Advertisement
 

3G Mobile Broadband Carrier Comparison

User Rating: / 72
PoorBest 
Wednesday, 22 April 2009

3G/4G Mobile Broadband Carrier Comparison: Sprint vs Verizon vs AT&T vs DataJack

Once you've determined that mobile broadband will fit your needs (need to learn more? Check out this article: Mobile Broadband Basics), the next step is to select a service provider. The three leading mobile broadband service providers in the US are Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T. Sprint's 3G service costs $59.99/month for 5GB of 3G use. For their 3G/4G devices, there are two options: 5GB for $59.99/mo or 10GB for $89.99/mo (4G usage is unlimited with either of those plans - the limit/allowance only applies to usage on Sprint's 3G network). For Verizon's 3G-only USB and Expresscards, the monthly service is $50/month for 5GB. For the hotspots (like the MiFi and Fivespot) and 3G/4G devices, there are two choices: 5GB for $50/mo, or 10GB for $80/mo. AT&T's service costs $59.99/mo for 5GB. DataJack (who uses Sprint's 3G network) charges $49.99/mo for 5GB.

 

So which one of the providers is "best"? It's a question we hear daily, and there is no definitive answer - Verizon is better for some users, Sprint for others, and AT&T for still others. There are some differences between the providers, however, and in most cases once a user's individual needs are taken into consideration deciding which carrier to sign up with will be easy.

1) Coverage: The absolute most important factor to consider when deciding between carriers is "who has the best coverage where I want to use mobile broadband?" No carrier has coverage "everywhere", and there are some locations that may be covered by one carrier but not the other.

If you plan to use mobile broadband in just a few specific locations, we recommend comparing Sprint's, Verizon's, DataJack's and AT&T's coverage at each specific address using the 3G Coverage Tool. While coverage maps can't "guarantee" that you'll be able to use the service at a particular address, comparing the maps side by side will give you a good idea of whether coverage is available in your area.

For travelers who need to use mobile broadband nationwide, we strongly recommend choosing Verizon or Sprint, whose nationwide coverage surpasses that of AT&T. AT&T has strong nation-wide voice coverage, but their 3G coverage is not as widespread as Sprint's or Verizon's. AT&T 3G is available in most big cities and can be a great solution for users who either only need service at one address (and have confirmed coverage there) or only travel to metropolitan areas, but for rural use, Sprint and Verizon are better choices than AT&T. DataJack uses Sprint's network, so they are also a good choice for nationwide coverage, but DataJack only works in Sprint's native coverage areas - it does not work in locations that Sprint has roaming agreements with another partner, so DataJack doesn't cover quite as many places as Sprint (but still far more than AT&T).

For real-world reports on 3G EVDO performance around the country, we also run EVDOmaps.com. This is NOT a coverage map but a place where users can post actual speed test results and descriptions of their gear, so that others can see what service was like at that moment in time, from that user's location (please note that these maps do NOT include AT&T). For real-world reports on 4G coverage, check out 4Gmaps.com.

2) Cost: Besides the monthly cost, there are some variations in what you'll pay for service from the leading providers:

  Verizon  Sprint AT&T DataJack
Monthly Fee $50 for 3G-only USB, ExpressCards, and PCMCIA cards; $50/mo (5GB) or $80/mo (10GB) for mobile hotspots and 3G/4G devices.
$59.99 for 5GB or $89.99 for 10GB $60.00 $49.99
One-time Activation Fee $35 $36 $36 N/A
Overage Charge $0.05/mb = $50/GB for USB, 3G-only ExpressCards, and PCMCIA cards; $10/GB for 3G/4G devices and mobile hotspots $0.05/mb = $50/GB $0.05/mb = $50/GB $0.03/mb = $30/GB
Cancelation Fee

$175 less $5 per month of contract completed

$200 for first 4 months; after 4 months ETF is calculated by multiplying $10 by the number of months remaining on contract down to a minimum of $50) $150 less $4 per month of contract completed N/A
Upgrade Fee $0 $18
$0 if contract is completed; $36 if upgrading early (21-23 months into 24-month contract) N/A

3) Contract Options: Most providers encourage customers to sign up for a 2-year contract for mobile broadband service, and that can be the most cost-effective option in some cases. It is not the ONLY option for all providers, though:

Verizon contract options:

  • 2-year and month-to-month options available
  • Monthly cost is the same regardless of the contract option chose
  • With 2-year contract, devices available for $0-$99.99 (3Gstore pricing - Verizon direct pricing can be significantly higher)
  • For a month-to-month contract directly through Verizon, you must purchase the device at full retail price ($200-$300 for a brand new device; refurbished devices also available)

Sprint contract options:

  • 2-year and 1-year options available, NO month-to-month option (even if you own the device)
  • Monthly cost is $79.99 on 1-year contract
  • With 2-year contract, devices available for $0-$79.99 (3Gstore pricing - Sprint direct pricing is significantly higher)
  • With a 1-year contract, you pay considerably more up-front for the device (up to $250)

AT&T contract options:

  • 2-year and 1-year options available, NO month-to-month option (even if you own the device)
  • With 2-year contract, devices available for $0-$99.99
  • With a 1-year contract, you pay considerably more up-front for the device (up to $200)

DataJack contract options:

  • No contract required - service is pre-paid, so you can cancel any time
  • Initial cost is $149.99, which includes the modem and the first month of service. After your first month is up, you can then choose to pay for another month, set up recurring billing, or simply let the service stop until the next time you need it.

