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Staying connected: New WiFi technology improved our RV travels

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?

Having reliable internet keeps paychecks coming in.

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.

Having good connectivity means you won’t miss following your favorite teams.

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.

If you like binge-watching television series or are a movie buff, the 50 GB plan is not for you.

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)

Jose Canto, CEO. shows how compact his WiFi receiver is in comparison to routers.

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.

Boonies beware

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!

##RVT1020

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Larry Smith
21 days ago

I read story about AOI that made it sound like a good service. Since I was in Mesa today I stopped and talked to Jose. I bought the unit and have used it for about 2 hours. Went from no internet to super fast. Well worth the price.

Anders Thomas
21 days ago
Reply to  Larry Smith

Larry, it was a pleasure meeting you today! Thank you for coming by and giving us a chance to show you how awesome we are. If you have any questions or concerns going forward, you have our number!

Keith Nichols
22 days ago

To use AOI, do you have to also have cell service? Does it work independently?

Anders Thomas
22 days ago
Reply to  Keith Nichols

AOI is an independent service provider separate from existing cell companies. To answer your question, you CAN use AOI without having a cell phone or existing cell service. If you have any other questions we would love to hear! Give us a ring at 1(800) 403-8402

Kyle
22 days ago

Does anyone know if the AOI router supports an external antenna? I’m planning my work from the road when the wife retires early next year…..

Anders Thomas
22 days ago
Reply to  Kyle

Our current unit does not support any wired external antennas. However AOI does offer the WeBoost signal boosters that wirelessly boost cellular signals around your RV or home. These significantly can help in getting the best signal possible when in remote areas.
Hope this helped answer your question!

Jeff Craig
23 days ago

The router and signal booster are standard fare for any service, but that 450GB for $150- is sweet! The downside, as always, is the coverage and getting at least a consistent 10Mbps for 1080P streaming. Many rural cell sites are fed with T3 connections (4.5Mbps for ALL the users on that tower), though with the 5G buildout, ones closer to metro areas, or carrier owned, have been upgraded to fiber fed (usually set to 1Gbps but can go to 400Gbps depending on setup, etc…). Personally, I have not had to stream very often, as we can get a good signal with out Tailgater and Wally in most locations. The DVR function is a bonus, as I can activate the spare Wally I have at home and fill it with movies (especially on free preview weekends!).

One bit of advice that has worked for me – Get a waterproof dive bag for your phone/hotspot and a USB battery pack, then hoist them inside the sealed bag up on your flag pole. You get better line-of-sight and the wifi still works well.

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
23 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Craig

Great tip, Jeff! I’ve never heard of hoisting your phone/hotspot, etc., up on the flagpole. But I bet it works, at least some. Have a great day! 🙂 –Diane

Anders Thomas
22 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Craig

Clever tip with the flag pole technique! Fortunately for us on the 4G LTE networks, we have more bandwidth opening up for users since the rollout of 5G. Which means better coverage nationwide! Our service can support 1080p streaming, as long as the router isn’t being overloaded by other devices on the network. Thank you for sharing!

Bob P
23 days ago

I guess I made a good decision back in January 2018 when Verizon offered unlimited WiFi for (at the time $25 a month). We had all ready bought their MIFI Jetpack the year before and was on the throttle plan. I called and talked to the representative and the only stipulation was you had to prepay and if you missed a payment or it was late you would lose it and couldn’t get it back. We were all ready on the autopay plan so being late was not a problem. We have only been without service one time visiting my brother when we were down in a depression and couldn’t even make phone calls in the Red River valley. We temporarily signed up for Spectrum cable service here at home and I kept paying for the MIFI, it was a good thing because I took all their equipment back to them and canceled their service, worst cable I’ve ever seen. My phone bill now runs $114 for 2 phones and the MIFI. Since I bought it almost 4 years ago I’ve had to replace the battery, my fault for leaving it plugged in 24/7.

Anders Thomas
23 days ago
Reply to  Bob P

That was a good call by you! Unfortunately now, the bigger providers require the customer to upgrade existing phone plans when adding MIFI devices onto existing plans. Often times locking the customer into a 2 year contract. AOI is a month to month service provider with autopay available separate from existing phone plans. If you have more questions please give us a ring! 1(800) 403-8402

Cushman Phillps
24 days ago

Good article, I was not familiar with AOI. I visited their website and it appears they have a propriety router/hot spot. If you stop using their service the odds are the router cannot be used with another service. It would be interesting to know if they are a 3rd party reseller and if the carriers authorize these plans.

Anders Thomas
23 days ago

We are an indepedent coorporation that has made agreements with data providers in order to offer our services. If you have any other questions we’d love to hear from you! 1(800) 403-8402 is our direct customer service line

Steven Jenkins
24 days ago

How do you get local TV viewing of sports events via wifi as you travel across the country?

