2009 Wireless Broadband Reviews

For more recent info, check out the 2010 Wireless Broadband Reviews. Broadband Battle Royale

Contents:

I grew tired of looking all over the internet for wireless broadband reviews and so I decided to do it myself. Here you can find a comparison of the major cell phone companies that provide wireless broadband cards and service. The services/providers are:

I’ve got to mention that these are all contract based carriers.

*N.B. If you’re one of the few serious people considering Mobile Broadband, then take the free “Wireless Broadband Exposed” mini-course. You’ll learn what most people miss out on. I poured my heart & soul into delivering only the best so you can cut through the blubber out there.

If you’re looking for prepaid (non-contractual) options, check out the 2009 Prepaid Mobile Broadband Comparison.

For additional info on prepaid mobile broadband, check out these prepaid wireless broadband plans. It’s also a good site with unbiased comparisons that covers the details of prepaid options.

Compare mobile broadband after the jump:

Alltel AT&T Sprint T-Mobile Verizon
Cost 3 Stars 3 Stars 4 stars 4 stars 3 stars
Monthly Bill $59.99 $59.99 $59.99 $59.99 $59.99
Activation Fee $25.00 $36.00 $36.00 $35.00 $35.00
Early Termination Fee (ETF) $200 $175 $200 $200 $175
Decreasing ETF? No Yes No Yes Yes
Features 5 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 3 stars
Data Usage Cap Unlimited 5 GB 5 GB 5 GB 5 GB
WiFi/Hotspot Access Yes
($10 add-on)
Yes (included) No Yes (included) No
GPS (select aircards) No No Yes No Yes
Speed 3 stars 4 stars 4 stars 2 stars 4 stars
Technology EVDO Rev. A HSDPA/HSUPA EVDO Rev. A 3G/EDGE EVDO Rev. A
Avg. Speed (Down) 600-1400 kbps 600-1400 kbps 600-1400 kbps 1000/144-236 kbps 600-1400 kbps
Avg. Speed (Up) 500-800 kbps 500-800 kbps 350-500 kbps ??? 500-800 kbps
Max Speed (Down) 3.1 Mbps 1.7 Mbps 3.1 Mbps 1.0 Mbps 3.1 Mbps
Max Speed (Up) 1.8 Mbps 1.2 Mbps 1.8 Mbps ??? 1.8 Mbps
Future Technology Long Term Evolution Long Term Evolution WiMAX ??? Long Term Evolution
Coverage 3 stars 3 stars 4 stars 2 stars 4 stars
Click for Map Click for Map Click for Map Click for Map Click for Map
Customer Service 5 Stars http://www.mobile-broadband-reviews.com/images/http://www.mobile-broadband-reviews.com/images/3-stars.gif 2 stars 5 stars 5 stars
Aircards Alltel Cards AT&T Cards Sprint Cards T-Mobile Cards Verizon Cards
Overall 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 3 Stars 4 Stars
Full Review Full Review Full Review Full Review Full Review

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Cost

The industry seems to have settled around $60 for 3G speeds.The bigger differences show up in early termination fee terms.

AT&T and Verizon have ETF’s that decrease over time. However, a $5 decrease every month isn’t going to stop the ‘not-a-recession’ that we’re in right now. T-Mobile, on the other hand, has an ETF that decreases to $100 if you have 91-180 days left with them. It drops to $50 if you have 30-90 days left on your contract. In the final month, you either pay the $50 or your monthly plan amount (whichever is less). That seems more fair.

Sprint and Alltel have not pro-rated their ETF’s. Sprint, though, has said that it will. No word on it when that will be.

Rankings:

(2) T-Mobile *tie

(2) Verizon *tie

(2) AT&T *tie

(4) Sprint

(5) Alltel

Quote“But what about the cost of broadband cards?”

Great question. If that’s what you’re interested in, check out the Broadband Card Comparison.

