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WiFi iPad? Meet TruConnect’s cheap pay-as-you-go MiFi

MiFi mobile hotspots aren’t new, but not all consumers want the two-year data contract that comes with one. TruConnect launched a new 3G MiFi on Monday for $90 that’s targeted squarely at these potential customers. The device uses Sprint’s (s s) nationwide 3G network, doesn’t require a contract and the monthly service is based solely on the amount of bandwidth used. This differs from the tiered data plans that most carriers have adopted, providing a set amount of bandwidth per month.

Just owning TruConnect’s MiFi incurs a $4.99 monthly charge, even if the MiFi goes unused. However, that’s a small price to pay knowing that you’d have a readily available mobile broadband connection for a combination of up to five notebooks or tablets. The device might even make for a good backup connection if you think of the $5 monthly charge as cheap insurance against a home or other mobile broadband outage.

As far as the data charges, TruConnect provides 1 MB of data for $0.039 cents. If you’re the type of person that routinely uses 1 GB or more of data, then you might be better off with a traditional MiFi plan from the larger carriers or tiered MiFi pre-paid plan from another MVNO such as Virgin Mobile.

But for a new tablet owner or someone who occasionally uses a laptop outside of Wi-Fi hotspot areas, this MiFi be more cost-effective. For example, using 250 MB of data in a month would cost just under $15: the $5 monthly charge plus $9.75 for the data. The company will automatically top up your account balance if it dips under $2, ensuring the service isn’t cut off when needed.

TruConnect’s MiFi is, like many others on the market, produced by Novatel Wireless(s nvtl). So based on my prior testing of using similar MiFis, the device should last for at least four hours on a charge and be as simple to use as pushing the power button and connecting to the Wi-Fi network created by the MiFi.

Those interested in a 3G USB stick with the same data plan price terms can buy one from TruConnect for $70; that device is also made by Novatel Wireless. Either device can be returned to TruConnect for a refund within 90 days, no questions asked, according to the company’s online storefont.

Is this deal going to attract those who have been using mobile broadband on a regular basis for some time? Not likely, although I may consider the TruConnect MiFi and retire my month-to-month Verizon(s vz) MiFi which is costing me $35 a month as a rarely used backup connection. As tablet sales continue to rise, however, there could be a reasonable number of Wi-Fi tablet owners who decide to take their iPad (s aapl) out for a walk and do a little mobile surfing or email on the go.

14 Responses to “WiFi iPad? Meet TruConnect’s cheap pay-as-you-go MiFi”

  1. @monta_neko あまりデータ使わないならこのMiFiいいかも。機器が$90のPay-as-you-go型MiFi。固定費は月$4.99で1MBあたり$0.039。月$250MBだと$10+$4.99で月$15くらい

  2. David Grossman

    Experienced worst customer service ever for Truconnect novatel wifi. Cannot access internet from my home location in a valley both ways (with usb attachment and without), seems we are out of coverage. Tried 3 emails (tickets) to truconnect, plus a phone call for which they promised a response within 24 hours. No responses whatsoever. Frustrated, I asked to return the device, but they have not sent me the RNA which is required. Basically they have not communicated with me at all. So if you want any tech support, better not choose Truconnect – as I said the worst service I have experienced!

    • I am having the same trouble no verbal customer response I would advise nobody use them no service after the sale,I have 5 tickets plus left a message I will go to Best Buy for my service not only will they help with your service area they will work with you on getting it up and running,I wanted the service on my IPad pay as you go but Truconnect is sorry and I will go with Verizon Plan with Best Buy and no contract.Please people beware of Truconnect after sale service stinks.

      • On the contrary, I had a very nice customer respose/support – They responded very quickly to my support ticket *and* the chat was instant too.Agreed they dont have a 1-800 number, but that’s probably to keep their overhead costs low.. Anyways, I am a happy camper.

  3. David Grossman

    TruConnect has the worst customer support I have ever encountered. I had trouble accessing the network where I live, and couldn’t even get on using usb port. Wrote 3 emails and phone with message (they promise to return call within 24 hours). It appears that they don’t have coverage where I live, but got no help at all! If you want tech support, don’t choose truconnect.

  4. What does “TruConnect provides 1 MB of data for $0.039 cents.” mean? There’s a $ sign and then it says cents after it. Should the $ sign be removed, or the word cents? I’m hoping $ sign, but figuring cents.

  5. Craig Campbell

    Always glad to see a new contender in the pre-pay data market! However, these prices are still exorbitant compared to what I pay when I visit my family in the UK. With 3 UK I get 7GB for 25 pounds ($40) and can add more whenever. (on contract they have some even better deals).

    • Sam,

      The real difference between TruConnect and Virgin Mobile is that Virgin Mobile’s plan the megabytes expire at the end of the period whether you use them or not, and you could be left needing to buy another whole bundle from them if you only need a few more and the rest go wholly unused. TruConnect solves this by giving you megabytes that have a simple set price and never expire.

    • I’ve never had a problem reading the iPad outdoors. I’ve never understood why e-ink fans like to exaggerate the difficulty of reading LCD screens outdoors. Except for the Kindle DX, the low pixel density of e-ink screens wipes out any readability advantage over backlit screens.

      The reason to consider the iPad is to be able to use a decent browser.