2 year mobile broadband contracts aren’t for everyone. Neither is having prepaid wireless broadband hotspots all across the country.
Sometimes, you just need to be able to get online for a couple days while you’re at a business conference, on vacation, or RV’ing across the country on a road trip. That’s where mobile broadband rental comes in.
Rather some kind of fee if you cancel, it may make more sense to rent mobile broadband and pay just for the short time you use it. While there are a number of different providers, the natural question becomes:
So who do I pick?
Last year, I covered 5 mobile broadband rental companies. While there’s only more more provider (DayPass Wireless) this year, they’re posed to shake up the competition.
The Nominees Are:
- DayPass Wireless
- Event Radio Rentals
First up, a summary. The real devil is in the details that follow.
It takes a bit of 1984 Orwellian double-think to understand plan rates. To get the cheapest rate listed usually requires a rental of 30 days or more for most carriers. Since mobile broadband rental for 30 days or more usually defeats the purpose of renting (read: saving money), the effective rate you’ll be getting will be the higher short-term rate.
To help understand what’s happening, here’s two charts I put together with the available prices from each provider. The first looks at the price per day while the second looks at the total rates you’ll be paying over a period of 30 days:
Daily Rate Comparison
Up until the end of the first week, RovAir, Event Radio Rentals and DayPass Wireless daily rates are quite close. DayPass Wireless eventually pulls away to be the cheapest over time. On the other hand, AirCardRental holds middle ground while WiFiRents battles it out with CellHire for the most expensive rates.
Total Amount You’ll Pay Over 4 Weeks
RovAir and Event Radio Rentals have practically identical rates. They both turn out to be slightly cheaper than DayPass Wireless for the first 2 weeks. Afterwards, DayPass Wireless emerges as the clear winner in the price.
AirCardRental.com and Cellhire.com weren’t included here.Things simply looked incredibly confusing with an additional 2 providers on this graph.
Taking that the above into consideration, the best rate award goes to:
1. DayPass Wireless
*2. Event Radio Rentals
5. AirCard Rental
N.B. Event Radio Rentals pricing changed as this review was being written. While the timing may be purely coincidental, it definitely raises eyebrows that they’re pricing now matches RovAir.com’s pricing to the tee. Before it was a bit more expensive.
Since all mobile broadband rental companies are MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators), none own the actual infrastructure used to provide service. To cut to the chase, they inherit the speed and coverage of their ‘parent’ network. For all the companies featured here, it’s either AT&T, Sprint or Verizon.
Since AT&T has the fastest mobile broadband network followed closely by Verizon then Sprint, it’s easy to guess which rental provider will be the fastest once you know their underlying service provider.
Best 3G Speeds:
*1. WiFi Rents
*1. Event Radio Rentals
2. DayPass Wireless
*3. AirCard Rental
WiFiRents.com ties with Event Radio Rentals since they both carry Verizon & AT&T devices. However, your speed might be slightly slower if you get a Sprint device from Event Radio Rentals.
Like mobile broadband speed, 3G coverage is inherited from underlying network providers and not the mobile broadband rental company itself.
Since Verizon and Sprint practically tie for 3G coverage, it follows that companies using their networks will have better coverage while companies using AT&T pull up the rear.
It also follows that a company with multiple options for mobile broadband providers will be able to service more areas and end up with overall better 3G coverage than another that only uses one provider.
Best 3G Coverage:
1. Event Radio Rentals (3 networks)
2. RovAir (2 networks)
*3. WiFiRents (2 networks)
*3. AirCard Rental (1 network, 2 if you request Verizon)
4. DayPass Wireless (1 network)
5. Cellhire (unknown)
While a USB broadband card is versatile enough to work with a laptop, PC or Mac, it might not be the best device to get the job done.
In some instances, you may want a MiFi mobile hotspot to share your connection via WiFi for convenience, bypass any installation CD and free up USB ports. In other situations, you may want to rent an entire 3G netbook itself.
While there are definitely mobile broadband rental companies with all of the above options, they can be a bit more expensive than a ‘bare-bones’ budget provider.
Best Device Options:
1. WiFiRents (every type of broadband device available)
2. Event Radio Rentals (USB cards, mobile hotspot and 3G netbooks)
3. AirCard Rental (3 types of broadband cards, 2 mobile hotspots)
4. RovAir (USB cards & 2 mobile hotspots)
5. DayPass Wireless (3 types of broadband cards)
And The Award Goes To…
If you’re looking for the cheapest yet reliable mobile broadband rental company, DayPass Wireless will get you going.
This isn’t to say WiFiRents and Event Radio Rentals should be discounted. Both tie for the #2 spot with mid-range pricing, multiple providers and quite the selection of broadband devices.
Pulling up the rear are AirCard Rental and Cellhire. AirCard Rental runs expensive for short term rental, has a shoddy feel on the website. Outside of that, they’ve got 3 types of broadband cards and a solid underlying network. Cellhire simply doesn’t have enough info available to make a decision.
So who do you pick?
Cheapest Mobile Broadband Rental?
Go with DayPass Wireless
Best Mix of Pricing, Quality of Service and Devices?
Go With RovAir (aff link)
Need High End Devices?
Disclosure: mobile-broadband-reviews.com is an affiliate of RovAir.com.