Tech

Nomad Internet Review: Keeping You Connected With a Wireless, Cellular Setup

Nomad Internet launched as an internet service provider in 2017 to help bridge the digital divide by connecting rural community members and people on the go — everyone from farmers and remote workers who regularly travel for business to those in the recreational vehicle lifestyle. To accomplish this, Nomad Internet uses 4G LTE mobile networks from major carriers to bring internet connectivity to its customers.

The company’s approach — no contract, no cancellation fees — makes it a compelling choice for those with few broadband options. The main caveat? Since it’s a third-party vendor using other providers’ networks, the internet speeds you receive might vary greatly.  

Like

  • Unlimited data
  • No contracts required
  • Freedom to connect just about anywhere in the US

Don’t Like

  • High upfront costs
  • Competitive rates for rural internet, but pricier than cable or fiber
  • Internet speeds are not guaranteed

Still, at the very least, Nomad Internet is a valid alternative in places where good connections are few and far between, and with no contracts or cancellation fees, it’s easy enough to test it out for a week to see if it’ll suit your needs. But let’s go a little deeper into the details. 

What to know about Nomad Internet

Nomad Internet provides wireless, high-speed internet to travelers and rural areas across the US using the 4G LTE cellular technology of major carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile. The company mission statement is, “We believe that just because a person chooses to live in a rural area doesn’t mean they should have overpriced or slow internet.” Indeed, a good rural internet connection can be frustratingly hard to find.

Nomad currently provides service for over 20,000 customers across those geographic and vocational groups. Take a peek at the company blog, and you’ll find columns like “An RV Is Ideal for Running a Small Business,” “Get Internet for the Great Outdoors, It Will Change Your Life,” and “How Rural Farmers Can Leverage the Internet to Reach New Customers.” You’ll quickly get the sense of how Nomad is catering to those in rural and underserved communities and “traveling nomads.”

Nomad Internet speeds and plan costs

One particular aspect of Nomad Internet might take you off guard — the internet speeds aren’t guaranteed. Nomad aims to provide its customers with high-speed, 4G LTE internet service, but the actual speeds will depend on your location and proximity to a given cell tower. That said, there is some structure to the pricing. Here are the specifics:

Plan One-time membership fee Monthly rate Data cap Term agreement
Work Anywhere Plan (Wi-Fi Router) $99 $149 None Not required
Strong Pink Plan (Travel Wi-Fi Router) $99 $149 None Not required
Strong Pink Plan (Wi-Fi Router) $99 $149 None Not required
Strong Pink (Bring Your Own Device) Annual Plan None $900 (one-time payment for the year) None Not required

Nomad Internet speeds are a bit of an enigma

The biggest issue in the chart above is what’s missing: download and upload speeds. When you read the Nomad Internet terms of service on the site, it’s put this way: “Nomad Internet does not offer, disclose or guarantee minimum speeds. All memberships are provided on an as-is basis and throughput speeds are not guaranteed.” 

Comments from users on the Nomad Internet page indicate a typical download speed range of 60 to 70 megabits per second. Additionally, the site mentions, “We’ve had reports of over 150Mbps for those who are close to a cell tower, and about 1Mbps [for those] that are several miles away from a tower.” 

This is all to give you a general idea of what you might be getting, but it cannot be overstated — the nature of the cellular connection makes it near impossible to guarantee the speeds you’ll receive. There are just too many variables, mainly your proximity to the nearest tower, the level of data congestion in your area and the number of physical and geographical barriers obstructing your signal.

Nomad equipment is a simpler proposition

Nomad Internet offers two types of equipment. The hotspot (a travel Wi-Fi router), geared toward people on the go, frequent travelers and those living the RV life, is battery-powered and brings Wi-Fi with you. You can expect to connect a maximum of 15 connected devices to the hotspot. 

Images of Nomad routers on the site may not reflect the device you actually receive.


