2010 Wireless Broadband Reviews

For the most recent info, see the 2011 4G Comparison [Infographic]

Wireless Broadband Reviews
 

Whether you call it wireless broadband reviews or mobile broadband reviews, the fact of the matter is you need internet and you need it on the go.

Only problem is, who to pick?

I had the same question and couldn’t find the detailed info anywhere so I ended making an entire website about it (go figure?). Here’s who we’re gonna take a look at:

These are all postpaid providers. If you’re looking mobile broadband with no contract, (aka prepaid mobile broadband or prepaid wireless broadband), take a look at the Prepaid Mobile Broadband Comparison.

 

2010 Wireless Broadband Comparison

Mobile Broadband Provider

AT&T

Sprint

T-Mobile

Verizon

US Cellular

           
Plan Features 4 Stars 5 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars
Data Included 5 GB 5 GB / Unlimited 4G WiMAX 5 GB 5 GB 5 GB
WiFi / Hotspot Access Yes No Yes Yes No
GPS (select broadband cards) No Yes (Included for Free) No No No
           
Prices & Fees 3 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars
Monthly Cost $60 $60 $60 $60 $50
Activation Fee $36 $36 $35 $35 $30
Overage Charges $0.05 / MB $0.05 / MB $0.20 / MB $0.05 / MB $0.49 / MB ($200 overage cap)
Early Termination Fee $175 (decreases) $200 (decreases) $200 (decreases) $175 $150 (decreases)
           
Speed 5 Stars 5 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars
Advertised Download Speed 700 Kbps – 1.7 Mbps 600 Kbps  – 1.4 Mbps (3G)
3 – 6 Mbps (4G)
Up to 1 Mbps 600 Kbps  – 1.4 Mbps (3G) Up to 768 Kbps
Real (Tested) Download Speed 1410 kbps 795 kbps Mbps (3G)  

3 – 6 Mbps (4G)

868 kbps 877 kbps N / A
Advertised Upload Speed 500 Kbps – 1.2 Mbps 350 Kbps – 500 Kbps (3G)
1 Mbps (4G)
N / A 500 Kbps – 800 Kbps Up to 200 Kbps
Real (Tested) Upload Speed 521 kbps 375 Kbps (3G)

Up to 1 Mbps (4G)

311 kbps 434 kbps N / A
           
Coverage 3 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 2 Stars
Regional or National? National

Check Coverage

National (3G)
Regional (4G)

Check Coverage
National

Check Coverage

National

Check Coverage

Regional

Check Coverage

           
Devices 3 Stars 5 Stars 2 Stars 4 Stars 1 Star
Options AT&T AirCards & Broadband Cards Sprint Broadband Cards & Mobile Hotspots T-Mobile AirCards & Broadband Cards Verizon AirCards & Mobile Hotspots US Cellular AirCards & Broadband Cards
           
Overall C B+ C B D
Full Review Available? AT&T Wireless Broadband Review Sprint Mobile Broadband Review T-Mobile Wireless Internet Review Verizon Mobile Broadband Review US Cellular 3G Mobile Broadband Review
Notes AT&T shines in speed but falls short in coverage. Due to reliability issues, they lose some points. Sprint has a solid 3G offering like Verizon. They get extra points for 4G service (although it’s not widespread) T-Mobile has improved speed & features. They fall short in coverage, price & device options. Verizon has a very solid offering. If not for Sprint’s 4G service, they would tie for 1st place. US Cellular ranks poorly in part to regional service, slower speeds & no choice for broadband devices.

 

 

QuoteWireless Broadband Exposed ReadersTrying to make sense of all this 3G tech talk?

Sign up the Mobile Broadband Buyer’s Guide. It covers everything you need to know before, during and after buying mobile broadband.

 

Plan Features

Like I mentioned in the 2009 Wireless Broadband Reviews, mobile broadband plans have settled around 5 Gigabytes as the regular offering.

What’s different is the practically standard offering of WiFi hotspot access with many plans.

