us sim mobile broadband

nointernet

Trying to look for a way to stay connected whilst I’m in the US, both for the cruise and for the con later. There will be voice roaming on the ship but I’m not paying $69 for 100mins internet, especially since shipboard internet is notorious for being slow. It’s mainly for when we’re ashore, driving and at Seattle and Vancouver but mostly it’s for the trip to Chicago and Portland.

I’m not worried about voice, roaming isn’t expensive, calls are short and people will only call in an emergency. It’s getting wifi while on the go. In almost any major city in the world, it should be possible to walk into a telco store and buy a iphone-ready sim and a pre-paid data plan of some sort. The one potentially problematic country, Japan which isn’t on the GSM network, proved to be no problem at all because of the widespread usage of pocket wifi.

Oh, the biggest exception to this case is the US. I’ve come to the conclusion, as several have commented, that there is no such thing as a cheap, prepaid SIM in the US. There are 2 HUGE stumbling blocks: a) half the country isn’t compatible with the rest of the world, with Verizon and Spring on the CDMA network; b) AT&T, which is on GSM and the primary network provider as far as iphones are concerned, doesn’t like prepaid plans and, like most things US, doesn’t care about non-locals.

A bit of digging around shows that AT&T has a prepaid service called GoPhone that works out to be around $50-60 per month for 1GB data. The setup sounds very complicated and there are reports that they may refuse to sell the SIM for iphones, partly because of legacy monopoly issues and partly because they really want you to buy one of their phones.
There are AT&T powered companies like H2O, black, readysim, straighttalk that sell SIMs online, sometimes at stores like Best Buy, Walmart and supposedly can deliver to hotels. Cost is the same as official AT&T so I’m not sure what the difference is. The other GSM carrier is T-mobile, which also has a prepaid data plan costing around the same.

So $50-60 a month average. That’s steep. They are all phone oriented and not really user friendly. One other option is mobile broadband. There’s some good comparisons. After the initial cost of the hotspot, usage is generally cheaper. And several devices can be used. Seems like a lot of people use Virgin’s plan currently at $25 a month for 1.5GB. The device runs from $70 to $99.

The conclusion is, I’m still undecided. For the cruise I’ll probably just rely on whatever wifi I can catch and for the con, there’s time to research further.