Anders Thomas
23 days ago
Reply to  Steven Jenkins

Depending on streaming services, you could use a number of different options! My personal favorite being the NFL app supported through ROKU. It is very user-friendly and reliable since it is a service provided by the NFL, for the NFL. If you have any other questions we’d love to speak over the phone! Our customer service number is 1(800) 403-8402

Tony
24 days ago

Is this a real service? Their webpage for the plans is blank. When I click on their Facebook button at the bottom of the page it takes me to squarespace. When I click on the Twitter button it says it does not exist.

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
24 days ago
Reply to  Tony

Yikes! They have a little work to do on their website, Tony. Yep, the page for plans is blank. The buttons for FB and Instagram at the bottom don’t work. But if you click on those two logos at the top right of their page, they work. There’s an image of their available plans on the FB page, and it looks like Instagram works but I don’t have an account so can’t get in there. I’ll ask Kate to notify them about these issues. Thanks for the heads up. Have a great day! 🙂 –Diane

Anders Thomas
23 days ago
Reply to  Tony

Tony, yes we are a real service here at AOI. After updating the website lots of bugs and other issues have been sorted, if you have any questions Jose would love to hear from you! Give us a call anytime 1(800) 403-8402

John
24 days ago

Our daughter in law paid 120.00 for skyroam. She and our son work remotely in ven while on vacation. It been sitting in a drawer for months. This AOI sounds intriguing. We have Consumer cell for our phones and Verizon for our tablet. My daily wife has a laptop that used wi fi only for her organizational correspondence.DAR
I don’t buy anything that doesn’t have a customer service # where a warm body answers. I forwarded this to our kids.
Thanks for the heads up. We needed this for our RV travels.

John
24 days ago
Reply to  John

Sorry for the spell check errors, my fault. Could have said PT wife I guess.

Anders Thomas
23 days ago
Reply to  John

For any customer service calls, please call 1(800) 403-8402! We would love to hear from you guys

Michael Gardner
24 days ago

Happy to see a budget version of dual connectivity but their web site contains almost no information about the service. This article had more info. It really bothers me when a company can’t provide basic info on their web site.

Diane M.
24 days ago

Agreed, what is up with that? Seems a little sketchy that there is so little info on their site compared to this article. That said, the service sounds pretty intriguing. I am hoping their third provider would be Verizon, but perhaps not. We are new to all this, hitting the road for the winter for the first time in about a month. I think we will stick with using our phone as a hotspot for a while and see how that pans out, and keep this as an alternative if it isn’t working for us.

Diane Mc
24 days ago

I just read the FAQ’s which had a lot of information. Only thing that I would need more info on is if you are just looking for “as needed”. We take 2 to 3 trips a year about 4 months total. Can you sign up for 2 months, cancel, then sign back up for another month later? To cancel you have to email them. This should be just an online option. Looks like they only bill first of month. Said if you signed up for, lets say, 300GB option mid month, you would pay half the monthly fee and get half the data 150GB. But if you canceled on the last day of the month after 5PM PST, you would get charged another month. Kind of implies if you cancel within the month, no proration. Confusing.

Anders Thomas
23 days ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

Currently our way to change plans is to email in (support@aoiwireless.com) or call us at 1(800)403-8402. Additions and changes are always being updated into the FAQ page so we don’t miss a beat! We are currently working on our smart phone application that will allow you to change plans, view data usage, change passwords and much more. So stay tuned because it keeps getting more exciting!

Anders Thomas
23 days ago

After recent website updates, more information can be found in the FAQ page of the website. If any other questions arise please feel free to call! We’re happy to answer 1(800)403-8402

Michael Hampton
24 days ago

Anyone have any idea how AOI compares to Skyroam? We use Skyroam and it works fairly well but sometimes streaming is slow depending on location of course. I think Skyroam uses most of the available cell providers and finds the strongest one for the area. AOI only appears to use AT&T and T Mobile but maybe that’s adequate. Thanks!

Anders Thomas
23 days ago

Anywhere a cell connection is available, AOI will have you covered! Our unit works similarly to the Skyroam unit as mentioned. Where we differ is in our extreme data size packages, we are proud to support up to 450GB of high speed data with our services! For any other questions and inquiries, please reach out to us 1(800) 403-8402

Caren kelly
24 days ago

Great article but the cost is pretty extreme if you’re retired. Last time we Canadians were allowed to cross the border In 2019/20, we used theRVitGuy.com service. They use cell towers as well and never had an issue from Florida to Manitoba, while driving or parked in our Moho, we always had fantastic service. Streamed tv, used our laptops and cell phones for $100 a month and a $200 start up fee. Worth every $US dollar. It would be interesting to see how this service compares to the one you used. Just wish it worked in Canada. Here’s to hoping the US border opens soon for us Canadian Snowbirds. Safe travels.

Anders Thomas
22 days ago
Reply to  Caren kelly

We try to keep our prices as competitive as possible while maintaining the best service as possible. Like the above mentioned service, AOI also uses cell tower technology to supply an internet connection capable of streaming tv and laptop web surfing. We are hopeful to have our Canadian friends back in the US this season!