Mobile Broadband is a good solution for frequent travelers when Wi-Fi hotspots are few and far between, but costs can quickly add up. Monthly fees range from $20 to $70 depending on usage and that's usually on top of bills for Internet access at home, your cell phone and maybe even a data plan. If you're not a heavy user, you'll be paying an awful lot for something you don't use. Virgin Mobile, our top prepaid wireless carrier, introduced a no-contract mobile broadband solution called Broadband2Go, aimed at light users. Pricing starts at $10 for 100 MB of data - which has to be used within 10 days. That's about 5 hours of web browsing, provided you aren't watching video or downloading large files. There are also 30-day plans. You can get 300 MB for $20, 1 GB for $40, and 5 GB for $60, which give you about 15, 50 and 250 hours of web browsing, respectively.
Hotels routinely charge $10-$15 per day for Wi-Fi access, which can add up during a business trip. Browsing the web for a few minutes each day from your room could run you $70 or more over one week. Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go doesn't require a contract, but you do have to purchase a USB dongle for $99.99, so the upfront cost is a bit steep. Megabytes (in the form of "top off" cards) can be purchased at Best Buy or online. Even if you're out of megabytes, you can still visit the Virgin Mobile account management site to re-up your card - that's also where you can check how much time you have left.
Once you purchase the dongle (the Novatel Ovation U760), you simply plug into your computer and the account set-up will launch automatically. The dongle also doubles as a MicroSD card reader, but reviewers say data transfer is very, very slow. Virgin Mobile piggybacks on the Sprint network - so coverage is nationwide.
Reviews generally say the Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go is worth it for sporadic use. Sascha Segan, in his PCMag.com review concludes, "If you're a very occasional wireless broadband user, or you want to buy your megabytes with cash, Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go looks like a good choice." An anonymous reviewer at SharedReviews.com purchased Broadband2Go to use when traveling and says it's "well worth it." Users at BestBuy.com report activation problems and issues with customer service, and some are disappointed that megabytes can't be carried over month to month. Others note issues with signal strength and reliability. Best Buy has a 30-day return policy.