Having access to the internet while travelling in a van is incredibly important. It allows you to find places to stay, plan routes and stay connected to loved ones. Many van-lifers, like me, work online remotely, so having a fast reliable connection is a must. So how can you get online on the road? I will walk you through a few different ways you can get internet on the road.
The easiest way is to use the tethering option on your phone to create a Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices to connect to. In my experience working online and travelling in Europe and the UK, this solution provides a usable connection in many locations.
However, I have also found myself in many beautiful remote areas where 4G signal in the back of my van was poor or non-existent. This is mainly because the metal structure of panel vans degrades 4G signal. In remote locations, this can be enough to leave you with no signal at all or a slow unreliable connection inside your van. This bugged me especially as I much prefer being parked up in beautiful mountain regions or on remote beaches than in towns and cities. Without a solid connection, I had to leave amazing spots to get my online work done.
So, I went on the search for a solution. One thing I tried was placing my phone outside on top of the roof of the van. Whilst this gave a better signal, it also came with its own set of problems. For instance, you won’t want to leave your phone out in the rain or hot sunny weather and tethering can be very power-hungry.
I then looked for a more permanent internet solution. What I was after was a way of taking the 4G signal from outside the van and turning it into a Wi-Fi signal inside the van. I came across roof-mounted antenna systems which do exactly what I wanted. However, they come with a hefty price tag of around £300 which was just too expensive for me.
My solution to get internet on the road
This inspired me to create and sell my own affordable internet solution, designed for van-lifers who need a fast reliable connection but don’t want to give up parking in beautiful rural spots!
So that’s when I came up with the Motorhome 4G, two-part kit. The first part of the kit is a super strength roof antenna which permanently mounts to the outside of your vehicle’s roof. This 4G roof antenna has cables which feed through to the second part of the kit; the mini Wi-Fi router. Insert your sim card and the router will take the external signal provided by the 4G roof antenna and output Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices inside your van.
The Motorhome 4G antenna is fully waterproof and designed for permanent outdoor use. At just 16mm thick, it is stealthier and better for fuel efficiency than its competitors. Better still it is omnidirectional and includes MiMo technology. Omni-directional simply means the antenna can find signal without the need to be aimed at a 4G cell tower. MiMo technology (which stands for many-in many-out) means there is actually two antennas inside one pack, each antenna operates at different frequencies, this allows it to pick up signal further away from a cell tower than a normal antenna. Making it perfect for use in remote locations!
If that was a bit too technical for you check out the simple graphics bellow which might help:
Earlier I mentioned that I mainly travel in Europe, so you might be wondering how does getting online whilst abroad work?
Fortunately, the EU banned roaming charges a few years ago. This means you can use your sim card almost like you would at home (UK networks have pledged to stick to this arrangement after Brexit). However, there are some restrictions, many providers impose a fair usage policy on roaming. This usually entails a data usage cap and a time limit on the length of your trip. For example, Three UK limits users data usage to 12GB and only allows 2 months of roaming in a year. I personally use Voxi as they offer unlimited data in Europe. However, their terms and conditions state roaming should only be used for trips of 2 months in any 4-month period, but in my experience, this is not enforced as I have had no problem roaming with them for much longer than 2 months. If your UK provider does cut you off during an extended trip, there is always the option of getting a local pay as you go sim card for whatever country you find yourself in. The Motorhome 4G kit is not locked to any network and works with any European sim provider, so whatever sim you use it won’t be a problem!