It’s a question that dates back to when dinosaurs roamed the planet…
Okay, so maybe not that far.
Nevertheless, it’s a question that pops up a lot. Mobile broadband is becoming increasing popular for a number of reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason is cost and convenience. For not much more than the cost of Cable or DSL, just about anyone could have a broadband card that sticks into their laptop. And just like that, they get broadband speeds anywhere in the country they travel. It’s excellent especially if you’re out working more than you are at your house. It just makes sense.
There’s not much that can be said about convenience. What more can you say than being able to connect anytime and anyplace. Wondering if a WiFi hotspot costs money or if its even their becomes a thing of the past. Power went out? No problem. How about we MapQuest the nearest restaurant in this new city? The possibilities are endless. Oh, and you can check email too.
But you already knew that.
You’re here to find out who’s the best amongst the plethora of available options. You might have heard of satellite broadband, mobile broadband and even WiMAX. I’ll help you set the record straight with some easy but detailed guidelines on how to pick the best mobile broadband provider.
Should I go Prepaid or Contract?
It all depends.
Essentially, there are two kinds of prepaid mobile broadband plans:
1. Plans designed for long-term use
2. Plans designed for intermittent short-term use
It’s important to mention the notable differences between prepaid mobile broadband and ‘contracted’ mobile broadband. While we compare prepaid to contract mobile broadband, bear in mind that we’re comparing the plans designed for long-term use (by Cricket).
Why? To cut a long story short, Cricket is the best in terms of long-term prepaid mobile broadband at the moment. For the full story on that, check out the 2009 Prepaid Mobile Broadband Comparison. To keep the length of this lesson down, we summarize the differences below:
Prepaid vs. Contract Mobile Broadband
- No contract
- No credit check
- No Early Termination Fee
- Limited Broadband Card Selection
- Pay anywhere from $50 – $200 for equipment + setup
- Plans can be cheaper ($40 – $60)
- Variety of plans – Short-term & Long-term plans
- Mixture of average and fast speeds. Coverage can be limited
- 2 year contracts normal
- Credit check
- Early Termination Fee up to $200
- Wide Range of Broadband Cards
- Deeply discounted cards (free & sometimes make $100)
- Plans usually ($60)
- Long Term plans
- Faster Speeds, Better Reliability and Expansive Coverage
If you’re looking to cut costs, then prepaid may be the way to go. However, they may or may not have coverage where you need it. For a more stable, faster and reliable connection, contracted mobile broadband will have your back for a higher cost.
What To Look For In A Provider
While tempting, its normally not a good idea to go with a provider just based on how much they cost. While price is important, no one wants a car that breaks down the day after they buy it.
In no particular order, there are about 5 major things to look for in a provider:
* Customer Service
Most mobile broadband providers have settled around $60 for 5 Gigabytes per month. While this is changing as Sprint and Clearwire roll out WiMAX, it’s still the norm. The only exception to this unwritten rule is Alltel (and a few prepaid mobile broadband carriers).
T-Mobile’s Wireless Internet is unlimited and runs about $50 per month. The catch is that their 3G network is still expanding. While this is slowly changing with the FCC clearing their first broadband card, it’s not something to lose sleep over.
AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and most recently T-Mobile, all cap their mobile broadband plans at 5 Gigabytes per month. Naturally, the next question one might ask is how much can 5 GB get me? Great question. We cover that in the next lesson. In addition to implementing caps, they’ve also got overage charges. While none of them are good, some will perform a bloody massacre on your bank account if you’re not careful.