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Features

All but two of the 5 companies have shifted to a 5GB cap on what used to be unlimited data plans. Now, only Alltel continues to offer a 3G unlimited data plan for use with wireless broadband cards. What’s more is that Alltel offers unlimited data plans for the United States and Canada.

Not being completely outdone, AT&T and T-Mobile offer unlimited WiFi at select locations (Starbucks, hotels, airports). Alltel also has a WiFi available at a cost of $10 extra per month.

Sprint has some interesting cards up its sleeve (pun intended) that I find very handy.

With select broadband cards, users can use built-in GPS with applications like Google Earth and it doesn’t cost anything extra. Personally, I’ve found it works very well along interstates. Verizon, unfortunately, isn’t feature rich at all.

Alltel wins out in this round thanks to several unlimited plan options. However, the win is short-lived as they suffer in the speed department due to a slower EVDO Revision 0 network.

Rankings:

(1) Alltel

(2) AT&T *tie

(2) T-Mobile*tie

(4) Sprint 

(5) Verizon

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QuoteHave your own Mobile Broadband Story? Share it here

Speed

T-Mobile absolutely bites the dust is playing catch up in the broadband speed comparison. That’s only to be expected as they still rely on EDGE, a technology that everyone (except the I-Phone) has left behind. To their credit, they are continuing to launch their 3G network in a multiple markets.

Alltel, who has upgraded their network following a recent Verizon acquisition, tops out at EVDO Revision A speeds in select areas, falling a bit behind AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

Contrary to some reviews, Sprint beats out Verizon and AT&T in speed. While AT&T in a few areas can prove to be faster, Sprint Mobile Broadband users have consistenly higher speeds nationwide.

These rankings are expected to change as AT&T continues to pump millions of dollars into upgrading it’s network. Already, they aim on having speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps in 2009.

Rankings:

(1) Sprint

(2) AT&T

(3) Verizon

(4) Alltel

(5) T-Mobile

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Coverage

Sprint currently boasts the ‘largest mobile broadband network’. That may no longer be true is still true.

QuoteAccording to Verizon Wireless coverage maps, they have better coverage than AT&T. They do not, however, have more coverage than Sprint.

Not far behind is AT&T coverage. It continues to grow with each speed upgrade they roll out.

Alltel has a lot of EVDO coverage thanks to its roaming partner Sprint, while T-Mobile’s 3G coverage is slim with a projected 25 – 30 markets this year. For more details click on any of the rankings to check out the full review.

Rankings:

(1) Sprint

(2) Verizon

(3) AT&T

(4) Alltel

(5) T-Mobile

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Customer Service

T-Mobile beat out the competition in 1st quarter of 2009. Verizon definitely holds it own this time around (losing to T-Mobile by only one point). Unfortunately, Sprint and AT&T are still dragging up the rear. Click for the full results.

Rankings:

(1) T-Mobile

(2) Verizon

(3) Alltel

(4) AT&T

(5) Sprint

 

2009 Customer Care Study - Volume 1

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Overall

It’s hard to say who’s the best. If we were to do some averaging of stars, we’d find the results to be very close. After taking into account what’s important in choosing a mobile broadband provider here are the results:

(1) Sprint Wireless Broadband

(2) Alltel Wireless Broadband*tie

(2) Verizon Wireless Broadband*tie

(4) AT&T Wireless Broadband

(5) T-Mobile Wireless Broadband

Sprint takes the cake. By all means they are not perfect but currently, they have the best rankings overall. In the lowest departments, they rank only at average. While coming in 4th place here, AT&T is #1 in International Wireless Broadband.

Interested in Sprint Mobile Broadband or any of the other providers? Check out the 2009 Broadband Card Comparison or 2009 Buyer’s Guide.

 

Oh by the way…

Hop over to our partner if you’d like a free aircard that could put $100 in your pocket. Just a freebie tip from me to you. Naturally, it’ll support the site too.

 

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

 

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