Screenshot by Trey Paul/CNET

Meanwhile, the Nomad router would most commonly be used in homes. It has ethernet ports and you should be able to connect over 200 devices to it without issue. A Nomad spokesperson shared that the company’s main goal is to mitigate hassle and confusion for its customers by checking the towers and service providers in their area based on the ZIP code.

“Every plan with Nomad comes preconfigured, with updated hardware, and everything is tested in our offices to ensure it’s set up before we ship,” the spokesperson said.  

There’s also an option to forgo using Nomad Internet equipment and go with your own device. This option, which is essentially the provision of a SIM card, does not require a one-time membership fee in addition to a monthly fee. Instead, it calls for a one-time payment of $900 for the year. That might seem rather hefty, but it works out to $75 a month for the year, approximately half the cost of Nomad’s other plans. That’s a lot of money to pay out at once, but if you’ve already bought a router you like that’s capable of receiving a cellular connection, then it’s worth considering because it’ll save you money in the long run.

Additional factors to consider with Nomad Internet

If you’ve been following along with us on our ISP reviews — and I sincerely hope you have! — then you’ve probably noticed that we recommend avoiding term agreements and the stiff cancellation fees that accompany them whenever possible. Nomad Internet meets that challenge by requiring no contracts, credit checks or cancellation fees. Overall, you’ll find some fairly consumer-friendly terms. But let’s get into the weeds a little bit so you can better understand what you’ll be paying. 

No installation fees or additional monthly charges

There are no additional fees beyond the charges given in the plan chart. Nomad Internet customers don’t have to pay an installation fee or activation charge for starting their service.  

However, if you lose your equipment or fail to return it after canceling your service, you’ll be charged a device replacement fee of $140 for a hotspot and $300 for a router. 

No data caps

Unlike many rural internet options, including satellite providers HughesNet and Viasat, which impose monthly data restrictions, Nomad Internet has no data caps. Nomad frequently uses the phrase “up to unlimited data,” with the implication being that you won’t need to track your data usage for fear of incurring overage charges once you pass a certain threshold. 

That’s certainly true. Nomad Internet will not charge any data overage fees. However, because it’s a third-party vendor that does not have the final say over the cellular network it’s using, Nomad Internet customers may have their data deprioritized by the mobile companies. It’s not uncommon for phone carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon to prioritize their own customers in times of congestion or high traffic.

High upfront costs, but improvements on the way

Although Nomad Internet customers don’t face a credit check, all subscriptions must have a valid credit card on file for automatic payment. This is because Nomad Internet is essentially a month-to-month, prepaid service where you pay ahead for 30 days. That’s not entirely uncommon. But when we first reviewed Nomad, you also had to pay a one-time membership fee that ranged from $149 to $199, depending on the plan you choose. Combine that with your first month of service and your first payment out of the gate would have been either $298 (for the mobile hotspot) or $348 (for the home Wi-Fi router). That’s hefty.

Subsequently, Nomad considered that note and has now lowered its membership fee down to a flat rate of $99. “We took to heart how a $149-$199 hardware rate could potentially be quite burdensome to a new customer,” a Nomad spokesperson said. “Our goal and mission is to continue to serve underprivileged communities, and if the point of entry is a barrier, we can fix that.”

Another safety net that Nomad Internet provides is a seven-day, money-back guarantee that lets you try the service for a week. If you find it doesn’t meet your expectations (maybe the speeds are unsatisfactory or you’re unable to get consistent service over 4G LTE), you can return the equipment for a full refund of both your membership fee and first monthly payment. 

Be aware, though: Before returning the equipment, you must first notify billing@nomadinternet.com of your intent to cancel so the company can send out a free return label for your equipment. Without that label (and the tracking information associated with it), you will not qualify for your full refund.

