We already knew that mobile broadband demand
was on the up and up, and now we're seeing yet another US carrier get into the game. Unlike the Big 4 (Sprint, AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA), Virgin Mobile USA's approach is significantly different. With those other guys, you're forced into a 2-year agreement that only allows you 5GB of throughput per month. A tough pill to swallow, for sure.
Virgin Mobile USA, on the other hand, is going against the grain by offering a pay-as-you-go plan, which in our minds, is totally more feasible for most users. Who seriously needs a mobile broadband stick each day of the year, for two years straight? Compare that to folks who could really use one on an extended business trip, a vacation, etc. We're guessing more folks would need one on an "as-needed" basis than a two-year, 24/7 basis.
The Broadband2Go service features Novatel's Ovation MC760 WWAN card, a simple, black USB stick that surfs on Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A netbook and doubles as a microSD flash card reader. Sadly, it seems that the device isn't compatible with Linux of Mac platforms just yet, but Windows users will be able to pick the stick up soon from Best Buy for $150 outright -- no contracts or other strings attached. Once in hand, users can tap into Sprint's network by purchasing data in $10, $20, $40 or $60 increments, which must be used up within a rather short period of time. To quote: "For $20, users get 250MB of data that expires after 30 days. The cheapest payment costs $10 for 100MB, but it expires in 10 days. For $60, users get 1GB that they must use in 30 days.
Still, we love the flexibility here. Users can simply buy data whenever they find themselves in a pinch and in deed, and they won't be held hostage by their carrier when they don't need the data. Hey, big carriers -- care to follow suit?