Virgin Mobile: Prepaid Data Plans  

Virgin Mobile USA introduced today a new wireless broadband service over the Sprint’s EV-DO network. Dubbed Broadband2Go, the service offers pay-as-you-go cards with no contracts, roaming charges or activation fees.

Virgin is the first national contract-less carrier to make data plans pre-paid, says the company. But true contract-less mobile broadband service are also available from Clearwire ($30/month) and Leap Wireless ($40/month), although their coverage is more limited.

Virgin’s plans are aimed at casual broadband users who don’t want a contract and don’t need the 5 GB maximum download offered by most cellular carriers.

Virgin’s pre-paid data rate plans include; $10 for 100MB, $20 for 250MB, $40 for 600MB and $60 for 1GB. The $10 bundles will expire ten days after purchase, while the rest of them will expire after 30 days. Top-Up cards can be used to purchase data usage from 100MB to 1 gigabyte on the pay-as-you-go model.

The service will use a Novatel MC760 USB dongle, said to be the world’s smallest EV-DO Rev A device, will be available exclusively at Best Buy for $150. It includes an integrated microSD slot for storing and transporting up to 16 GB of files.

Most cell carriers offer 5 GB at $60 per month, under a 2-year contract.

On Monday, Sprint said it would also offer enterprises a 500 MB 3G broadband access plan for $40, more than doubling the data cap offered by VZW and AT&T’s similarly priced plans.

Engadget Labs tested the cellular modems of each of the four major carriers and proclaimed “The best mobile broadband carrier in America was Verizon. Based on coverage alone, they liked Verizon best (from a national standpoint) and AT&T second. They used the following data cards and plans:

All four major US carriers offer capped mobile broadband, topping out at 5GB of throughput per month.

I live in Portland, Oregon, and have two (truly) unlimited wireless broadband services from Clearwire for a total of $55/month (plus $10/mo for device rental). They each typically deliver 3-4 Mbps down and 500Kbps up — with no caps. One client is a Motorola USB WiMAX dongle and the other is a Motorola residential WiMAX modem. They work well. I have been using Clear’s WiMAX service since December 1st, 2008, and have experienced no significant problems so far.

Clear also is running a big expensive advertisement on this site, which — if truth be told — disposes me to be sympathetic. I’m not adverse to telling the truth, however. If problems or issues arise with Clear’s service, I’ll report them.

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