March 19, 2012, 1:41 PM — Although NetZero generated some buzz today with headlines heralding free no-contract WiMAX services, you might not want to utilize them unless you're a very light data user.
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It's true that NetZero is offering users a free WiMAX plan, but that only covers 200MB of data per month. NetZero does not charge its customers overage fees and instead cuts off service when users exceed their monthly bandwidth caps. Additionally, NetZero says users who sign up for the free plan will lose access to it after 12 months and won't be able to renew it. Other than the free plan, NetZero is also offering no-contract plans that deliver 500MB of data for $9.95 per month, 1GB of data for $19.95 per month, 2GB of data for $34.95 per month and 4GB of data for $49.95 per month.
Furthermore, NetZero's plans are only a bargain if you have an extreme aversion to signing any contracts with wireless carriers. While NetZero does offer cheaper overall no-contract prepaid plans than AT&T and Verizon do, those two carriers' postpaid plans offer more overall bang for the buck than NetZero, which was a pioneer in the free Internet access game in the late 1990s. AT&T offers users a 250MB data plan that costs $14.99 a month, a 3GB plan that costs $30 a month and a 5GB plan that costs $50 per month, while Verizon offers a 2GB plan that costs $30 a month, a 5GB plan that costs $50 a month and a 10GB plan that costs $80 a month.
Additionally, speed tests of both LTE and WiMAX have consistently shown that LTE delivers data at a significantly faster rate. A test released last year by PC World, for instance, showed that Verizon's LTE laptop air cards provided average download speeds of 6.5Mbps and average upload speeds of 5Mbps, while finding that Sprint's WiMAX services delivered download speeds in the 3Mbps to 6Mbps range.
LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is essentially a bridge from 3G technologies such as HSPA and EV-DO Rev. A to the 4G IMT-Advanced technologies being developed by the International Telecommunications Union that promise to deliver average download speeds of 100Mbps or greater.
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