Wi-Fi Wonder - RV Enthusiast Magazine

Wi-Fi Wonder

by | Aug 3, 2021 | Accessories, Staying Connected, Technology

Signal strength is strong enough to sit in or outside of your RV and surf the internet, read RV Enthusiast or watch a favorite movie from a streaming provider.
Photos by Chris Hemer
Travelers frustrated with RV park signals and throttled-back cell data service can look to Nomad Internet for truly unlimited 4G LTE connections
Relying on RV park internet service and/or cell-provider data hotspots is an exercise in futility. Most Wi-Fi systems in RV parks are pretty basic and are usually only fast enough to check e-mail and Facebook — try streaming in a campground and get ready to have your knuckles slapped and service disconnected. Travelers who work on the road, spend time on video calls and enjoy streaming are pretty much out of luck using campground internet — and will usually get throttled back quickly by cell providers who are pretty tight with their data allocations but not shy about pricing.

Then too, one of the greatest marketing farces in modern times revolves around “unlimited” data claims by cell phone providers. While providers technically never truly “turn off” data service to those subscribing to unlimited plans, they will throttle back speed after going through 20 GB or so of hotspot data usage, depending on the monthly payment level. In the real world, even entry-level technoids will go through that in a few days.

an internet router
Nomad Internet experts will help choose the right router for the customer’s needs. In our case, the company provided a Dionlink router with four articulating antennas. The router is placed on the counter adjacent to the dinette, close to a large window.
After struggling with less-than-stellar data service while on the road, I met a young couple who were full-timers and work in the tech sector. They enlightened me on the various systems that were available to tech-savvy roadies and recommended Nomad Internet. This company resells cellular data provided by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon to subscribers, who can choose a plan that works best for their needs. As a cell phone customer for more than 20 years, my first reaction was probably parallel to what most road warriors who already have service were thinking: What’s the difference? In a nutshell, truly unlimited service and enough bandwidth to participate on video calls and stream TV/online programming.

Nomad Internet is one of a number of providers with a similar service offering, but according to my newfound tech buddies, the company is more user-friendly for non-geeks and is service-oriented. Activation and set-up could not be easier.

The first step is to decide on the service plan that best fits your needs. Nomad designates each service level by color and availability is fluid, so you’ll have to go online and check out what’s offered at the time. Basically, there are three levels of service: The Strong Pink plan, powered by T-Mobile; a Very Blue plan tied to AT&T service; and the top dog Deep Red plan that uses Verizon service. Monthly pricing can fluctuate, but at press time was $129 per month for the Strong Pink and $149 for the Deep Red; the Very Blue was out of stock at the time.

a SIM card slot
A SIM card is provided by the company and is installed in the router before shipping. Nomad Internet warns users to not remove the SIM card and install it into other devices; doing so may deactivate the card and require an additional fee for set-up. Also, customers should not perform a hard reset on the router as it may trigger an additional set-up fee.
Deciding on a plan is subjective and dependent on coverage in the areas where users frequent. I subscribe to Verizon and my wife, Lynne, is set up with AT&T, so we pretty much always have service. Since Verizon has been a bit more reliable for our needs, we chose the Deep Red plan.

Getting started requires new-service registration online and only takes a few minutes. The one-time cost of $199 (promotional price at press time; regular membership price is $249) includes the Wi-Fi router, which will arrive ready to receive signals. There’s no contract to sign, no credit check and the monthly service charge can be set for autopay. There is one caveat: If you discontinue service at the end of a long trip, for example, a new membership fee will be required for reinstatement. That being the case, it might be prudent to also use this service while at home rather than subscribing to a more conventional provider.

the label on the unit with information
A label affixed to the underside of the router provides the network name and password. At first this was a little confusing because the password was actually named “WiFi Key.” A quick note sent via the chat box online got us the clarification we needed.
Nomad will choose the right router for your needs, which in my case is a model with a Dionlink nameplate and four attached, articulating antennas. The router power converter simply plugs into a 120-volt AC receptacle; once plugged in, the router will provide a 4G LTE data connection for all of your devices. The SIM card is already installed and the password for the account is on a label affixed to the underside of the device, which is quite compact and lightweight. The set-up instructions suggest that the router sit initially for an hour or two so that it can link with the bands in the area. We move around a lot and have found that the router links up within minutes after re-establishing power.
Nomad instructions
Even a macho guy will read these instructions. Everything you need to know about setting up the Normad Internet router is on one page. Three cheers for easy!
When dry camping, the router is powered by the inverter. Travelers who frequent primitive locations without 120-volt AC or have no inverter can opt for a portable router, but it, too, will need power for recharging the battery. When opting for the travel router, the membership cost was offered for $149 (regularly $199).

Does it Work?

So far, so good. A computer, three iPads, an iPod, two smart TVs and two smartphones are connected whenever the router is on, which is virtually 24/7. If you have a need to leave your inverter on while traveling and the router is secured (we don’t), there’s really no reason to ever turn it off.

During three months of travel through 11 states, it never missed a beat. We didn’t allow ourselves to get stressed out about signal strength based on the visible bars on the phone with Verizon service and we did not run speed tests — our testing was simply real world. The router provided uninterrupted service, even when the phone had a limited signal, allowing video calling and streaming on demand. Working on RV Enthusiast magazine on the road requires downloading large files and heavy reliance on Dropbox and other digital tools.

As mentioned earlier, the decision to go with Nomad was predicated on customer service. I have contacted the company online a number of times and response was fantastic.
For those who use the device/service in fringe areas, an external antenna can be attached to the RV and connected to the router via cabling, which will improve signal strength. We also have a weBoost system installed in our rig and we’ve never had to use it — although we anticipate its use when we start heading West to less-populated areas (updates will be posted on www.rventhusiast.com). If, by chance, the selected service plan does not work in your area(s), the company offers a seven-day, no risk provision.

Equally impressive is the range of the router. In our fifth wheel, the router is placed on a countertop next to a large window and signal strength is excellent anywhere inside the RV and on the outside patio. In fact, while staying at a Harvest Host location, I carried my computer inside the restaurant that was across a large parking lot — and the signal was still strong enough to go online. Of course, range will vary depending on terrain and location, but users will easily have enough signal strength to use their devices at a neighbor’s RV site.

As mentioned earlier, the decision to go with Nomad was predicated on customer service. I have contacted the company online a number of times and response was fantastic (while the company provides a phone number, calls were not being taken at press time due to the Covid pandemic). Customers can chat online with technical personnel, which works very well. Nomad’s website is complete, providing all the information anyone needs to make the decision to join.

One more thing: The company has a right to alter service if you’re deemed a “data hog.” Not sure what that means, but reviewers online have mentioned 400GB for the month. I spend hours on video calls, browsing websites, checking e-mail, listening to music, streaming Netflix and working the edit files for this magazine; my wife is addicted to Facebook. If we need more data than that, it’s probably time to get our lives readjusted.


Nomad Internet

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