So you want to be nomadic, but you need the internet. How can you get strong Wifi when you live in a mobile Tiny House, van, or skooly? In this article, I explain a few popular ways digital nomads make it work on the road.
High-Speed Wifi in a Tiny House – It’s Possible!
If you are going to be stationary for 6-12 months at a time, I HIGHLY recommend first trying to subscribe with your local internet provider. This will essentially give you the same service as you would have in a regular home. Many RV parks already have cable hookups, so it can be as simple as calling the local provider to turn on the service, purchasing the router, and renting a modem. I had high-speed Wifi at Mt Hood Tiny House Village for almost two years before I moved my house to Whidbey Island. It cost me about $50 a month, and it was 100% worth it. I could watch Netflix, upload videos to YouTube, and everything else.
If you’re planning on moving frequently, you’ll need to use one of the Wifi options below or, more likely, you’ll use a combination of both.
If you plan to park at RV parks and campgrounds, there is a good chance that they provide Wifi in certain areas of the property. In my experience, the signal almost never reaches your parking spot. So if you want internet service in your Tiny Home, you’ll need a Wifi booster.
Not all boosters and extenders are created equal. Like with most tech products, you get what you pay for. You should look at this purchase as a one-time investment that will pay itself off over the next several months. The more you pay for your booster, the farther away you can be from the signal. Sometimes you may need to play around with the position of the booster in your house – placing it closer to the window sometimes helps – to get the strongest connection. It can be a monotonous task, but if you’re going to be stationary for more than a day, it’s worth the effort.
Use Your Phone as a HotSpot with an Unlimited Data Plan
This method can be expensive, but if you require Wifi daily, it’s also a lifesaver. With a hotspot from your phone, you’ll have a connection whenever and wherever your phone has data. Simply signup for the hotspot option with your cell phone provider and you can connect your computer or Wifi enabled television to your cell phone. You can even share your hotspot with others, so there is no need for everyone in your Tiny House to sign up for the hotspot unlimited data plan.
The catch? These types of plans can be expensive, even with more providers are dropping their prices due to increased competition. Also, some companies start to throttle your speed after you use a certain amount of data. They are pretty sneaky about this. So I don’t recommend video streaming or uploading video on your data plan. Use the method above or go to a coffee shop for the afternoon if you have a big file to upload.
Another downside is that you may not have coverage everywhere, but this is the case with any internet service. Don’t expect to be able to stream the Superbowl in the middle of Death Valley National Park. It’s not going to happen. That being said, if you have more than one heavy internet user in your house, it’s not a bad idea to go with two different cell phone providers (say AT&T and Verizon). This way when one doesn’t have a strong cell phone signal, the other one might.
Satellite Internet for Tiny Houses, BusLife, and VanLife
To be honest, I don’t know any Tiny Housers using this method, as it’s extremely expensive and not that fast. But, if you NEED Wifi at all time, in very rural areas, this may be an avenue to explore. You’ll need a dish or some sort, and you’ll have to pay for the service. Make sure to review the latency (as it can be terrible), as well as the data caps from your providers. You can learn more about satellite internet providers in this article.
In my opinion, the satellite internet option isn’t worth the price (yet). You may end up spending up to $200 a month, and you won’t even be able to stream video! Just plan to unplug for those days that you’re completely off-the-grid and use the first two options in combination for all other days.
Another option for Internet on-the-go is a mobile WiFi unit. I have a Netgear Nighthawk mobile router activated through AT&T and it shares the data on my plan. It consistently delivers speeds near 10mbps, of course that depends a lot on the tower. Best thing is as the LTE network evolves the Nighthawk is forward and backward compatible, meaning it can talk up to 5G (where available) and talk down to 4G/3G. My local landline Internet provider (who for their sake I won’t name) has not been exactly reliable and there have been many times where I’ve had no other option but to pull out the mobile router. If there’s a tower, the mobile router works flawlessly. Also, for TV on the road, if you subscribe to DirecTV NOW you can stream data from the AT&T network for FREE. So, it was a win-win option for me. I have been well pleased with both.
Perfect timing on this post as I’m about to hit the open road / start a YouTube Channel, having just quit corporate America! I’m mostly staying with friends and at wifi-connected AirBNBs for the next 4-5 months, but I’m thinking the phone-as-a-hotspot might be a great option otherwise. Thanks for this! I love following your journey!
Hello, here is a good link for researching the testing and explanation on how to do the testing of latency on the satellite systems. https://www.gl.com/telecom-test-solutions/testing-satellite-communications.html
Hi, make sure that the plan is really unlimited in its data download plan and not just the “name of the plan”. This is what many telco providers will do to fool the customers into thinking they are getting a good deal when in fact they are not.
These are the people who truly have all the answers because testing all the systems and gadgets is their day job: https://www.rvmobileinternet.com