- Unlimited data
- No contracts required
- Freedom to connect just about anywhere in the US
- High upfront costs
- Competitive rates for rural internet, but pricier than cable or fiber
- Internet speeds are not guaranteed
Nomad Internet, which launched as an internet service provider in 2017, welcomed 2023 by announcing new plans, a spiffy new mobile app and a press release touting it as the largest national rural wireless internet service provider in the US. How it came upon that proclamation is unclear. T-Mobile Home Internet, another national WISP that made a lot of noise in 2022, has more total customers (over 2 million) and touts that 35% of its total availability is in rural areas (though granted, that doesn't mean that 35% of its customers are in rural locations).
We reached out to Nomad Internet for further clarity on the claim but have yet to hear back for comment. In the meantime, let's talk more about the ISP. It aims 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 and 5G networks 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 may vary greatly.
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 30 days 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 and 5G cellular technology of major carriers like Verizon, 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 serves 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 understand how Nomad caters to those in rural and underserved communities and "traveling nomads."
Nomad Internet plans
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 and 5G 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 equipment fee||Monthly rate||Data cap||Term agreement|
|Nomad Residential Plan||$299||$110||None||Not required|
|Nomad Business Plan||$499||$250||None||Not required|
|Nomad Travel Plan||$299||$130||None||Not required|
|Bring Your Own Device||None||$150||300GB||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 nearly 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 fairly straightforward
Nomad Internet offers three types of equipment. The Nomad Air (an indoor modem for travel and residential customers), Nomad Raptor (an indoor modem geared towards businesses) and Nomad Ark (a residential outdoor modem). All three are aimed at people on the go, frequent travelers and those living the RV life. Each includes the modem, an ethernet cable, a power supply and a power cable.
The Nomad Air, which would be most commonly used, is a Wi-Fi 6 device that can support up to 30 connected devices without issue. A Nomad spokesperson shared that the company's main goal is to mitigate customer hassle and confusion.
"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. Essentially providing a SIM card, this option does not require a one-time equipment fee. Instead, it calls for a $150 monthly payment to access 300GB of high-speed internet.
Other factors to consider with Nomad Internet
If you've been following our ISP reviews -- and I sincerely hope you have! -- then you've probably noticed that we recommend, whenever possible, avoiding term agreements and the stiff cancellation fees that accompany them. 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 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 to start their service. However, there is a one-time activation fee required for each subscription.
Additionally, if you lose your equipment or fail to return it after canceling your service, you'll be charged a device replacement fee of $250-$450.
No data caps, for the most part
Unlike many rural internet options, including satellite providers HughesNet and Viasat, which impose monthly data restrictions, Nomad Internet has no data caps (except the tier where you use your own equipment -- there's a 300GB per month cap on that one). Nomad frequently uses the phrase "up to unlimited data." The implication is 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 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...
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 keep in mind that you'll need to pay your one-time equipment fee (typically $299) and your first month of service. Combine those two charges, and your first payment out of the gate will be either $409 (for the residential plan) or $429 (for the travel plan). Either way, that's hefty.
One safety net that Nomad Internet provides is a 30-day, money-back guarantee that lets you try the service out. Find it doesn't meet your expectations (maybe the speeds are unsatisfactory), or you cannot get consistent service over the network. You can return the equipment for a full refund of your equipment fee and first monthly payment.
Be aware: Before returning the equipment, notify firstname.lastname@example.org of your intent to cancel so the company can send out a free return label. You will not qualify for your full refund without that label (and the associated tracking information).
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, and 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.
When you sign up, you can refer family and friends to Nomad Internet with a unique URL code. 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.
You'll get another free month when you refer a new person with your URL code. 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 J.D. Power's US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study 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 2.9 out of 5 points from over 950 customer reviews. While that might not seem stellar on the surface, it's significantly above average for an ISP and well above the scores for such bigger names as Charter Spectrum (1.07), HughesNet (1.03), Frontier (1.05) and Viasat (1.03).
Among the 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 issues stemmed from confusion over Nomad's policy requiring customers to notify the company of the intent to cancel. Nomad then 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 Nomad Internet will vary. Translation: It's certainly best to try before you buy.
As such, I'm glad to see Nomad extend the time frame on that trial period -- it was initially a seven-day window, which was too tight to properly run the service through its paces. Unlike other rural internet options -- like satellite internet -- you don't have to blindly commit and then be 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. 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). For example, a satellite provider like HughesNet tops out at 25Mbps download speed, while Viasat can potentially hit 150Mbps in some areas. It will be critical for customers to do a trial run with Nomad to see what download speeds they can get in their area.