In years past recreation vehicle users who loved the open road were forced to tolerate Internet access that was slow, expensive and unreliable — even when offered by popular RV parks.
To make matters worse, ambitious travelers who assumed their cell phones would keep them connected often discovered they had no coverage when arriving in the most distant, unpopulated and idyllic corners of America.
These days modern road warriors are discovering big changes in the mobile community, according to Real Time Communications.
“Advances in satellite technology have slashed monthly rates and hardware costs have dropped by 40 percent or more,” said spokesperson Jasmine Stanley. “And the service is not only less expensive, it is also three times as fast. In fact, experts anticipate that current speed and capacity will double again when a new satellite comes on line within the year.”
Barbara Nolley, a technology professional in Tucson, Ariz., has watched the progress from two vantage points – as an RVer and satellite dealer. In 1999, she and her husband hit the road in their RV, eager to join the legions of Americans that wanted more than a 9-to-5 existence.
“We were so happy to be living the RV lifestyle — it was the best — but we had to accept whatever Internet service we could get,” she explained.
Now Nolley operates Mobile Internet Satellite, an online dealership that provides start-up kits and mobile satellite Internet for RV enthusiasts and others.
A tripod setup and satellite dish are required to use the improved subscription services offered by companies such as Real Time Communications (RTC), located in Kilgore, Texas, as well as Mobile Internet Satellite. She said sales are brisk.
“People are loving it because it is the first time that satellite is starting to compete with terrestrial-based options. Bandwidth allocations are now big enough that you can stream movies,” said Nolley.
Although some RV travelers assume cell phones would be adequate while roaming the countryside, they soon discover that cell towers cover only about 85 percent of the United States. Lack of cellular coverage in some of the most pristine and remote locales left them without Internet access of any kind, the release explained.
For Robert Greene, reliable mobile internet service is essential. Since 2004, after retiring as a middle school principal, he has lived full-time in his RV, mostly keeping to the southwestern states.
In the past, he subscribed to a program that limited his data downloads within each 24-hour period. If he exceeded his allotment, he would have to pay an extra fee of about $9 per day, or wait for the next pay cycle to begin. The inconvenience was annoying.
Fortunately, the upgrade offered by RTC, a 16-year-old independent company and partner of the Hughes Network System, offers plenty of data per month, far more speed and other improvements, he explained.
“With the new system I’ve only run over my monthly quota once in about five months. And I have a graph that shows how much data I’ve used, so I can manage it better,” he said. “Basically, I communicate with my three children and keep an eye on the stock market. It works great.”
The breakthrough of lower rates and faster upload/download speeds came about as hardware improved in the Ka band. Ka supports mobile applications and has significantly more bandwidth than the previously used Ku band satellites. As a result, the RV crowd can now enjoy streaming videos, email and music without interruption, the release noted.
Providers such as RTC can currently deliver 1 megabyte upload and 5 megabyte download speeds. Although the standard data allowance is 20 gigabytes each month, that is easily expanded with tokens that range from $8 to $18. By the end of 2016, the Texas-based company anticipates offering 2 megabyte up/15 megabyte down, with a 50 gigabyte capacity.
Nolley sees more improvements down the road, but for now is impressed with the direction mobile internet access is going for RV owners.
“They offer a service that is going to work virtually anywhere you go in the United States. You can’t say that about cell phones or any other options,” she explained. “It will go where you go, in the contiguous 48 states. We have customers that hang out in the desert because they love that environment. Having Internet wasn’t always possible.”
The ability to access the Internet almost anywhere at fast speeds, Nolley added, has inspired a new generation of RV fans to hit the road before retirement.
“They want to get out in the wide open spaces and still work. With this setup they can continue to run a business because they can rely on the Internet to tether them back to the company.”
It’s also a boon for mobile guys like Greene, that love to follow the sun.
“I usually summer in Utah for about five months, then head to Nevada and Southern California. Now I can follow the weather,” he explained.
Hardware packages come ready to install for $999 and monthly service packages start at $99.
A dealer commission program is available for dealers who wish to sell the package to their customers.