as cell providers advertise their coverage in the 90-percentile range, most of us can live with that.
If you’re in Yaak Valley, northwest Montana, where they film the popular TV reality show Mountain Men, cell service leaves something to be desired. Good WiFi is nada! But drive back to Libby, Montana, where the population is 2628+, and it works perfectly!
WiFi as you travel
We’ve driven with AOI’s WiFi from Mesa, Arizona, back to the Mid-South and to the Badlands in a circuitous route west to Wyoming and Montana, meandering south to southern California, where it worked off cell signals. We’ve used it without the usual expletives most of us utter when trying to use today’s electronic devices. And, no, our kids are not smarter than us, they just embrace the technology faster than us old geezers!
We’ve also tested AOI’s customer service and technical support, as there’s nothing worse than not being able to talk to someone to answer a simple question. For a small company, both services work exceptionally well. Owners Jose Canto, CEO, and Anders Thomas (operations, logistics and marketing) come from this industry and are happy to share their neoteric (modern) internet. As previous small business owners for more than 30 years, we always default to small U.S.-based companies. In our experience, small business continues to be key to our country’s success.
Less than optimum competitors
At the FMCA July rally in Gillette, Wyoming, we stopped to listen to another internet service that purportedly offers similar features. It does not. The startup equipment cost was just under $900 for two SIM cards. When available, a third SIM card could be added for an unknown cost, or if the equipment required reconfiguration or replacement. AOI charges $199.99 one time for its rechargeable receiver. You can also obtain extenders for the fringe cell coverage areas as well. As of this writing, AOI has been one of the best connectivity devices we’ve purchased – making our on-the-road lifestyle easier and more enjoyable!