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?

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.

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