2009 Prepaid Mobile Broadband Comparison

For the most recent info, check out the 2010 Prepaid Mobile Broadband Comparison

Prepaid Mobile Broadband Comparison

Cricket, Readybroadband, Slingshot, Verizon & Virgin Mobile provide nationwide prepaid mobile broadband. The question is, who’s got the right goods for you?There’s an important difference between prepaid wireless broadband and prepaid mobile broadband.

“Think of wireless broadband, (Wi-Fi for example) like a cordless phone. It’s good for around the house. Mobile broadband, however is like your cell phone. Good just about any and everywhere”.

Lesson 1 – Mobile Broadband Buyer’s Guide

Now, if you apply that to prepaid wireless broadband and prepaid mobile broadband, things change ever so slightly.

By design, they’re both supposed to be convenient and available in a lot of places. So instead of above, it becomes something more like this:

Prepaid wireless broadband is like having multiple phone booths across cities you visit. Prepaid mobile broadband, however, is like a prepaid cell phone.

Still good for just about anywhere but you’ve got to remember to ‘top up’ or pay in advance. In addition to this, you buy (as opposed to rent) the actual cell phone”.

(If you don’t wish to own the actual card, check out mobile broadband rental)

In this review, we’ll cover prepaid mobile broadband options. As our visitors hail from all 50 states (and even other countries at times), we’ll only review providers that are nationwide or cover multiple states. To keep things predictably organized, we’ll cover:

Contents:
1. Comparison Chart & Summary
2. Cricket
3. ReadyBroadband
4. Slingshot
5. Verizon DayPass
6. Virgin Mobile Broadband

For each provider you’ll find summaries of their plans, prices, speed, coverage and broadband cards. Click on any specific provider for its detailed review.

Let’s hop to it.

Cricket Prepaid Mobile Broadband ReadyBroadband Slingshot Verizon Virgin Mobile Broadband
Plans & Prices $40 – Unlimited mobile broadband 100 MB for $25 |
200 MB for $45 |
500 MB for $75
100 MB for $24.95 |
250 MB for $34.95 |
500 MB for  49.95 |
‘Unlimited’ for $59.95
24 hours consecutive use for $15 100 MB for $10 | 250 MB for $20 | 600 MB for $40 |
1 GB for $60
Speed (average download/upload) 600-1400 Kbps /
350-500 Kbps
600-1400 Kbps /
350-500 Kbps
3G speed 600-1400 Kbps /
500-800 Kbps
600-1400 Kbps /
350-500 Kbps
Speed (max download/upload) 3.1 Mbps /
1.8 Mbps
3.1 Mbps /
1.8 Mbps
Unknown 3.1 Mbps /
1.8 Mbps
3.1 Mbps /
1.8 Mbps
Network EVDO Rev. 0/Rev. A/
1xRTT
EVDO Rev. A/
1xRTT
Unknown EVDO Revision A EVDO Revision A
Coverage Possibly Sprint or Verizon Sprint Most likely AT&T, Sprint or Verizon Verizon Coverage Sprint
Broadband Card Options USB Broadband Cards USB or PC Broadband Card USB Broadband Card ExpressCards, USB or Built-In Mobile Broadband USB Broadband Card
Recommended Use Good for daily use Occasional use only Good for daily use or occasional use Occasional use only Occasional use only
Comments If you exceed 5GB of their ‘unlimited coverage’ your speed may be limited Airtime is purchased as needed through ‘top-up’ cards like a prepaid cell phone If you exceed 5 GB of their unlimited plan your speed may be limited. Also, they can’t sell anything due to a current lawsuit with Sprint Only carrier with an option to use built-in mobile broadband for laptops. Airtime is purchased as needed through ‘top-up’ cards like a prepaid cell phone. Each card has an expiration date depending on the dollar amount.
Rating A B C- B B+

For the most part, this table is pretty self-explanatory. The known speeds are pretty much within the same range for each provider. Since the prepaid mobile broadband providers (with the exception of Verizon) resell the bandwidth of the major 3G carriers, their coverage is a reflection of those carriers.

There’s something here that’s noteworthy.

You’ll notice that prepaid mobile broadband providers fall two ‘recommended use’ categories. ReadyBroadband, Verizon DayPass & Virgin Mobile work well for occasional use while Cricket and Slingshot have the potential to work as long-term solutions without the contracts. In other words, they may be able to compete with ‘the big boys‘ thanks to their ‘unlimited mobile broadband plans’.

Why the quotes?

Well, Cricket and Slingshot both have stipulations on their ‘unlimited mobile broadband’. Everything is ‘unlimited’ until you get to 5 Gigabytes. While they mention no overage charges, they do seem to mimic the post-paid carriers in warning that your speed may be reduced. So is it truly unlimited? Not quite. For now, Alltel still seems to be the only carrier with truly unlimited mobile broadband…for now.