Aggressive referral program with decent benefits

Nomad Internet often refers to its customers as its connected community. It helps foster that atmosphere by encouraging customers to participate in its Nomad Bucks system. You can score points for various actions — including 500 for signing up, 500 for a Facebook share, 5,000 for a follow on Twitter — and those points can be converted to credit toward your bill, at a rate of $5 off your internet service for every 500 Nomad Bucks you earn. 

You can also refer family and friends to Nomad Internet with a unique URL code given to you when you sign up. If you refer someone and they sign up with your code, they’ll get $25 off one month’s service and you’ll get one free month of internet. It should be noted that for each of you to qualify, the new customer must maintain service beyond the seven-day trial period. 

Each time you refer a new person with your URL code, you’ll get another free month. If you refer five or more people to Nomad Internet, you qualify for its Free Internet for Life program. This means you no longer have to pay for monthly service. However, the small print is you must have at least five active referrals maintaining accounts with Nomad. If one of your referrals bails after a couple of months and your number of referred, active accounts drops below five, you lose your discount.  

Customer satisfaction scores are decent for an ISP

Nomad Internet doesn’t have a sizable enough customer base to register a rating with either the JD Power US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study for 2021 or the American Customer Satisfaction Index, two surveys we frequently use to gauge how ISPs fare on equal footing. Instead, we turned to the Better Business Bureau. Nomad Internet received an average score of 2.99 out of 5 points from nearly 900 customer reviews. While that might not seem great on the surface, it’s actually above average for an ISP and well above the scores for such bigger names as Charter Spectrum (1.07), HughesNet (1.02), Frontier (1.03) and Viasat (1.03).

Of the most recent complaints lodged with the BBB, three out of four were “Billing/Collection Issues” instead of “Problems with the Product/Service.” This made sense after we noted that several of the issues stemmed from confusion over Nomad’s policy requiring customers to notify the company of the intent to cancel, after which Nomad sends out a return label for all products. If a customer returns the equipment without the label, billing will often continue even after service ends.

Most complaints appear to have been satisfactorily rectified, but Nomad’s return policy does seem to be a major stumbling block for folks. A spokesperson shared with CNET that Nomad is aware and is implementing new processes for its cancellation policy to help mitigate some of the billing issues.

What’s the verdict on Nomad Internet?

Nomad Internet serves an admirable purpose by providing a reliable internet source for underserved communities often overlooked by traditional wireline services. But depending on your location and proximity to cellular service, the performance of the service will vary. Translation: It’s certainly best to try before you buy. 

As such, I’d love to see Nomad further extend the time frame on that trial period — that seven-day window is a little tight to really run the service through its paces — but it’s certainly better than having to blindly commit and then being tethered by a long-term contract to a service that doesn’t accomplish what you need. In that respect, Nomad Internet tries to do right by its customers and give them options they might not otherwise have. 

Nomad Internet FAQs

Does Nomad Internet have data caps?

Technically, no. Nomad Internet does not enforce a data cap. However, because it’s a third-party vendor dependent on the networks of several major mobile carriers, the final say is in the hands of another party. Or, put another way, Nomad Internet will not cap your data, “but data limitations, speeds and availability may vary based on the discretion of the providing network.” 

Can you use your own router with Nomad Internet?

Yes. Nomad offers a yearly plan for $900 that includes a SIM card that can be used with the customer’s preferred equipment. There is no membership fee required for this annual plan. 

Is Nomad Internet faster than satellite internet?

Potentially, yes. While Nomad Internet does not guarantee a specific download speed, it could reach anywhere from 30Mbps to 150Mbps for maximum download speed (per the speed performance of AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s 4G LTE networks, which power much of Nomad’s customer base). A satellite provider like HughesNet, for example, tops out at 25Mbps download speed, while Viasat can potentially hit 100Mbps in some areas. It will be critical for customers to do a trial run with Nomad to see what download speeds you can get in your area.

Nomad Internet Review: Keeping You Connected With a Wireless, Cellular Setup Source link Nomad Internet Review: Keeping You Connected With a Wireless, Cellular Setup

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