This morning, Virgin Mobile flipped the switch on their new $10 and $40 Broadband2Go plans. We mentioned them earlier this week, but as a quick reminder - for $10, you get 100MB of data, or unlimited data for just $40. These new stand-alone plans make Virgin Mobile the cheapest nationwide 3G operator. Best of all, these new plans are contract free, do not require activation fees or a credit check.
The Broadand2Go service is available on the Novatel MiFi 2200 WiFi 3G hotspot or Ovation MC760 USB modem. The USB modem is like every other on the market - you plug it into an open USB slot, install the software, and get online.
The MiFi 2200 is what deserves some attention. Even though this device is not brand new (we reviewed the Verizon Wireless version last year), the Virgin Mobile MiFi is the only prepaid version available in retail stores.
Using the MiFi 2200 involves a one-time activation. The process guides you through a couple of steps, including a few fields for personal information, and picking a Virgin Mobile account password. You then pick a payment method, and activate the modem. The Virgin Mobile network uses Sprint - who actually own Virgin Mobile. The advantage of this is that you'll have access to a reliable nationwide 3G network.
Connecting to the modem is simple - it broadcasts a WiFi network name called "VirginMobile MiFi 2200" making it easy to locate. Its password is printed on the bottom on a label, but you are free to change that using its configuration pages.
Up to five devices can connect to the MiFi at the same time, which makes it ideal for conference rooms, or sharing a single connection in a hotel room.
I performed several speed tests with the MiFi, and usually saw no more than 700 Kb/s - which is on the low end of what I'd like to see on a 3G connection. As a reminder, the Verizon Wireless version we tested last year easily hit 2.5Mb/s, or over three times faster than on Virgin Mobile.
Of course, all kinds of factors can impact 3G speeds, and Virgin advertises the speeds as "between 600Kb/s and 1400Kb/s" putting my speed tests within their promise. One plus for them is that there does not appear to be any kind of limit on the amount of data you can transfer, nor do they limit your speeds once you exceed a limit. To them, unlimited really does appear to mean unlimited.
Still, the speeds are quite usable for web and email, but they may be a little on the slow side for data intensive apps like video streaming. Bottom line is simple - you are saving $240 when compared to most other mobile broadband solutions.
At $149.99, the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 is a decent deal (Walmart has it on sale this week for $119.99.) At this price, it becomes a handy tool to carry if you regularly run into $20 WiFi at a hotel and need to get online. The $10 plan offers 100MB for 10 days, which should be enough for a couple of web and email sessions.
The MiFi 2200 charges off MicroUSB, and an AC charger and USB cord are included, as is a protective pouch. If you'd rather not use WiFi to connect to the unit, you can plug it into your laptop and install it as a regular USB broadband modem.
The Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go MiFi 2200 is available at Virginmobileusa.com and in select retail stores.