Internet Options for Travel Trailersby Joshua Smyth
Getting on the road doesn't have to mean disconnecting. An Internet connection can be a valuable addition to a travel trailer, allowing you to check travel information or (if you must) take your work on the road with you. With the proliferation of wireless Internet technologies, there are a number of easy options for getting online from your trailer.
Satellite modems use a dish or dome antenna to connect directly to a satellite overhead. They usually need a view of the sky to do so, and are often quite expensive systems to install, with examples costing between $7000 and $25,000 as of September 2010. These connections do have the advantage of being accessible anywhere in the world. If you would like to take your travel trailer far away from cellular phone towers or WiFi signals, satellite modems are the only option. Companies such as Ground Control offer dish-based systems that require you to park to use them and dome-based systems that can work in motion. Using one resembles using any other modem: connect the box to your computer using an Ethernet cable and you should be online. Most satellite hardware providers also provide the Internet service itself.
All major mobile phone providers now provide Internet "sticks," which are small modems that use cellular signals to connect to the Internet and themselves plug into your computer's USB port. Some computers may also have cellular Internet antennas built in, as do smartphones. You will generally need to sign a contract to pay a monthly rate for a certain amount of data access (though some providers do offer pay-as-you-go). To use this service in your trailer, you will need to be in an area with cellular coverage. Plug the USB modem into your computer and install any provided software. Once the software is active, follow the instructions to use your connection. When using these connections away from your home area, check your rate plan carefully for roaming charges. You do not necessarily need a computer to use cellular Internet--you could have service to your travel trailer with a smartphone alone.
WiFi is a short-range wireless broadband technology. Most computers (especially laptops) have WiFi antennas built in, and expansion antennas are easily bought if they do not. To use WiFi to get online from a travel trailer, you will need to be parked in an area with an unsecured network (or one for which you have a password). This can work if you plan on staying at campgrounds, as some do offer paid or free WiFi access. Alternatively, you can park your trailer close to cafes, libraries, or other sources of public WiFi networks and use their connection. With no bills for usage (unless you have to pay to get the password) this is the cheapest (albeit least convenient) option for Internet in a travel trailer.
- photo_camera coach, trailer image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com