In US for 2-3 weeks, need a SIM and great Wifi and hotspot connectivity
November 19, 2020 2:50 AM   Subscribe

Need to buy a cellphone SIM and cell plan for one month only in Florida. I need fast internet and hotspot capabilities for my laptop. Phone calling isn't important, although texting would be nice. Will leave US by end of month. Solutions/suggestions?
posted by lometogo to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd go for a T-Mobile Prepaid plan. They're a good combination of not-too-expensive and reasonably easy to use without a contract. You can go to a T-Mobile store (they are ubiquitous) or order a SIM online, though I don't know if they will ship outside of the US. Note that the "unlimited" data is really just 10GB of data at 4G then unlimited at 3G, but I think you might be able to pay for a top-up if/when you get through your 10GB.

Which carrier is best probably depends on the exact area you'll be in, though.
posted by mskyle at 4:38 AM on November 19 [1 favorite]

I live in Hong Kong and usually order this at a digital travel agency like KKDay ($50/30 days for unlimited 4G on T-Mobile). Perhaps also look at pocket wifi devices? Klook has this wifi egg thing with unlimited 4G for USD 3.89 a day.
posted by mdonley at 6:56 AM on November 19

What you are looking for is a no contract plan with a hotspot, and sadly in the States that limits your options. Most plans have hotspot limits, and plans with decent allotments tend to be contract plans.

Last I checked most carriers have signifigant limits to their 'unlimited' plans, so TMobile's $70 Magenta plan has a 3GB hotspot data cap. If price is a factor I would consider going with one of Metro's plans, which is part of Tmobile. Of all the MVNO's they (and Mint) are actually functional in the real world, and I experienced infrequent throttling/data deprioritization. The MetroPCS plan for 60$ includes a 15Gb cap on the hotspot, which is a decent starting point. Metro also sells a hotspot device, and will mail you everything you need and set up is online and quick.

If price is less of a factor both AT&T and Verizon have unlimited data plans, but in my experience AT&T will throttle it's prepaid plans more often than Metro does. So you end up getting the same level of service but costs more for lower limits.
posted by zenon at 7:17 AM on November 19

The subreddit r/nocontract is useful for information on prepaid plans. They have a comparison spreadsheet which may help you find a plan that satisfies your requirements: tblMT9jc52KzViC0K/viwHyz9rCOEY8L4w5
posted by unid41 at 7:19 AM on November 19 [1 favorite]

Google Fi doesn't require a contract and has access to the bottom 3 of the 5 largest networks in the US, which results in very good coverage in urban areas but occasionally sparser than Verizon and AT&T (the two biggest ones) in deeply rural areas. If you have a compatible phone, you can tether/hotspot off it and get unlimited data for $60 for a month, though it's throttled speedwise at a certain point. You can pay extra for additional high speed data.
posted by Candleman at 7:31 AM on November 19

TING has a no-contract, pay-as-you-go plan that includes free tethering/hotspot, but you pay for data/minutes/txts separately. There's a chart on the website so you can figure out if it works for your usage. Just order a sim card and they'll mail it to you. They roam (for free) on 2 networks, so their coverage is always available.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:37 AM on November 19

Beware, If you didn't buy your phone in the US, it is probably GSM only and therefore can't work on the Verizon or Sprint networks. You will need to choose between AT&T and T-mobile.
posted by fritley at 8:54 AM on November 19

Echoing sexyrobot to say Ting does what you need. I've used Ting for years and the service is good.
posted by anadem at 11:06 AM on November 19

(And I believe they do both CDMA and GSM... I believe over Sprint and T-Mobile. Definitely check your current data usage in settings to see if it works pricewise though. The main benefit is free tethering and excellent reception.)
posted by sexyrobot at 1:54 PM on November 19

Not all SIMS/carriers work with all phones, and it can get granular - the European model may not work with a carrier, though the US model does.
posted by theora55 at 2:32 PM on November 19

Thank you all, especially loved the Airtable @unid41 pointed to, but I believe Candleman's Google Fi suggestion will be my best fit.

I'm never disappointed and forever amazed at the quality of the AskMeFi community.
posted by lometogo at 6:02 AM on November 23

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