I picked up a Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go USB modem for my laptop tonight. I travel fairly regularly and like to have access to the Internet when I am on the road. Since AT&T hasn’t enabled tethering for it’s iPhone users still, I wanted to find an aircard that would allow me to get Internet access wherever I may be.
I thought about purchasing an AT&T card, but wasn’t crazy about having to sign another two year contract even though the hardware was free, or pay $60 per month for data access. In addition, monthly data transfer was capped at 5 GB.
Other vendors like Sprint and Verizon offer similar plans.
The one that I found that was pretty intriguing was the offering from Virgin Mobile called “Mobile Broadband2Go”. Virgin Mobile prides itself on not signing it’s customers up for contracts, but providing affordable hardware and service at competitive prices.
The USB modem cost me $99 at Best Buy. While the competitors tend to give away their hardware for aircards, they get you by signing the two year contract and put you in a position to pay an early termination fee if you decide to quit your contract early. $60 is a lot of money on top of an existing cell bill just to provide data access.
I intent to use it both with my work laptop which is PC-based running Windows 7. I also plan to use it with my MacBook Pro. I thought I would activate it using my Mac, but what I found out is that when you insert the USB modem into a USB port on your Mac, it will automatically start the installation of the modem drivers. However, the configuration of the connection is completely manual and up to the user. The process is a little different on a Windows machine. When you insert the USB modem, an installation for a Connection Manager is started which installs the required drivers and an application to manage the aircard connection.
The important thing here is that initial activation of the modem has to take place on a Windows PC and not on the Mac. Since when Connection Manager is started, it brings you to Virgin Mobile’s website where you can enter all of your account information. It in turn gives you a couple sets of numbers which have to be entered in the Connection Manager to program the modem before it is usable. During this time you will also select a rate plan or how you want to handle the data access on your account.
Once I followed the process to activate the modem on the Windows PC, I was then able to take it out and put it into my Mac and make things work.
Why did I pick Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go?
1. No contract commitment (and no activation fee)
2. Pay-as-you-go Plans
3. Uses Sprint EVDO Network
Why I would possibly consider another carrier like AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon?
1. Quality of network
2. 5 GB data transfer/month vs. 1 GB max on Virgin Mobile
3. Price savings on larger data transfer plans
Who is the Mobile Broadband2Go suited for?
In my opinion, it is probably best suited for the person that needs occasional Internet access while on the go. If you are an everyday road warrior, you’ll probably find that traditional aircard plans are better suited for you.