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Updated: We’ve talked about how popular wireless broadband is for a growing spectrum of the population. I personally would give up my iPod before my 3G USB modem. But how much bandwidth can you really get? DSL Reports recently noted that Canadian wireless provider Telus is […]

Updated: We’ve talked about how popular wireless broadband is for a growing spectrum of the population. I personally would give up my iPod before my 3G USB modem. But how much bandwidth can you really get? DSL Reports recently noted that Canadian wireless provider Telus is backtracking on its original unlimited wireless broadband plan and capping users at 1GB for $65. That has some rural users in a tizzy since they use it for their home network. I’d be in a tizzy too, since I use my modem whenever I travel or visit coffee shops rather than pay for Wi-Fi.

In the U.S., Sprint started enforcing a 5 GB data cap on unlimited plans in May; since few people reached those caps the wider consumer market hasn’t protested. But with the iPhone, reasonably priced 3G data plans and the carrier focus on increasing data usage, how long before consumers believe 5GB isn’t enough?

As this article from the Register makes clear, wireless broadband is pricier to deploy than fiber or DSL, and as more people use it, carriers need to upgrade their networks via new infrastructure (base stations and backhaul) and buy more spectrum. That’s expensive, which means that limits –even on potentially fat LTE networks– could be here to stay. Here are details on a few North American mobile broadband plans to show how much you can get for your dollar or loonie. If anyone can help me with Telcel’s plans, I’ll add those too.

Verizon Wireless: 5GB data plans range from $24.99 to $44.99 for phones and are $59.99 for wireless modems.

AT&T: 5 GB data plans range from $30 for unlimited personal use to $60 for unlimited use plus tethering for phones and $60 for wireless data cards.

T-Mobile: Unlimited data plans for phones range from $29.99 for the Sidekick to $89.99 for an enterprise BlackBerry plan. Unlimited data cards are available for $49.99 a month, but they only work on the EDGE network.

Sprint: Has an 5GB wireless data plan for phone included in its $99 Simply Everything plan or as part of two other plans that range from $69.99 to $169.99. Wireless card users pay $59.99 a month for up to 5 GB.

Rogers Communications: Offers data card plans for $100 that give users up to 6 GB and costs 50 cents for each MB over the limit.

Bell Canada: Offers up to 5 GB for $80 a month for data cards and 1GB for data on smart phones for $100. It sells a $10 unlimited data plan with the Samsung Instinct phone.

Updated with more plans:

Leap Wireless: As keith pointed out in the comments, Cricket has a 5 GB data card plan for $40.

AT&T GoPhone: Kevin over at jkontherun drew my attention to the prepaid AT&T GoPhone’s data plan for $20 a month. It has the same 5GB cap and requires you to pop out the SIM card, but it’s a steal.

  1. Rogers currently has a promotion plan for smartphones only that offers 6GB for $30/month.
    A comparison table for Rogers data plans: http://cell-canada.com

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  2. I think you need to compare the cost of just the data plan on Sprint for the other plans. For instance, on a family plan it’s $15 for unlimited internet, and $30 gets you unlimited data, text, GPS navigation software, and Sprint TV. I mention this because on AT&T they were trying to charge more then their regular $30 rate on smartphones and even more on Blackberries, and they didn’t match up on features either. It was the main reason I ended up sticking with Sprint.

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    1. I am a Sprint customer with a Samsung Reclaim can I add the $15.00 unlimited internet and use my phone as a modem? I have people telling me yes and no.

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  3. Cricket (aka leap wireless) offers a $40/mo “unlimited” usb wireless modem plan (5 GB DL Limit). This beats all other plans in the US today.

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    1. I checked out Cricket, it is the best and Cheapest plan in the US, compare to Europe the Plans are still way to expensive! However FL is not covered and thats where I’m but I will keep an Eye on it and at soon it will be available I will cancel my Plan with Sprint!

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      1. Go to Best Buy … get a MiFi for $150 then go to Virgin Mobile and get their unlimited plan $40/mo with no contract.

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  4. I like T-Mobile’s data plan the best. $30 bucks a month & it include unlimited domestic MT/MO text messages.

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  5. If you call bell canada and bitch and threaten to switch over to rogers for the iphone, they will give you an unlimited data plan for your blackberry :-)
    I know because I have that plan.

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  6. Straight data on a smartphone with Tmobile is $20/month for unlimited use. AFAIK, it’s truly unlimited use with no caps. I tether often. True, it’s not the fastest, but it’s cheap relative to the other options.

    FYI – the US is not exactly the home of cheap data. My friend in Ireland has an O2 HSPA USB modem that he pays 19 Euros a month for 10GB. He regularly gets 3+Mbps down and 1.5~2.5Mbps upload speeds.

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  7. Just wanted to point out that for smartphones on the T-Mobile network, the T-Mobile Total Internet Add-on is only $19.99/month. This is not the Sidekick or Blackberry service. It also includes unlimited Wi-Fi at T-Mobile Hotspots which might do a little to make up for the extremely limited 3G availability (i.e. few phones, few markets, no official service).

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  8. Wireless broadband is not pricier to deploy than fiber, not by a very long shot. Wireless is much much cheaper, just as it is much much slower. As for DSL, it depends on whether you are talking about upgrading existing copper or adding completely new lines. In the first case DSL wins, in the second wireless does.

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  9. [...] is certainly the cost and an article on GigaOM may be of interest.  Stacey Higginbotham has an overview of all carriers offering 3G plans in North America and gives us the scoop on the cost involved to play with each of them.  Of [...]

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