Virgin Mobile Launches Pay-As-You-Go Mobile Broadband

c3_larger1_vmmc76_gifVirgin Mobile (s vm) today announced its contract-free pay-as-you-go mobile broadband plan, dubbed “Broadband2Go.” The service, which runs on Sprint’s 3G network, offers a variety of data plans without a yearly contract or credit check, for much more money than comparable contract-based plans. So, is the service too expensive to be useful? Definitely not, and here’s why.

Contract-based data plans, from AT&T (s t),┬áSprint (s s) and Verizon (s vz), are all about the same price: $60 monthly for 5GB of data, with a two-year contract. It’ll cost $1,440 over those two years, whether data is used or not. Virgin Mobile offers four “plans” with various amounts of data usage, ranging from $10 for 100MB to $60 for 1GB. The data expires after 30 days (except on the lowest plan, which runs out after 10 days), whether you use it or not — no rollover here.

For a light data-user — someone who, say, only wants wireless data on vacation or while on a once-a-year business trip — the Virgin data card is perfect. Why waste hundreds of dollars on a 2-year contract when the card is going to sit unused most of the time? The occasional data user can buy the data card, toss it in their laptop bag, and buy data on their credit card whenever the need arises — without getting hit with nasty overage charges. The card simply shuts off when you run out of data. The Broadband2Go USB device goes on sale later this month exclusively at Best Buy (s bby), for $150.