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Your milk might expire, but 3G data from Walmart won’t

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In a new twist on old pre-paid data plans, Walmart(s wmrt) and TruConnect have partnered to offer “Internet on the Go.” The service offers pre-paid 3G data in small buckets for use with a Novatel Wireless MiFi 2200(s nvtl). What makes this different from other pre-paid data services? The data capacity you purchase never expires, allowing you to use your 3G hotspot when needed and without having to buy more data simply because a week or a month has gone by.

Internet on the Go uses Sprint’s(s s) 3G network, so personal hotspot speeds will likely top out around 1.5 Mbps in a Sprint coverage area. That’s far slower than HSPA+ and LTE mobile broadband services, which are often 10x faster. But the benefit here isn’t meant to be speed. Instead, the service should appeal to people that occasionally need to access the web on a Wi-Fi tablet or laptop. The target audience likely wouldn’t get a hotspot due to contracts as their 3G needs are far and few between.

As a result, the data pricing won’t be cheaper than what you’d find for a contract plan or even other pre-paid deals. The cost is $10 for 100 MB, $25 for 500 MB or $45 for 1 GB; far more on a per-gigabyte basis than what others charge. The key difference — and potential selling point — is that the data is good forever, provided you fire up that MiFi and use it at least once per year. I look at it this way: It’s cheap insurance as a 3G backup plan, even if the MiFi itself costs $119.88.

This isn’t the first time TruConnect dabbled with unique mobile broadband products. In September, 2010, the company offered a MiFi specifically for Wi-Fi iPad(s aapl) owners that carried a small monthly fee — even if the device wasn’t used — and a metered 3G service. While its products aren’t for everyone, there’s opportunity for TruConnect’s niche style services that offer device owners more flexibility for mobile broadband.

2 Responses to “Your milk might expire, but 3G data from Walmart won’t”

    • For backup/low usage users, you could just as easily say that AT&T/Verizon/Sprint are hundreds to thousands of dollars per year compared to as little as $10 for Internet on the Go. It all depends on the usage scenario.

      TruConnect’s own plan is $4.99/month + 3.9 cents/MB ($39/GB). It seems to me that just about any realistic scenario, you’d be better off getting service through Walmart’s IOTG. Ting has a higher monthly charge ($6/month) and about 40% lower data costs.

      We really need a thorough roundup of mobile broadband plans.