This works as a win-win for providers and customers since they get to reduce the strain on burdened 3G networks while we get faster speeds where available. On the flip side, built-in GPS features are still a bit of a luxury and are available only via Sprint mobile broadband for nifty cool tricks.

The winner of the plan features ends up being Sprint despite lack of WiFi hotspot access. While their 4G coverage is still in select markets, it does blanket entire cities (essentially a really huge WiFi hotspot with faster speeds).

Rankings:

1. Sprint Plans | Mobile BroadbandSprint Plans | Mobile Broadband

*2. AT&T Wireless Broadband Plans *tie

*2. T-Mobile Plans | Wireless Broadband *tie

*2. Verizon Mobile Broadband Plans *tie

3. US Cellular Plans | Mobile Broadband

 

 

Prices & Fees

Yup. $60 is the pretty much what you’ll be paying. While US Cellular does get extra points for a $10 price cut, their overage fees are double the next most expensive (T-Mobile).

The big 3 (AT&T, Sprint & Verizon) have all settled their activation, overage and even early termination fees to be about the same.

While each carrier has it’s own fuzzy math on how they like to decrease it, the majority of us will still pay an arm and a leg if we need to break our contract…that is of course, unless you’ve read “5 Steps To Get Out Of Any Mobile Broadband Contract” (another Mobile Broadband Buyer’s Guide goodie).

Rankings:

1. US CellularUS Cellular 3G Plans

*2. AT&T *tie

*2. Sprint *tie

*2. Verizon *tie

3. T-Mobile (so much for being the budget carrier)

 

 

Mobile Broadband Speed

While I hammered this one to death in Who’s Got The Fastest Mobile Broadband?, AT&T actually comes through on their claim to fame of “The Nation’s Fastest 3G Network”.

Sprint, T-Mobile & Verizon all perform as they advertised (national averages). Unfortunately, no real world data was available across all US Cellular territories to do a fair comparison. Even without real world testing though, their speeds are exactly advertised to let you download Avatar in High Definition.

While Sprint’s 4G speeds do give them an extra notch on the belt above Verizon, I don’t count it against beating AT&T since it’s not yet nationwide (unfair comparison). As such, the grammy goes to:

Rankings:

1. AT&T 3G SpeedAT&T 3G Speed Test

2. Sprint 3G / 4G Speed

3. Verizon 3G Speed

4. T-Mobile 3G Speed

5. US Cellular 3G Speed

 

 

3G Coverage

Who’s Got The Best 3G Coverage? It is the mobile broadband question to ask. Without it, you’ve got no 3G speed for your internet needs.

Verizon and Sprint battle it out for the largest mobile broadband network title. Since they both cover more than 250 million people, it’s a tough call. Either way, both carriers are now focused on next generation technologies (4G WiMAX for Sprint & 4G LTE for Verizon). Sprint’s 4G network isn’t counted here since it’s regional and 3G is available in the same areas it has 4G service.

Next up is AT&T who suffered a major public relations blow courtesy of Verizon advertisement attack on their coverage. T-Mobile on the other hand, has been rapidly working to decrease its status as the underdog 3G network to now cover 70% of the population that Sprint & Verizon cover.

US Cellular unsurprisingly loses out in this round due to their regional carrier status.

Rankings:Verizon 3G Coverage

*1. Verizon 3G Coverage *tie

*1. Sprint 3G Coverage *tie3G / 4G Sprint Coverage

2. AT&T 3G Coverage

3. T-Mobile 3G Coverage

4. US Cellular 3G Coverage

 

 

 

 

Mobile Broadband Devices

When it comes to mobile broadband devices, Sprint has the game locked. They have the largest selection available. Their only competition here is Verizon who offers up a similar but noticeably smaller variety.

While AT&T dominates the cell phone arena competition with exclusive iPhone deals, it definitey doesn’t do the same in mobile broadband. With only USB broadband cards actively being marketed, choice is definitely slimmer.

Bringing up the rear are T-Mobile’s sprinkle of a selection and US cellular with a single (but reliable) broadband card.

