The constantly changing landscape of the 3rd party mobile data market (more like underground) makes it impossible to answer this question today and have it be accurate tomorrow. Staying on top of all of the changes is a full-time job. Luckily, the Mobile Internet Resource Center does just that.
We VERY highly recommend the MIA (Mobile Internet Aficionados) membership in the Mobile Internet Resource Center. Check out the Full Blog Post here (with DISCOUNT CODE!). They maintain guides on the latest plans available. Note: We are not affiliated and make no money from recommending their membership. We just believe it's well worth the money to have someone else track this and provide alerts when new plans come and go. Of course, their site is also a wealth of information on EVERYTHING mobile interent.
First, a real quick note on using campground or RV Park Wifi, wifi boosters, etc. Don't waste your time or money. In our 2.5 years on the road thus far, we have never found wifi worth connecting to. This is why we use cellular exclusively.
Right now (July 2020), our entry-level recommendation is the Pepwave MAX BR1 MINI! At around $300, it's not much more than just a plain hotspot. Like you might have seen in our recent Internet video, hotspots are carrier locked and the wifi they generate can be inferior.
The MINI is NOT carrier locked, has much better wifi, and has an ethernet port for wired connectivity. It's Pepwave's entry-level device and it can accept SIM cards for AT&T or Verizon (and T-Mobile). In fact, it accepts TWO SIM cards at the same time, allowing you to switch back and forth at will, or set up automatic failover (fail-over can take a minute or so). Pair the Mini with an unlimited data plan and you've got a little more flexibility if you plan on using two carriers as we do, or if you might want two carriers in the future.
If you're not sure what to get, reach out to MobileMustHave (please click our link first) and they can help get you into a solution that fits your needs! ??
These are just a couple of basic options, but there are a whole lot more at Mobile Must Have! We'll be testing out some higher-end gear soon and, of course, there will be a video!
Currently, we have four data plans:
Grandfathered AT&T Unlimited Plus HotSpot Plan – We've had this plan since November of 2017 when our MIA Membership paid off in a big way by warning us that this plan would be going away. And, if we wanted a good unlimited AT&T plan to grab a hotspot before it goes away. We did, and we still have this true unlimited plan today even though it went away in late 2017.
Verizon Unlimited Plan via Mobile Must Have – This plan is via their data broker and is also no longer available, unfortunately. We pay $120/mo for this plan.
AT&T Unlimited (5000GB fair use cap) via Mobile Must Have – This plan is still available for $349 then $160/mo at the time of writing this FAQ (2021-02-24). It's a steep price, but unlimited data plans are hard to find these days. We locked in at $120/mo.
Sprint Unlimited Plan via Calyx Institute – The Calyx Institute offers this plan as part of a membership for $500/yr ($400 for subsequent years). With the 3 plans above, this one is just to have just in case we're in an area saturated by AT&T and Verizon users (a big rally or something), or if it happens to be the only thing around. We've fired it up in our Pepwave a few times to test it. It works but was very slow where we tried it.
With the above plans, we primarily have the first 2 active most of the time (our router can have 2 modems active at once and bonded together). Yes, we pay a LOT for a versatile and resilient data solution, but our job depends on it.
Mobile Must Have raised the price on the AT&T plan and no longer has a Verizon plan. Why is there so much volatility in the cellular data plan market?
The thing with the unlimited wireless plans is they are all 3rd party plans living on the edge of each cellular carrier's terms of service. Resellers come and go and prices go up and down as supply and demand change. That supply can be hugely interrupted by the carrier shutting down an entire provider. It is a constant game of cat and mouse. We are on our third Verizon plan and second AT&T plan. When you find a good plan, snag it! But also know that any 3rd party plan might only last a year or two.
Additionally, you will find that many of the “unlimited” plans now have “fair use” data caps on them. This usually happens when the carrier comes down on the 3rd party reseller for using too much data. So the 3rd parties put their own limits on to stay in good graces with the carrier. Any data cap obviously contradicts the title “unlimited” and we strongly feel having “unlimited” in the name is misleading. Unfortunately, they all seem to do this, including our partner MMH. Be sure to always read the fine print! Even with the cellular carriers themselves.
I'll get to the point… It's not cheap! But, it's also much less expensive than it was even 6 months ago with Pepwave's release of the Max Transit Duo! Prior to that, dual modem cellular embedded routers were double or triple the price. That said, here's what the prices are today (2020-Jul-29):
✅ Ultimate Road Warrior Bundle with MobileMark Antenna (Our Kit): $1345
✅ MMH Dual Carrier Unlimited Data: $189 (First Month) $250/mo thereafter
✅ Pepwave AP One AC Mini (Interior WiFi Access Point): $149
✅ XPOL High Gain LTE MIMO Antenna: $182
✅ WeBoost 25′ Telescoping Mounting Pole: $130
✅ NETGEAR 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Unmanaged PoE Switch ~$80
✅ APC 600VA UPS Battery Backup & Surge Protector~$65
Add in maybe $100 in miscellaneous costs like ethernet cabling, roof junction, etc… We're looking at around $2300 initial investment and $250/mo for data. That's a lot and we get that. But we, like many others on the road full time, use the internet for our livelihood. Considering we're talking about home-like internet strapped to a box that moves all over the country, that's not too bad!
Another consideration is, you don't need all of this stuff at once. We did, so we could test all of it. One could easily start out with just the main kit and data plans for around $1500, and add the rest on later, if ever.
The mobile internet landscape (plans, devices, etc) is constantly changing and impossible to stay on top of. That's why we VERY highly recommend the MIA (Mobile Internet Aficionados) membership in the Mobile Internet Resource Center. Check out the Full Blog Post here (with DISCOUNT CODE!)