4) Cancelation Fees and Trial Period: Verizon and AT&T each offer a 30-day trial period and Verizon has a 14-day trial period during which a customer can cancel their service without incurring an early termination fee (ETF), but it is not always "free". For Sprint, if you cancel within the first 30 days you will receive a refund of your activation fee AND your monthly fee. For Verizon and AT&T, you may cancel within your trial period and not incur an early termination fee, but your activation fee will NOT be refunded (unless you cancel during the first 3 days of the contract) and you will also be responsible for paying for the partial month of service.

After the trial period has passed, canceling a Sprint, Verizon, or AT&T contract incurs an ETF. The ETF policies are as follows:

  • Sprint: The Sprint ETF starts at $200 and begins to go down after 4 months. After 4 months have been completed, the ETF is calculated by multiplying the number of months left in the contract by $10. So, if you have completed 7 months of your 24-month contract, your ETF would be: 16 months remaining X $10/mo = $160. The minimum ETF is $50 (once you get down to that level, it doesn't go down any further). The full explanation can be found here.
  • Verizon: Verizon's ETF is $175 less $5 for each month that has been completed. If you have completed 7 months of your 24-month contract, your ETF would be: $175 - $5 x 7 months completed = $140
  • AT&T: AT&T's ETF is $150 less $4 for each month that has been completed. If you have completed 7 months of your 24-month contract, your ETF would be: $150 - $4 x 7 months completed = $122

Since DataJack is a pre-paid/no-contract service, there is no penalty for canceling any time. However, there is a strict return policy: The DataJack modem can only be returned for a refund (less a restocking fee) during the first 14 days, and only if you've used less than 20MB of data. If you have used ZERO data, you may return your device during the 14-day period for a refund less a $15 restocking fee. If you have used UP TO 20MB of data, you may return the device during the 14-day period for a refund less the $15 restocking fee and a $20 usage fee. If you have used more than 20MB of data, the device cannot be returned for a refund (you may of course cancel your service at ANY time, but you will not be eligible for a refund).

5) Other Considerations: For most people, coverage, costs, and contract options are the most important factors in selecting a carrier. However, there are a few other differences between the carriers that may be important to some users:

  • Sprint now has 4G WiMAX in some areas and their new 3G/4G devices and plans make them a great option even if 4G isn't available in your area yet.
  • Verizon has 4G LTE available in a number of markets as well, and is quickly expanding their coverage area (even faster than Sprint, whose 4G service has been around longer)
  • GPS: Some Sprint modems are GPS-capable, Verizon devices are not
  • Roaming in other countries: Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T all have some coverage in Canada and Mexico (for additional charges), but only AT&T offers service overseas. If you plan to use mobile broadband outside the US, remember to check coverage and pricing - roaming fees can be VERY expensive.
  • Static IP: Sprint offers static IP addresses for $3/mo; Verizon charges a one-time fee of $500, and AT&T charges both a one-time fee of $500 and a monthly fee of $3/mo. Static IP addresses are not available from DataJack.
  • Verizon in MOST places uses 850mhz for their 3G network, Sprint and AT&T use in 1900mhz in most areas. The 850mhz band penetrates through walls and into homes more effectively. 850mhz is also a much better option if an antenna with a longer cable run is needed, for example a standard 25ft cable loses 1.8 dbm in 850mhz and the same cable on 1900mhz the loss is 2.8 dbm.

The Bottom Line: No carrier is perfect for "everyone" - it is very important to take YOUR needs into account when selecting a carrier. If you need help deciding, do not hesitate to contact us with your needs and we will be happy to make a recommendation!


Related links:



Last Updated ( Monday, 16 May 2011 )
 
< Prev   Next >

EVDO News, Tips, Products, Reviews, Verizon and Sprint Experts.
Welcome to the #1 source for EVDO Information. Search our EVDO forums, read our EVDO Blogs, check EVDO coverage and when ready, buy your EVDO products from us, your EVDO Experts. Call us @ 1-866-3GSTORE.
 
The image “http://www.evdoinfo.com/images/stories/evdo_easy_button.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
 

CrawlTrack: free crawlers and spiders tracking script for webmaster- SEO script -script gratuit de dÔøΩtection des robots pour webmaster