3G USB for US and Australia?
September 14, 2009 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Which 3G USB key/stick thingy should my Mom buy if she wants to be able to use it in Australia and the US? She'll probably want a prepaid solution in both countries rather than a plan.
posted by obiwanwasabi to Technology (7 answers total)
Modems for pre-paid broadband are usually locked to a network here, although my ISP does have provision for enabling your own modem to operate on their service, as do most other large carriers. The problem I can see with your plan is that your mum will be charged at international roaming rates when using her modem outside of the carrier's zone - and international roaming rates are absolutely deadly. It might be far cheaper for your mum to activate a pre-paid service with a carrier in each location than to try using one carrier in both countries.

In Australia, your choice of carrier may depend on location. Before you select a carrier here make sure the have good 3G coverage to the area where your mum will be using the service - this can be a real problem even relatively short distances from home (there are quite a lot of mobile service dead zones on the outskirts of the greater Sydney area, for instance).

Be aware that pre-paid broadband credit may expire after thirty days here (some carriers will roll unused credit over if you recharge before the expiry date).

An excellent place for you to ask this question would be the Whirlpool forums - they really know their stuff when it comes to Aussie technology.
posted by Lolie at 4:25 PM on September 14, 2009

You can get the dongle unlocked (google) and then use any pre-paid SIM card. Just did it in the US
posted by A189Nut at 5:33 PM on September 14, 2009

Just in case it's not the norm everywhere else, I'll mention that your mum will need to have acceptable ID in order to activate a pre-paid service in her own name here, whether phone or internet (it's an absolutely useless requirement of our telecommunications laws) - if that's a problem, someone else can activate it for her.
posted by Lolie at 6:42 PM on September 14, 2009

Can't speak to the US situation, but here in Australia your choices basically boil down to BigPond (part of Telstra; wide coverage due to regulatory legacy; stupidly expensive data; lots of fine-print surprises, broken CRM, broken billing, hideous web site) or Anybody But Telstra (coverage usually OK in capital cities, spotty elsewhere, usually far less aggravating to deal with).

Telstra uses different 3G radio bands to everybody else, so if you go with Telstra, you will probably want to get your 3G modem from them.

If you're going to be somewhere that has good coverage on the Optus 3G network, I'd recommend dealing with Exetel.

And yes, Whirlpool is The Business.
posted by flabdablet at 7:53 PM on September 14, 2009

In Australia - Having just purchased a USB dongle for my elderly father, I was looking for a prepaid, no reactivation option but they're pretty hard to find. Most (Virgin, Telstra, Optus, Vodaphone) pre-paid credit expires after 30-45 days with one exception - 3's 12gb over 12 months plan - which was pretty expensive and also had really limited coverage. In addition, 3 also charge punitive roaming minutes whenever you're out of their standard area - and their coverage map indicated that this included outskirts of major cities.

We ended up going through Vodaphone but Dad will need to purchase top-up vouchers regularly. You can get a sim pack and a recharge voucher pretty cheaply from most carriers - Vodaphone's 500mb is $20 for a 30-day recharge, maybe $10 for the sim pack. I doubt that she'd be able to use the same pre-paid credit in both Australia and the US, she will probably need two separate plans and sim cards.

Hope this helps - I think there really is a market for low-usage internet dongle plans, and 30 day recharges are ridiculously frequent.
posted by quercus23 at 4:03 AM on September 15, 2009

Yeah, the Whirlpool forums are the duck's guts for anything to do with ISPs in Australia.

I use a Telstra NextG modem/SIM for work and the coverage sucks. I'm not sure that there is any provider that can give you reliable access if you are travelling, because there are so many dead zones (most of the country is uninhabited, so no need for phone signals). Even in urban areas, I find that there are lots of places that have no coverage. Optus' network seems a bit better in urban fringe areas, but not as good outside the urban regions.

It's worth asking the provider for coverage maps, but keep in mind that these are very optimistic.
posted by dg at 5:33 AM on September 15, 2009

Be aware, the problem won't be getting a prepaid data plan in Australia, it'll be getting data on prepaid at all in the USA. I have my (Vodafone Australia on-contract, legitimately carrier unlocked) iPhone 3GS here in the States and neither of AT&T or T-Mobile will give me data on prepay.

This is a recent development, the situation having changed in the last few months (see this AT&T forums thread and this T-Mobile forums thread). The consensus is the carriers are filtering on IMEI to specifically exclude iPhones. The only way you can get data service on an iPhone is to sign up for a contract on AT&T or a month-by-month unlimited "prepay contract" on T-Mobile, both of which will cost you a minimum of $60/month. I'm not sure if this affects USB sticks, but wouldn't be surprised.

I'd love to find a solution for this if anyone has one.

What's the equivalent of Whirlpool for the US carriers?
posted by m1ndsurfer at 3:08 PM on September 15, 2009

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