Competitive rates for rural internet, but pricier than cable or fiber
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Editor's note, June 30: Since our last look at Nomad Internet in April 2023, Ken Paxton, attorney general of Texas, filed a lawsuit against the internet company for violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices - Consumer Protection Act. It alleges the perpetration of deceptive schemes misrepresenting its relationship with wireless internet providers.
Nomad Internet responded in a press release, "We regret that the Texas Attorney General's announcement of its probe of Nomad Internet's services through the period between 2020 and 2022 fails to acknowledge key facts, causing confusion among consumers." We reached out to Nomad Internet for additional comment and will update this review as more information becomes available and to better reflect these recent developments. Our original story follows.
Anyway, let's talk more about Nomad. 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 people with a 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.
Locating local internet providers
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.
Nomad Internet: Overview
Nomad Internet provides wireless, high-speed internet to travelers and rural areas across the US using the 4G LTE and 5G cellular technology of the major carrier of Verizon. 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 and pricing
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:
One-time membership fee
Nomad Residential Plan
Nomad Air Travel Plan
Nomad Unlimited Power Plan
Nomad Internet: Speeds can be 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."
That said, Nomad's site claims that all plans feature download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, with the Power Plan featuring download speeds of up to 200Mbps.
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 Internet: Equipment is more clear-cut
Nomad Internet offers three types of equipment. The Nomad Cube (an indoor modem for travel and residential customers), Nomad Air (a residential outdoor modem for "in-motion" use) and the Nomad Raptor, geared towards business use and featuring multiple LAN ports. 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.
Nomad Internet: Other factors to consider
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 $140-$300.
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. 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 the mobile company. It's not uncommon for phone carriers like Verizon to prioritize their own customers in times of congestion or high traffic.
High upfront costs, but...
Though 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 isn't entirely uncommon. But keep in mind that you'll need to pay your one-time equipment fee ($399 for the residential plan) and pony up for your first month of service. Combine those two charges, and your first payment out of the gate will be $508 (for more if you opt for the travel or power plans). That's hefty.
One buffer Nomad offers is a limited-time deal for a reduced membership fee. Currently, the residential plan is down from $399 to $49, the air travel plan is $299 (reduced from $599) and the power plan is also $299 (down from the regular $799).
Another safety net Nomad Internet provides is a seven-day, money-back guarantee that lets you try out the service. If you find it doesn't meet your expectations (maybe the speeds are unsatisfactory), or you can't 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, you must call the Customer Cancellation Line at 512-668-1239 to notify your intent to cancel so the company can generate a Return Authorization Number. You won't qualify for your full refund without that.
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 Partner Program. You can score points for various actions -- including reviewing the service, reselling it, sharing on social media and more -- and those points can be converted to discounts on products or to PayPal cash bonuses.
Nomad Internet vs. competitors: Decent customer satisfaction scores for an ISP
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. If a customer returns the equipment without notifying Nomad, 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.
Nomad Internet: The final verdict
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'd like to see Nomad extend the time frame on that trial period -- the seven-day window is too tight to properly run the service through its paces. On the plus side, 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 Verizon mobile network, the final say is in the hands of another company. 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. You can certainly use your own router with Nomad Internet, though all their plans feature gateway equipment that includes a modem and Wi-Fi 6 router. Most customers shouldn't need to use a router beyond the given equipment, but if you already have one you prefer, you most certainly could.
Is Nomad Internet faster than satellite internet?
Potentially, yes. While Nomad Internet does not guarantee a specific download speed, it could reach anywhere from 100Mbps to 200Mbps for maximum download speed (based on which plan you have). 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.
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Trey PaulSenior Editor
Trey Paul is a CNET senior editor covering broadband. His 20+ years of experience as a writer and editor include time at CNET's sister site, Allconnect, and working with clients like Yahoo!, Google, The New York Times and Choice Hotels. An avid movie fan, Trey's career also includes being a film and TV critic while pursuing a degree in New York.
ExpertiseHome internet and broadband, including plans, providers, internet speeds and connection types. Movies and film studies.Credentials
Master's degree in Cinema Studies from NYU and interviews with Conan O'Brien, Stan Lee and some of his biggest Star Trek childhood idols