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Getting the internet on the road

Miriam Richardson

There are two ways to get on the internet while on the road: with your mobile phone or with mobile broadband.

ONE: mobile phone 

Modern mobile phones use the internet routinely: have you checked your email? viewed a YouTube video? read Facebook? used Campermate? used Google? All of these use the internet through your phone connection. The plan on your phone determines how much internet you can use in a month. 

TWO: mobile broadband 

There is a network of towers through NZ that allows Netspeed and Wireless Nation to give travellers access to mobile broadband. Modem To connect to mobile broadband you need a modem. Generally travellers get an adapter to connect the modem to their 12v/24v power. 

Choosing: mobile phone or mobile broadband? 

If you are content to do all your internet connection through your phone, stick with a mobile plan. If you want to connect a tablet, iPad or a computer as well as your phone, you have a choice. To choose a plan you need an idea of 

• how much data you need, 

• where you might travel, 

• what devices you want to connect to the internet, and 

• whether you want to use your phone as the modem. 

How much data do you need? 

What do you normally use? Look back on the last few months of internet use, if you can. Will you continue to use the internet the same? Might you use use less when travelling? Might you watch TV through the internet and use a lot more? 

Hot spot the phone or use a modem? 

To use your phone to connect all your devices to the internet, you need a plan that allows you to do it: it is called ‘hot spotting’. When you ‘hot spot’, your phone becomes a wireless network that lets other phones, computers etc get online via the phone. The phone needs to sit where the signal is good while you are using it as a modem. 

Coverage: where can I get a signal? 

Your phone/internet provider has an online map that shows their coverage — where you can expect to get a signal. Mobile phones have stronger and more complete cover near towns and cities. Different providers share the towers. The coverage maps show the strength of the signal. There are dead zones with no coverage at all (no towers). 


The biggest complaint people make is about the speed of the internet when they are travelling. 

There are several reasons why the internet could be slow. You are comparing it to a fibre connection at home. Mobile broadband is slower than fibre. It just is. 

  • You are a long way from a tower, so the signal is weaker, or there is something between you and the tower. Try moving. 

  • The nearest tower has lesser capacity. Some towers have greater capacity than others. Areas with few people may well have lesser capacity — and a bevy of motorhomers enjoying the back of beyond at the same time might overload it. 

  • You are parked up with a bunch of other travellers who are all using the same tower at the same time to get online. (Netspeed, Wireless Nation and local providers are all using the same towers.) 

  • You, or your neighbours are doing something that uses a lot of data: downloading video, visual phone calls, online TV or listening to radio, all use quite a bit of data. 

  • The locals are busy and using the same tower at the same time. 

  • The modem or its connection needs refreshing: do a speed test (, and then talk to your provider. 


  • I hear people on Facebook saying ‘I am with xxx and I have no speed problems.’ This is not a big help: it all depends where they have been travelling, how far they have been from the mobile tower, when they tend to use the internet, and how many others are using it at the same time. 

  • There might be particular times when the towers are being overworked: before work; after school; evening entertainment time (video and TV use a lot of data). 

  • Try after 11pm, at 1am, at 6am: if the speed is good, then it is a competition problem. 



Having an aerial on the roof might improve your internet connection.


BY: Miriam Richardson

Photo: ©2022 Miriam Richardson

Next issue: How to choose an internet provider

I hear people on Facebook saying ‘I am with xxx and I have no speed problems.’
This is not a big help...

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