Rankings:

1. Sprint Broadband Cards & Mobile HotspotsSprint Broadband Cards & Devices

2. Verizon AirCards & Mobile Hotspots

3. AT&T AirCards & Broadband Cards

4. T-Mobile AirCards & Broadband Cards

5. US Cellular AirCards & Broadband Cards

 

QuoteWhile Sprint has the widest selection of devices, that still leaves an important yet unanswered question. Which do you get?

There are 2 answers to that question:

1. How To Pick The Best Broadband Card (choose this route if you’re only interested in cards)

2. How To Pick The Best Broadband Device (go this route for deeper explanation behind every mobile broadband device you’ll encounter)

 

 

And The Award Goes To…

Trophies

With an combination of best plans, not too shabby pricing, good speed, great coverage & the widest selection of broadband cards, Sprint takes the cake:Sprint Wins

Rankings:

1. Sprint Mobile Broadband

2. Verizon Mobile Broadband

3. AT&T Wireless Broadband

4. T-Mobile Wireless Internet

5. US Cellular 3G Mobile Broadband

 

Verizon is by no means a distant 2nd. If not for Sprint’s 4G network and slightly larger array of broadband devices, Verizon could have easily taken the crown.

A word of caution…

Just because AT&T Mobile Broadband ranked 3rd doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be #1 where you live. Your best bet if you’re not already clear on who to go for is check out the Mobile Broadband Buyer’s Guide.

It’s a free E-Course designed to cover everything you need to know before buying mobile broadband, during and after buying mobile broadband.

On the other hand, if you got the info you need, here’s where you can:

 

Get A Free Broadband Card

      AT&T Mobile Broadband      Sprint Mobile Broadband     
T-Mobile Broadband      Verizon     

If you decide to get mobile broadband through one of the links below, I do make some money. Besides, I wouldn’t recommend something I didn’t see as quality. Also every broadband card is free or puts money in your pocket. Talk about win-win.

Get Mobile Broadband

 

Related Reviews:

2010 Wireless Broadband Comparison

2010 Mobile Broadband Rental Comparison

2010 Mobile Broadband Reviews

 

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15 Comments

  1. sasha says:


    Exactly what I was looking for while trying to decide on a mobile broadband provider. Thanks!


    • Marc says:


      Hi Sasha,

      Glad it could help!


  2. vaniecia says:


    I beg to differ on just plain ol coverage. We had Sprint( actually started as Nextel), and the ONLY time we had a signal was in a MAJOR city!!!!! Then I tried Verizon….oh boy…a little better coverage but roamed way too much…couldn’t afford that…so on to T- mobile…. a little better coverage than previous two..but customer service was a severe problem…. so for awhile we went go phone … only had to pay for what we used, and no contract. At&t blew EVERYONE away…the first time anyone ever got a signal at the old home place…my mom and dad’s!!!! So we tried the aircard last year….worked brilliantly. Hands down from my own experience, AT&T beats them all, even though they have a long way to go..if these cell providers would focus more on bringing more rural towns up to 3G speed….imagine how great..instead, they keep improving the same old places…(ie…Atlanta,N.Y.,L.A.,…etc.) The first company to give you 3G service all across the American plains and in between, that will be the true winner!!!!!


  3. vaniecia says:


    And…Thanks for the article. It did help with a few questions I had about wireless broadband….basically…im screwed. We travel…alot…and no internet no wifi and sometimes no cable in some of the places we go, make for an extremely boring and frustrating stay!!! While broadband cards are probably a way to go…it still leaves me out in the cold ( so to speak) because we mostly travel to rural areas, where you are lucky to even get one bar….:(…. Thanks again…here’s to hoping technology takes a turn for the better….toward us that desperately need it!!!!!


  4. Matt says:


    This information must be VERY outdated. Verizon’s coverage in 3g is in WAY more places than Sprint, and they’re 3g is almost faster than Sprint’s almost non-existent 4g. Look it up right on each of their sites and try it for yourself before you believe any of this. Also their early termination fees do prorate down $5 each month on mobile broadband plans. This information looks pieced together by a Sprint employee to me.


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