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How Much Data Do I Need When RVing? Too Much for Satellite Internet!

| Updated May 14, 2015

Data. It's a new commodity for us, a factor to budget for, a number to know.

I'm talking about the data – sent to and received from the Internet through emails, websites, text messages, videos and music – that we access on our smartphones, tablets and laptops.

I get asked this question a lot: How much data do I need as I RV around the country?

After lots of research with the major U.S. wireless providers here's the answer for most people: The average customer uses between 1 and 2 GB of data per month for each device.

The wireless providers have some helpful tools for you to find out where you fit.

Here's a good resource for customers in the U.S. from Verizon.

Here's one from AT&T.

Here's one from Sprint.

For those of you in Canada, here's a data usage calculator from the Bell networks.

Generally, if you only use your smartphone or table to surf the Web, maybe download a few apps, send some emails and use Facebook, you’re probably going to be closer to the 1 GB monthly range. If  you also watch YouTube video each day and share lots of photos, you might need 2 GB or more. Most shouldn’t need more than 4 GB–or unlimited–unless you are a very heavy user and frequently stream a bunch of Netflix or Hulu movies.

I ran an estimate of what I use while traveling and accessing the Internet via Verizon's 4G LTE Network and I found my usage was way, way more than the average.

I need 18 GB a month. Here's the chart, adjusted to my typical usage each day.


Whoa boy! The big data hogs are streaming video, music and uploading and downloading photos. I update the blog daily, post a lot of photos on it, send my Roadtreking videos to YouTube and run several social media groups and pages. I also back up all my photos in the cloud. So my usage is way more than most people.

I pay for unlimited data on my Verizon wireless account, almost always accessed via their high speed 4G LTE Network. When I just access the Net by wireless cellular, as I do most of the time, with the unlimited plan, I don't sweat my average 18GB  data usage.

However, there are times when I am not in cellular range, when I'm deep in the boondocks far from a cell tower. And unable to access the Net. That means to update the blog, podcast and YouTube channel, I have to drive somewhere where I can find a signal. That kind if ruins a nice away-from-it-all boondocking getaway.

So I've been investigating satellite Internet.

And there is no way I could afford 18 GB worth of data by satellite.

The IsatHub iSavi,
The IsatHub iSavi,

I was considering the purchase of something known as an IsatHub iSavi, a very cool satellite Internet gizmo sold by an outfit called Ground Control for $1,345. That's a lot of money, but the ultra portable devices creates a satellite Internet connection and a WiFi network that can be used by smartphones, tablets and laptops.

And it is very small and easily transportable in my Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL.

Satellite Internet is very slow, barely broadband, in fact at 384 Kbps download, 240 Kbps up. But having even that connectivity when I truly am in the middle of nowhere is desirable enough that I was seriously considering buying one of the units. But then I looked at how much data costs.

The minimum monthly plan I could consider is $89 a month. That is for a measly 25 MB – NOT GB – of data.

Granted, I would not use the IsatHub iSavi all the time. Most of my data would still be handled on the Verizon network. But when I was out of cellular range and using the satellite system, I could gobble up the $89 monthly allocation with just a typical morning's use if I was not very careful.

The minimum plan that I think would work for me would  be 100MB a month, and even that would require me to very carefully watch my connections. It would be $340 a month. Yikes!

To get to that national average of, say 2 GB a month would cost about $2,600 a month. And remember, I use 18 GB a month not what the average is. No way.

So I guess satellite Internet is out of the question for me, unless it is only for brief times.

I know, most of you aren't interested in satellite Internet. But you are interested in cutting costs for your data usage. And the first step in doing that is knowing how much you need.

So use those tools I linked above. And if this post helps you, then I guess all my research – and my disappointment to find satellite Internet is so expensive – was worth it.

I haven't completely ruled it out. There may be other, more affordable solutions.

But when it comes to satellite Internet…. data costs. Big time!



Mike Wendland

Published on 2015-05-14

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

One Response to “How Much Data Do I Need When RVing? Too Much for Satellite Internet!”

May 14, 2015at8:27 am, sharon campbell said:

c’mon Mike, you gotta learn how to aim a dish if you want affordable satellite. those things are just satellite phones configured for data. they use the Iridum satellites, not the geostationary ones. no wonder they’re unaffordable.

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