No-contract 3G

The big challenges with carrier plans are that they typically require two-year contracts, and require carrier-specific hardware, making it expensive to switch to a new carrier.

But there are some exceptions to 3G providers requiring contracts:

  • Verizon offers its Mobile Broadband DAYPASS, which quickly can cost more than a month of service, but doesn't require a long-term commitment.
  • In September 2009, Virgin Mobile announced its pre-paid, no annual contract Broadband2Go plans, providing access to Sprint's 3G network through a $149 USB adapter, with plans starting at $10 for 100megabytes (expiring in 10 days), and $20, $40 and $60 plans good-for-thirty-day plans for 250MB, 600MB and 1GB respectively. And while pricey per bit, there's no danger of after-the-fact billing surprises: the software tracks usage as you go, and won't let you over-run; you have to "refill" to keep going.
  • Another flexible approach to 3G provisioning is through iPass Inc., which offers access to 3G service, but only charges for those calendar months a user accesses a network. Plus, in the U.S., iPass offers access to two EVDO networks, allowing your company to provision 3G to users for either network, while having only one master contract and related administrative effort. (And a user could be given the USB adapters for both networks -- but if they used both in the same calendar month, they'd be racking up a separate months' charges.)

There may be more low-commitment options, so if you haven't yet signed a contract, you may want to hold off until later in 2009.

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This tip was adapted from 'Paying too much for WiFi, 3G? You have options' by Daniel Dern.

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