It has taken us nearly two weeks, but we finally have internet set up here at the new place. When we made an offer on this house, we asked our internet provider if they serviced the area. They assured us that yes, we would be able to transfer our service there. The day before we moved, I called to schedule the transfer. The customer service rep quickly informed me that they did not service the address, and that we were so far out of service area that the company would not even do a survey to consider putting a line out there. After hanging up, a quick check on the website allowed me to order service for the new address, so I called right back. The new rep did a bit of digging and informed me that we were only .66 miles out of service area. However, the construction department quoted upwards of $100k to expand service to our new address. They told us that unless the county or the town took on at least part of the cost, it wasn’t gonna happen.
Thoroughly frustrated, we resigned ourselves to searching out other options. AT&T is out here, but numerous folks told us that service was unreliable and downtime happened regularly. The speeds were also slow: up to 25 mbps but usually 10 mbps or less. Two satellite companies are out here offering a decent amount of data at speeds of 12-25 mpbs for upwards of $100 a month. One of them will throttle the speeds to 3-5 mbps when you go over your limit. Thanks, but no thanks. Still not reliable enough for work from home.
We moved on a Friday, and on Saturday I recalled that I had peviously used a Verizon Mifi hotspot device nearly seven years ago, prior to getting married. The cost had been reasonable then and the data plans adequate. I decided to look into what AT&T offered, since they have the best coverage in our area. Well, all that is available for hotspots through them is 10 GB of data for $50/month, with caveats of throttling speeds after that 10 GB. Not a good deal if you need internet for work and can’t afford to have it throttled in the middle of a data-heavy project. But it was likely going to be the fastest speeds, so we chose to go that route.
I started by first looking into device options. AT&T offers a newer device, the NETGEAR Nighthawk M1 Mobile HotSpot router. It is a solid little device according to several reviews and articles. As I scrolled through the Amazon comment section for the device, one mentioned that unlimited data plans were available through resellers, for less than $100/month. Off I went into the underbelly of the internet, trying to find this mythical creature. (Or so it seemed. Things seemed to get sketchy and scammy quite fast with my initial searches.) I found one company that seemed okay but the website was lackluster, leaving me feeling a bit uncomfortable. More searching discovered that the service was fine but the customer service lacked and there was an issue some folks had with having to reactivate service every single month.
I kept searching. In various trucking and RV forums, OTR Mobile was mentioned as a reliable AT&T hotspot data reseller service. They have a better website (sometimes a good sign), sell the Netgear Nighthawk M1 modem, and offer unlimited data hotspot month-to-month plans for $60/month – less than what we were paying for our cabled internet. We’ve decided to try them.
Originally we planned to purchase the Netgear Nighthawk M1, but it was pretty pricey and I wasn’t ready to go the eBay route to find a cheaper one just yet. The other company that I had considered recommended a Netgear LB1120 for rural users. I looked into that, since it’s cheaper. I came across a forum post on Texags.com discussing the LB1120 and various other modems, used with OTR Mobile. We ended up choosing a modem recommended in the thread, a Cradlepoint CB850, purchased from LTEFix.com. It’s going to do a better job at picking up signal, therefore enabling faster speeds (to a degree) than the smaller hotspots.
We purchased the $100 “bring your own device and purchase a SIM card and 1 month of internet” plan from OTR Mobile the same day.
The modem and the SIM card arrived this past Wednesday, but I waited until after the kids were in bed to activate the internet service. Something you should note, OTR Mobile has some different hours for customer service. You have to live chat or call them to provide your SIM or account number in order to get activated. Since I tried to do it after hours, we ended up activating it on Thursday instead.
Here is my office in it’s temporary kitchen location. Apologies for the terrible picture quality. I really do have such a cheap phone with an awful, nearly useless camera. Anyway, with the Cradlepoint you will need a wireless router (which we already had) if you want to setup wifi rather than plugging the Ethernet cable directly into your computer.
It’s only been two days, but the internet is generally snappy. Mr. Norseman ran an initial speed test and was getting speeds of 34 mbps down and 14 mbps up. Tonight it is varying – the last test showed 19 mbps down and 11 mbps up. With our cabled internet provider at the old house, we typically got 50 mpbs down and 10 mbps up – and we were paying for 100/50.
- You have to live in an area that gets good reception from AT&T cell towers. About 20 minutes east of us is a giant dead zone. This solution would not have worked there.
- Read through the entire thread on Texasags.com. Some folks chose other modems and I figure they will work just fine. The Cradlepoint modem may be a little bit intimidating to some folks. It’s pretty straightforward, I think, but then I’m married to an engineer and he’s taught me a few things.
- If you really need a powerful modem, you should still probably get the Cradlepoint. It can be expensive so we got a refurbished one.
- There was a lot of talk about CAT 3, CAT 6, etc. modems in that thread. This is what you need to know: a category 3 (CAT 3) device is limited to transmitting 100 mbps down/ 50 mbps up. That is also what OTR Mobile is limited to. You won’t need anything other than a CAT 3 modem if you choose a Cradlepoint
- I’ll update this post after we’ve had the service for two months.
- This is what ended up working for us. There is no guarantee that this will work for everyone in every rural area.
- This is not a sponsored post and we aren’t paid anything for any of it.
UPDATE 10/08/2019: Well, it took me far longer than two months, but here is the update: We did not purchase the 30-Day Renewal plan when we signed up, in case we didn’t like the service. It resulted in a day and night of no internet. I contacted them the next day during customer service’s hours, and this time we chose the 30-Day Renewal plan. There have been a couple of times where the internet felt laggy and once when it inexplicably went down for a night, but overall we are pleased with the speeds and lack of hassle.
Looking at their website today, it looks like they are discontinuing that particular plan and replacing it with a monthly subscription service of Unlimited Wifi for the same price. There is also a new 1 year plan that is $5 cheaper a month, but you do have to pay up-front. We will update again if anything significant changes.