NetBuddy is an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) that offers its services to rural areas of the US where other options for high-speed internet are spotty or nonexistent.
They are among the cheapest options providing internet via the AT&T 4G LTE network when it comes to monthly subscription fees but have limited room for new customers. Here’s what you need to know…
Packages and Pricing
NetBuddy offers a single plan to customers for just $65 per month which offers 4G and LTE speeds as well as unlimited data with no caps according to their website.
To get this plan, you’ll have to buy a supported router or hotspot, but to make it difficult, NetBuddy doesn’t offer any directly. You have to buy them from a retailer, even if you just want to purchase an AT&T compatible SIM card.
Then you can purchase the remote activation service from the NetBuddy site afterward which takes between 30 minutes and 24 hours.
Unfortunately, there is very little information from NetBuddy on how their service and billing actually work, but it does say that SIM card activations are limited to Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 AM EST. If you try accessing activation at any other time, it will simply be listed as out of stock.
Network Management and Performance
NetBuddy states on their site that users will not be capped and they don’t manage the network. Still, as an MVNO, they don’t have much control over how AT&T—whose towers they use to offer their services—will limit connectivity.
Usually, AT&T direct customers will have priority on towers when it comes to access, connectivity, and bandwidth, while everyone else, which means customers of any MVNO using the same tower, will have lower priority. At times of congestion, this might cause lower speeds and even connectivity issues.
As a prepaid monthly service, there are no fees to worry about with NetBuddy. You just have to pay the $65 monthly fee to continue using the service.
NetBuddy Modem & Router Review
With NetBuddy, you actually have quite a number of router or hotspot options to choose from, but, as mentioned, you can’t purchase them directly. When buying from a retailer be sure to only choose routers that are compatible with 4G services and certified to work on the AT&T network.
Here are some of your options:
NETGEAR MR1100 Nighthawk M1 Mobile Router
Available from $249.99 this is a hotspot, meaning you can carry it with you and enjoy fast internet anywhere with good AT&T coverage. You can connect up to 20 devices on it, and keep it on battery power for up to 24 hours.
The Nighthawk has a dual-band Wi-Fi, something that most hotspots don’t have, so you can set up a guest network on it as well. The 1.4″ LCD display will give you information on data usage, signal quality, battery life, and the devices currently connected to it. The 5040 mAh battery lasts up to 24 hours and can even charge other devices thanks to the built-in USB port.
The hotspot comes with parental controls to filter websites and any content you want to keep away from your children’s eyes. In the package, you’ll get the device, battery cable, and a USB type C cable too.
ZTE MF279 Wi-Fi Router
Available between $133.99 to $160, depending on the retailer, this hotspot modem works with NetBuddy and supports 4G signal coverage from AT&T. But before it can work, you’ll need to change APN settings.
Teltonika RUT950 3G / 4G LTE Dual SIM High Availability Router with Wi-Fi MiFi
For a price of $279.00, you can get the Teltonika router with two SIM card slots, allowing you to create a redundancy option in the event you have connectivity issues. The router works on 4G LTE, 3G, and 2G networks, but if you choose this option, make sure you purchase the US version, which has the item model number RUT950 JG12C0, otherwise, it won’t work with NetBuddy.
NETGEAR 4G LTE Modem
The NETGEAR modem is available from $149.99 and offers ethernet-only connections; there is also no Wi-Fi connectivity. It supports 4G connection, with fallback support on 3G too with maximum supported speeds at 150Mbps download and 50Mbps upload.
In addition to routers and hotspots, you might have to purchase antennas that will boost the signal and improve your connection if you live in areas where coverage is spotty or there’s terrain that lowers signal strength.
You can choose from three booster options:
- Proxicast 4G / LTE Cross-Polarized Antenna for $99.95 – It offers 7-10 dBi High-Gain. Note that this is a directional antenna, so you’ll have to know how to set it up.
- External Wide Band Log Periodic Yagi Antenna for $85 – Boosts the signal up to 11dBi and comes with mounting hardware.
- Netgear 6000450 MIMO Antenna with 2 TS-9 Connectors for $32.99 – This can be used indoors and outdoors.
Features and Benefits
7-Day Test Period
NetBuddy allows you to test the service for 7-days and receive a full refund if you’re not satisfied. However, as you’ll be purchasing the hardware directly from the retailer you’ll need to check return options with them as well.
Customer service for NetBuddy seems very limited, with the only way to contact them being email. You can reach them at [email protected] but there’s no information on business hours or how long it takes to get a response.
This is a huge red flag, even for an MVNO and reseller. There are no contact forms, no FAQ section, no policies, or anything similar on the site.
Even after logging in to their website, you only get limited access to your account for orders, subscriptions, and downloads. The fact that you can log in as soon as you register, without having to confirm your email first, is quite concerning, as there seems to be no proper site security in place.
Customer testimonials are mixed. While some state they are happy customers who have been using them for years, others state that the download speeds, after the initial few months, tend to become lower, usually in the 5 to 10Mbps range.
In addition, if they have issues, they report it’s very hard to get any type of support to help, with the most common solution being to reset their devices.
Ways to Save on NetBuddy
As NetBuddy doesn’t force you to purchase hardware directly with them it means you can shop around for the best possible deal to save on hardware.
Also, there are no hidden or additional fees and with only one plan available it’s fairly easy to determine if you can afford their services or not.
Our Recommendation – NetBuddy
NetBuddy is an MVNO who resells AT&T 4G LTE services, so it’s a valid option for rural users who have good AT&T coverage. If you have existing AT&T hardware it’s worth trying them out as the rolling monthly fees make it easy to switch over and cancel if necessary.
That said, for customers looking around, it might be worth looking at other options. Primarily because NetBuddy has the most limited offering from all the rural options reviewed until now. The website is poorly designed, lacking support, help, or legal information, and their customer service appears to be fairly non-existent.
While the monthly fee of only $65 sounds enticing, the red flags surrounding support, features, and transparency is a cause for concern.