So what else might you need to know? Well, it’s only fair to see how the prices of each provider really matches up to help you choose the prepaid mobile broadband provider that suits your needs.

That being said, let’s see how the different plans match up:

2009 Prepaid Mobile Broadband Comparison

As you can see, the chart echoes how some carriers are better for occasional use while others for more long-term use.

Some parts of the chart are empty due to the fact that a carrier does not have a specific plan.

If you need only 100 MB or less, then it makes sense to go with the lower tier plans of Virgin’s Broadband2Go. However, once you get to needing 200 MB or more, then it just about always makes sense to go with Cricket prepaid mobile broadband.

So under what circumstance would you ever pick Verizon?

Great question. While you can figure out which of the other carriers to pick based on how much you’ll use, Verizon is based on time. Since Verizon DayPass is always $9.99 for 24 hours, it’s flat-rate price for one to two days. Anything more and you should be going for another plan based on the price ($30 or more).

Naturally, price is not the only factor you should consider in picking a carrier. While this comparison should be enough to point you in the right direction, you should definitely read the full review of whichever carrier you’re considering. For your convenience, you read a synopsis of each carrier as well as get to their full review.

Cricket Wireless Plans

Cricket is even cheaper than broadband carriers like Sprint, Verizon or AT&TFor a prepaid mobile broadband carrier, Cricket offers quite a lot. Even more so than post-paid carriers.

With unlimited mobile broadband at $40 ($1.33/day) without contracts of early termination fees, they’ll be extremely hard to beat.

If they had more coverage, they could give just about anyone a run for their money. Heck, it even makes more sense than most mobile broadband rental for a month.

Kudos. Read on for why we recommend Cricket highly.

ReadyBroadband

ReadyBroadband works best if you only need the mobile broadband occasionally.While they probably won’t be a major player, ReadyBroadband provides a needed service.
Just as people need prepaid cell phones from time to time, there are those of us who need prepaid mobile broadband from time to time.

If you need a quick fix from time to time and don’t want to pay month to month for it, read on. ReadyBroadband may just be for you.

Slingshot Prepaid Mobile Broadband

Slingshot has a lot of potential but still seems to be under-development. From the looks of it, what’s to come seems good.Slingshot seems promising with its assortment of plans. However, a severe lack of information plus the ability to even purchase anything on their website makes it practically impossible to sign up with them.

While they may be something to look at in the future, read on for why they’re not ready for primetime.

Verizon DayPass

With only one plan for 24 hours of consecutive use, Verizon DayPass is the kind of service you’d use on vacation or at a business conference.Verizon DayPass is useful for what it does. It’s great for short-term crucial times when you need mobile broadband.

With the added convenience of using broadband cards or built-in mobile broadband, read on for why it’s a service to look out for in 2009 especially if they add more plans.

Virgin Mobile Broadband

Although Virgin Mobile Broadband is the newest kid on the block, they’ve got the strongest offering for short-term prepaid mobile broadband use.While Cricket is the boss of long-term prepaid mobile broadband, Virgin has now positioned itself to be the king of short-term prepaid mobile broadband.

Not only are they piggy-backing on Sprint’s network for good speed and coverage, they are also cheaper than all the other prepaid mobile broadband carriers that are in the short-term/occasional use market.

If you plan to use mobile broadband for short stints of time, Virgin is going to beat ReadyBroadband & Slingshot on price everytime. In addition to that, they have strong brand recognition and the convenience of being available online & in a major retail store (Best Buy).

Read on for the full review on Virgin Mobile Broadband (aka Broadband2Go).

So Who Do I Pick?

The process of elimination usually works well for making any decision simpler. Since’s it practically impossible to buy Slingshot (website still under-development), they’re out of the runnings by default.

That leaves Cricket, ReadyBroadband, Verizon DayPass & Virgin Broadband2Go.

Thankfully, this makes things much easier. Since all services are pretty much solid, you can pick one based on how you plan to use prepaid mobile broadband.

If you only need mobile broadband for a day or two, the Verizon DayPass makes sense.

If your mobile broadband needs are occasional but still unpredictable, then Virgin Mobile Broadband may work as a solution for you.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a DSL/Cable replacement but don’t really want to choke up your freedom to a 2 year contract, Cricket prepaid mobile broadband may keep you free and uncommitted.

Unlimited 3G Broadband Internet

Prepaid mobile broadband not for you? Perhaps you should consider mobile broadband rental or the mainstream mobile broadband carriers.

Need more info? Check out the rest of the mobile broadband reviews.

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