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Summary:

Every so often I go through this effort. I look at the money I’m spending to see if it’s worth the services I use. It’s that time again, since I added a second phone line with my Palm Pre purchase. Oh, it’s not the initial price […]

novatel-wireless-usb727Every so often I go through this effort. I look at the money I’m spending to see if it’s worth the services I use. It’s that time again, since I added a second phone line with my Palm Pre purchase. Oh, it’s not the initial price of the device that I’m talking about; it’s that pesky addition of another monthly bill for the next 24 months. The plan is excellent and unlimited in just about every way, but we’re still talking about $2,400.

I mentioned this in a recent podcast, but I’m considering dropping my Verizon Wireless EVDO plan. I started the plan in December of 2007 with the purchase of a USB727 adapter. It has served me very well over time, but I find myself going weeks at a time without using it. Yet I’m paying the same $60 a month no matter what. Why am I not using it? Three reasons.

  • I don’t need it at home since the 20 MBps (both up and down) FiOS is rocking the house.
  • When I’m out, I try not to work unless I’m specifically going to a coffee shop or bookstore to do some work with different scenery. I pay $10 a month for a Boingo Wireless Wi-Fi account in these locations.
  • Even when I am out and have to do some work, I can do more on a 3G phone than I could a few short years ago. That’s the biggest change: I don’t need a computer with Internet access as much as I used to. That’s not something I could say when I committed to my EVDO plan 18 months ago.

I’m wondering if another solution would better serve my connectivity needs. The pay-as-you 3G plan from Virgin Mobile USA is a contender. It would offer me the same EVDO service I have today, although it would be on Sprint’s network, not Verizon’s. The advantage would be that I only pay for what I need, when I need it. For example, during travel to our GigaOM HQ and trips like CES or CTIA, it’s a BYOI (Bring Your Own Internet) deal. I could get by on these jaunts with a $20 payment for EVDO, although there is an initial device price of $149, currently.

Perhaps I opt for a no-contract MiFi. That would work well, too, but it’s more expensive initially than the Virgin Mobile option. And the current minimum pay-as-you go is $40 for 250MB. The same 250MB from Virgin is only half that.

Another possibility is that AT&T rolls out iPhone Internet Tethering sooner rather than later. Although I felt “dirty,” I enabled it on my iPhone 3G S last night and ran through some tests. Using USB to tether, I enjoyed 1.36MBps downloads and 320kbps back up. That’s good enough for what I need, and I’d be willing to pay on a per-use basis, or maybe up to $20 to $25 a month for such a service.

I really can’t complain about my current EVDO plan in a way. It’s always there, and it’s reliable. But my current work and home environments don’t require that I need it all the time. Unfortunately, I am required to pay for it, whether I use it or not. I’m still in the “thinking” stage on this one, so I haven’t cut the invisible cord just yet. Thoughts?

  1. Kevin with the speeds of tethering the phone as modem to your laptop, I think the best is to get rid of the Verizon Wireless. I got rid of mine many years ago and never have looked back. :) I use my Storm as a modem with either BT or USB cable depending what I’m working with and if I need the band width I just use the USB cable much faster. I can see if someone was always online where they needed to be on the phone and access data then tethering with a verizon or Sprint wouldn’t work much for them. I think AT&T has where you can tether and talki at the same time. I use the BT DUN like 80% of the time for work since I’m on the road most of the day and works great. Besides using BT on my Sony P, MSI Wind,SC3, Aigo, or MacBook it doesn’t drain the battery as fast as Wi-Fi. I also think you should get rid of the Bongo service since you can use your iPhone to tether up, or maybe a Blackberry :) Most of the time when your on the road your not going to be uploading or downloading large files, I usually wait till I get to the office or home. Hey by cancelling all that other services you could get the new BlackBerry 9630 at Verizon. :)

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    1. HG-
      Do you use your carrier’s data plan to tether, or TetherBerry? I am pretty much in exactly Kevin’s situation (and actually live not too far away).

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  2. hmmm… i have a prepaid SIM for my 3G dongle. why don’t you go for a prepaid one? pay only when you need it.

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  3. I’m sorry, I just can’t understand what the big deal with these USB things is, and I certainly can’t understand why anyone would want to pay $60/month IN ADDITION to their current cell phone plan, and in addition to their home internet plan. It baffles me.

    I’ve been on the regular MEdiaNet plan with AT&T for years – I actually still have the $20/mo unlimited data, 1500 sms, and 200 mms ‘MEW01′ plan from several years ago, and I tether with it periodically. I actually average 600-700MB/mo (usually without tethering, actually), and have never heard a peep from AT&T about it.

