Best options for unlimited data with pay as you go.
December 15, 2008 9:05 PM   Subscribe

My conundrum, and I know I am not alone: Pay As You Go + Data (United States)

I am a frugal person. I do not like to pay for things that I will not use. That said, I need to be connected to the internet at all times.

My conundrum, and I know I am not alone:
• I am living in the States.
• I hardly ever talk on the phone. Maybe 10 calls a month, total of 40-80 minutes.
• I want unlimited data service on my phone. I have a BlackBerry, so regular or BlackBerry service would work.

Currently, I have pay as you go with AT&T and I purchase 5MB of data for $10 as needed. I would like to not have to worry about my data usage, however, and run wild with an unlimited plan.

If I cannot have unlimited data, a the best deal on data would suffice.

I am not willing under any circumstances to switch to a post-paid plan. I currently pay $15 a month or less to make my necessary phone calls. I refuse to buy hundreds of minuets that I will never use.

To make sure that I have been clear: I am not interested in post paid plans.

I've searched this board and I have not been able to find current information relevant to the United States. Before answering, please be sure to check the website of the cell provider you are suggesting for the most current information. The deal you have in mind might not be available any longer and thus will not be useful for me and and the thousands of others who will read this page.

Also, lets try to keep the conversation centered around plans available in the United States. I know the UK has much better options; trust me, I envy you.

Thanks in advance! Let the debate begin.
posted by hipersons to Technology (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
How quickly are you blowing through those blocks of data? That is, how much are you paying per month for data in $10 increments? Figuring out what volume you're talking about will help people to advise you.
posted by decathecting at 9:23 PM on December 15, 2008

Well, I just started using the service so my estimate might not be terribly reliable since I've been downloading services to try out. I'd say on a typical day I might use around 200kb daily. That said, opening up google maps takes 400kb alone. So on special occasions my daily usage might spike to around 5MB in a day or two.
posted by hipersons at 9:44 PM on December 15, 2008

I'm on Virgin Mobile's pay-as-you-go and it's pretty convenient. They have the option of automatically buying minutes so it is really pay as you go. They ding you for $20/qtr if you don't talk at all.

You can add a data plan for $10/mo for 20MB or $20/mo for 50MB.

Rates here.

Virgin is a Sprint MVNO.
posted by troy at 9:45 PM on December 15, 2008

Well, the options you'd have are a bit limited. AT&T got rid of the pay as you go unlimited data plan a couple months ago. You could switch to a Pick Your Plan option and get an BlackBerry Personal package added onto it, but you'd be looking at $29.99 / mo for 200 min, plus an additional $30 a month for the BB package. You may be able to find someone to put the cheaper $15 Media Net Unlimited package on though if you don't let them know you've got a BB.

I know you said you don't want a post paid plan, but it may be worth looking into having someone add you on as a partner line onto their account, $39.99/mo would let you share their min, and have the BB personal plan for unlimited internet/email/etc.
posted by joshgates at 9:52 PM on December 15, 2008

Unfortunately, the cheap data service tends to be CDMA at the moment, so you're probably looking at a new phone...

The nearest thing to what you're asking for that I know of is Cricket's $40/mo unlimited data plan, but it's not ment for phones (Though there's a bunch of reflashers out there who could probably help with that) and it's Cricket, which means it's available practically nowhere and probably has crap service.

PagePlus is $1.20/MB, with a $.50/month service fee(No mandatory voice purchase). AFAIK, they're basically a Verizon reseller, so you should get pretty good service. You will have to go with a third party reseller to get your phone signed up for service, however.
posted by Orb2069 at 10:37 PM on December 15, 2008

T-Mobile has a Blackberry Unlimited Plan. It doesn't come with any free minutes for calling. You pay $0.20/minute for calls. I use their Total Internet plan to get wireless for my laptop, and it works well. Where I live, there are lots of hotspots, so it's useful.
posted by bluefly at 7:43 AM on December 16, 2008

Howard Forums is good place to do research on this kind of question.

Are you going to be tethering (using your phone as a modem for another computer/device)? What are your speed requirements?

Boost Mobile (a Sprint reseller) gives you unlimited 20kbps for tethering or Java applications (including Opera). It costs $0.35/day if you use the built-in browser, free if you don't. The disadvantage is you have to use a Boost phone, which might be awkward if you're not 14. If you just use the phone for data the minimum cost is $5 every 90 days. Voice is $0.10/minute.

Page Plus (a Verizon reseller) offers free unlimited data using QNC at 14.4kbps. It takes a bit of hacking to force most phones to use QNC instead of 1xRTT or EVDO but it is free. Or, as mentioned above you can pay through the nose for EVDO data.

That said your best option is Verizon IN Pulse, their pre-paid option. If you use voice they charge you $0.99 for each day you make a call and then $0.10/minute. If you just use data you never get charged so you only have to add money to extend the expiration date ($100/year = $8.33/month). The speeds are 1xRTT (100kbps) out of the box and EVDO (1-1.5mbps) with a bit of hacking. This method has been working for at least a year or two but it is not advertised and could go away at any time. Here is a good thread on HowardForums that talks about the service.

People at HowardForums talk about using PagePlus for voice on NAM1 (voice for as low as $0.056/minute) and InPulse on NAM2. That way you get the Page Plus voice rates and the IN Pulse data rates. You want to be damn sure that you have it set up correctly so you don't end up with the Page Plus data rates and the IN Pulse voice rates :-)

I don't know which, if any, of these options are compatible with your current phone but used phones are dirt cheap. After doing all the research to answer this question now I'm thinking about dumping my cable provider and switching to a tethered IN Pulse setup.
posted by ChrisHartley at 8:58 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

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