Blog Post

Where to Get the Cheapest Mobile Data Plans

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? [digg=]

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.

43 Responses to “Where to Get the Cheapest Mobile Data Plans”

  1. Cricket is lousy. Left Kansas City with a connection working. Have traveled 8 days going to Seattle — never connected again, not even in Seattle. Broadband not available. They got us for$99 and we plan to get our money back as soon as we return to KC.

  2. After 5 Gig, T-mobile “throttles down your account, and a you-tube video is not quite so smooth viewing. I pay for an unlimited plan, but I am not getting an unlimited plan. This is fraud and bait and switch tactics as they are not delivering “unlimited” but they are selling unlimited. T-Mobile should have to adhere to truth in advertising or be forced to tell the truth up front and sell a “not quite so unlimited” unlimited plan…..any thoughts …..?

    • Cheap Data Plan for Blackberry?

      If your needs are somewhat modest and
      If your Blackberry works over AT&T GSM then follow the advice at the end of this article and the link it points.
      1. get a prepaid sim card and buy $25 of ‘minutes’ and then spend $20 of the $25 on the data plan. That’s 100MB
      for 30 days. And it’s cumulative (like the voice) so
      buy another 100MB and it will be added to your balance and extended for then NEXT 30 days.

  3. I have recently read this very interesting topics on Mobile Broadband Data Allowance Limit Secrets and the types of Mobile Broadband Users.

    If you are going for a cheapest deals be very CAREFUL that you do not buy the deal where there is not enough data allowance limit for you per month, if you are not careful in selecting you could get a heavy bill worth £200 or more if you exceed you monthly limit.

    Read the article “Know The 3 Secret Users of Mobile Broadband” at

    Hope this helps.


  4. Do you guys think that 5GB is enough for a medium user?, if the data limit is 5GB then how come it is defined as unlimited. I think if there is data allowance then it should very clearly not define it as unlimited as this could deceive people. In UK, some of the network companies advertise 3GB or 5GB as unlimited, where as 3 UK mobile network advertise it as 15GB for £15 and I think that is the best way to advertise to have the message across very clear and loud.

    Thanks for the post and I like the article. Looking forward for your posts in future.


  5. Agree that the US is well behind Europe in pricing however mobile broadband was very expensive in Europe a few years ago and it’s only since the technology has become more popular and providers fight for a share of a growing market that prices are cut to remain competitive. We’ve seen the same starting to happen in Australia more recently and would expect the US to follow suit soon. To give you an idea of the price difference between the counties (sorry all priced in local currency) you can see here UK mobile broadband prices , Australian mobile broadband prices and US Mobile broadband prices . To save you doing the currency conversions the US is way more expensive than the UK and Australia. I’d predict US prices to be more in line with Eurpean prices within 18-24 months.

    • T Blount

      Anyone ever answer your question about how many hours you get on 5gb a month for those cell phone/modem plans? I saw your question while reading comments on, since I am researching that myself.

  6. Richard Johnston

    We in the US are even behind middle east in mobile broad band plans. I am a truck driver and need my internet (More of an addiction for it than anything) but I am always having to put my at&t card up before my 5gb resets for the month because I am constantly maxed out. Here is the middle east article I am referring to…..

    I think it’s time to grow a beard and learn how to drive a camel instead of an 18 wheeler.

  7. Mike Parks

    Still too expensive in North America – my friend in the UK has just got hold of a 3G dongle for his laptop, 5Gb limit per month all for $10 a month. It’s with the 3 Network. Makes you weep…….

  8. Alltel offers truly unlimited internet for $60 a month via a data card & $25 added to any voice plan via a tethered phone.. A tethered phone works without the $25 unlimited add-on as well, but uses minutes.. All from personal experience btw, as cellular is the only HSI available where I live. What happens to Alltel’s unlimited internet when Verizon finishes the Buyout/reorganization is anyones guess though.

  9. US is way behind the curve behind Europe as far as mobile broadband pricing is concerned. In many countries such as UK, Austria and Sweden, mobile broadband pricing is actually cheaper than DSL pricing – driving people towards replacing their DSL/wireline broadband options with mobile broadband. A recent Nielsen survey revealed that even in the US, up to 59% of the people surveyed were willing to swap their DSL for wireless card/modem. Read more about it in my blog:

    Also, read about how mobile broadband subscriptions in Austria are close to overtaking fixed broadband subscriptions:

  10. As a result of the iPhone introduction in July Rogers has been offering an introductory promotional plan for all 3G smartphones of $30/6GB/month; it was recently extended to Sept. 30 due to the lateness of the recent Blackberry Bold launch.

    And they recently reported data saying that over 95% of their iPhone users use less than 500MB per month while over 90% use less than 200MB. Personally I used about 60MB in the first three weeks of my iPhone deployment; however, a significant portion of my activity occurs over WiFi access points.

    Come October 1, according to the article linked above, Rogers will offer plans with monthly caps at 500MB($25); 1GB($30) and what amounts to an unlimited usage at $100.

  11. As Stacey Higginbotham indicates, most consumers have not yet been noticeably affected by the data caps imposed by wireless carriers. However, data usage continues to escalate as content providers, internet brands and devices such as the iPhone make browsing the mobile Web faster, easier and more enjoyable. As consumers come to rely on the mobile Web for more and more of their day-to-day functions, they will undoubtedly begin to resent the inconvenience of data restrictions. Carriers need to ensure that their networks are prepared to handle the surge in data usage that they themselves have helped to create, thereby protecting their infrastructure investment and delivering a consistently superior user experience. How? By deploying dynamic optimization technology to manage the increasing volume and changing mix of traffic in HSPA and LTE networks so that performance and capacity can be scaled ahead of demand.

  12. Jesse Kopelman

    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.

  13. 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).

  14. Scoopster

    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.

    • 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!

  15. 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.