    I think this is really going to be why subsidized netbooks ultimately fail – they’re insanely expensive when they don’t need to be.

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  4. I tethered for a long time, because I didn’t need dedicated 3G. The biggest drawback I found was that even over USB, it drained the battery drastically when streaming music or video. Not sure if that was something I was doing wrong, or whether the power consumption was more than the USB could put back in the battery.

    But times change and now I live on dedicated 3G five days a week, 8 hours a day. Tethering couldn’t keep up with what I do now.

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  5. Stephen Feger Wednesday, June 24, 2009

    Agreed. These data cards are incredibly expensive for what you’re getting. Tethering is simply the easiest and least expensive option there is. It’s one thing if a business is paying for it. If so, congrats (mine did). I eventually gave mine back. Just one more thing to keep track of. Plus, it was a PC Card and if I wanted to use it with a netbook (sans PC Card slot), I was limited. Pointless device.

    My current favorite for tethering is the 8330 as far as simplicity goes. Not as fast due to being EvDO Rev. 0, but dead simple to setup. The fastest has been the HTC Touch Pro. EvDO Rev. A and Bluetooth 2.0 and you’ve got the best of all worlds whether you use USB or BT. I use BT primarily and if it’s going to be an extended use, I use a USB cable (plus I get the benefit of charging the phone).

    If anyone says this stuff is difficult, they have to have their head examined. We had some people at work who had data cards and blackberry handsets. We took away the data cards and enabled tethering on their blackberry handsets in order to save money. They complained about how it was going to be more difficult and slower… Then they used it… There was no difference and the complaints faded away.

    I feel bad for those who get suckered into these netbook deals with bundled data. Incredibly expensive data on underpowered equipment on 12 months or 24 month contracts. Wow. Talk about a bad call. I’m not a netbook basher either. I own two as it is (giving the MSI Wind to my brother and keeping the Dell Mini 9 for myself).

    Tethering is the best way to go. Your cellphone should be your hub for internet connectivity, whether on the handset itself or as a conduit for other devices.

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  6. do what i do with my att account. Im in the same situation that you are. I have uverse at home so I get free wifi at every starbucks, barnes and noble and other places. When I travel for work it normally an long trip at least twice a quarter. I change my aircard rate from $60 to $10 by simply moving the account to my family plan. I change every other month or so and get prorated charges. This helps my bill be low when I do not use the air card. Been doing it for almost 1 year now and am very satisfied.

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  7. @Griffy I use the carriers tethering plan. I did see the TetherBerry, but I use a lot of data but not over 5GB. The reason I still use the carriers tethering is because TetherBerry still doesn’t have it working with BT. Maybe once they have TetherBerry working with BT then I might give it a try and save me 29.99 for Tethering.

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  8. in asia,3g data plan , most of the telco and celco with the prepaid , daily or montly plan , as use as you pay.
    like u pay a fixed amount for daily or monthly or weekly unlimited use.
    need not to commit any contract

    andy ,sg

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  9. I just purchased the virgin mobile broadband and love it. Im a huge tethering beliver as i so it on a daily basis with my alltel treo pro but just having the extra connection for when i need to be on the internet and phone at the same time is a great bonus

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  10. I like the 3G built into my Vaio P because it’s always there, it’s never left behind by accident. I never have to tuck it in before putting the Vaio P in my pocket etc… you flip the lid closed and go.

    But if I could bluetooth tether to my iPhone 3GS for an extra $30 a month: done deal. That Gobi card could collect dust for all I’d care. :-)

    But I’m also finding that since I got my 3GS I’m doing less on the Vaio P, hmmm…..

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    1. I’m actually heading in exactly the opposite direction to you.

      I used to tether my phone via bluetooth but got fed up with the hassles that involved (dropped connections, poor battery life, connection speed stifled by bluetooth speeds, etc.).

      I’ve now got a USB modem which is OK but it’s a hassle to have to carry it around, plug it in, etc. (Not that much of a hassle but it’s something extra to have to think about :))

      If my laptop would accept a SIM card I would happily switch to that and I’m looking forward to the day that WWAN modules are standard. I’ve got an HP 2730p which comes with a Gobi thing in the US but HP don’t bother to offer a similar solution for the rest of the world :(

      Fortunately, it only costs me about £7 per month for my USB modem so I don’t face the prohibitive data costs US users have to deal with. That would probably make me reconsider my options but for now my limitations seem to be hardware based rather than cost based over here in the UK.

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