Mobile Broadband – Choosing a USB Broadband Adapter

This one took several days to research. I went through all the major carriers websites – AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile. My thoughts on selection were to get a USB Broadband adapter from a CDMA Carrier and one from one of the GSM carriers. Wanting to avoid having a monthly recurring bill for what I am initially thinking will be intermittent use. Sprint, Verizon and Cricket didn’t appear to have any pre-paid broadband adapters available since I couldn’t find anything on their website. Virgin Mobile appeared to be my best option from a CDMA carrier. I then looked at the GSM carriers – since I already have an iPhone, I wanted to have something from a different carrier. My next option was to look at T-Mobile.

T-Mobile was a little more of a challenge. I like to look at things at local stores and buy from there if at all possible. The local stores don’t charge the same price as the website and are more oriented to getting you on a monthly plan which is something I wanted to avoid. Being able to purchase internet usage in bits and bytes at a reasonable cost got my attention with this carrier. In doing the price research, I found something very interesting just by accident. If you want to buy a large chunk of airtime (greater than $20), look at and you just may find a slightly better option than buy a fill-up card from some carriers such as T-Mobile.

Virgin Mobile USBSince I had a potential use coming up in the short term, I opted to purchase the Virgin Mobile adapter locally. Found out something that surprised me. When I initially found the adapter on’s website for $59 but when I went to the local store to buy it, the price was $79. Would have thought they would be selling for the same price. Interesting thing I found was that I could have bought the adapter for $59 on the website and had it shipped to the same local store at no charge. Only problem was that it would have taken upwards of a week or more for it to show up at the store. Ended up buying the USB stick from my local Target store. That takes care of the CDMA carrier.

Virgin Mobile USBAs for the GSM carrier, I decided to go with the T-Mobile offering. When looking at any of the prepaid USB modems, always be sure to check, I could have saved around $20 US on both of the USB modems that I have selected for this test. Another reason I went with two different carriers was that it would allow me to test two different internet paths to different sites/systems that I was testing. It also provides a backup connectivity option in case a carrier has a major outage or routing problems which have been known to happen. I talking to the folks at T-Mobile, they advised me of something that I might not have thought about. If you happen to come buy a used T-Mobile Broadband adapter that formerly had a contract/monthly bill associated with it, you can buy a SIM card for the Pre-Paid Broadband service and get it running that way. A nice thing for them to tell me. Where this can come in handy is when you are looking at the different mobile routers and seeing which of the adapters you are looking at are on the “supported” list.

In a future post, I will discuss my experiences with activating both adapters.

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