How to Find the Best Prepaid Wireless Internet Mobile Hot Spot Plan 2016

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Last updated: 8/31/2016

T-Mobile Sonic 2 Mobile HotSpot LTE

Mobile Hot Spots are small devices that create Wi-Fi networks wherever a cell phone signal is present. While there are laptops and tablets with built-in wireless access, few people can afford the premium cost and reduced flexibility of being tied into a single wireless carrier. Prepaid Wireless Internet allows you to gain this flexible access with no contract. These products are handy when you need to get your laptop, Chromebook, car, or tablet online, anywhere and at anytime. Advantages of Mobile Hot Spots:

  • Flexibility
  • Cost
  • Performance

There are two types of hotspot devices: USB sticks and wireless hot spots. While USBs are especially compact and convenient, they are only usable with one laptop. We recommend purchasing a Wi-Fi based hot spot that will allow you to connect multiple devices to the Internet at the same time. It also may be worth tethering your device to your smartphone as this may be more cost effective. In this article, we will do the following:

  • List the major Mobile Internet providers
  • Analyze coverage and performance
  • Evaluate pricing and provide recommendations

Important: As with any mobile wireless plan, you need to ensure you have coverage where you need it. Whether you're at home, work, or out and about, you'll need signal otherwise it does not matter what the price is.

Selecting a Mobile Hot Spot Provider Many shoppers look for a Mobile Internet from their current cellular provider. While it is convenient to have a single bill covering your smartphone and Mobile Hot Spot, you will probably save a lot of money by signing up with a different carrier. Criteria used to select a Mobile Hot Spot Vendor:

  • Network coverage
  • Data Plans
  • Network Performance
  • Hot Spot cost
  • Hot Spot features
  • No contract

In the past, consumers obtained Mobile Access Points by purchasing them at discount or receiving them for free as a part of  new 2 year plan with a major wireless carrier like, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile. Times have changed. There are many more options available to those seeking Mobile Wi-Fi access. We will examine the leading prepaid no-contract smartphone plans to help you find the best one. First, check and compare coverage using opensignal.com. Examine and determine which of the major four networks works best. The smaller Mobile Hot Spot providers purchase network access from the big 4.

Key Factors to Look for in a No Contract Mobile Hot Spot Plan

Here are the main attributes you need to understand when evaluating a wireless Hot Spot carrier:

  • Price – of course you want to minimize this.
  • Network – these carriers buy access on one of the major 4 networks. Understand which network works well in your home and area of travel.
  • Data –Pick a plan that has enough data for your needs.
  • Mobile Hot Spot – Ensure that the device has the features you need (Wi-Fi, USB, Memory Card slot, display)
  • International – does the carrier allow you to use the hot spot internationally?

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More Like This

Wireless Data Requirements If you are a current smartphone user, check your bill to see how much data you use. Your new Mobile Hot Spot plan can be sized to your current usage patterns. Recent reports have shown that the average mobile consumer uses approximately 3 GB per month . If you are new to smartphones, consider these guidelines:

  • Email, Social Networking, News, Web Browsing – 2GB per month
  • Plus music streaming or downloading, sharing photos, download apps – 5GB per month
  • Plus movies, video streaming – unlimited per month

These are some rough figures to help you select the appropriate plan. Keep in mind that most unlimited plans slow down your data transfers after you pass a preset limit. AT&T and Verizon both have data calculators to help you figure out your needs based off of monthly usage. A head's up: when we checked our data use with the same numbers, the two data calculators didn't agree.

We will use approximately 2GB a month as typical user.

No-Contract Plans for a Mobile Hot Spot

Best Mobile Hot Spot Plan 2016

TMobile Logo

T-Mobile is one of the major four wireless carriers in the United States. They have a wide range of no contract Mobile Hot Spots available for purchase. They run a GSM network, allowing you to purchase an unlocked Mobile Hot Spot and use it on their network. All you need to do is buy their SIM starter kit.

If you use  tethering  with a normal smartphone plan, you will usually get throttled after 7GB of usage each month.

Coverage - Good to very good depending on your area. Check their coverage maps

Plan - T-Mobile has a good no contract, $20 per month plan with 2GB of high speed data. This data is available at up to 4G LTE speeds.

T-Mobile Tablet plans with 2GB and more includes Binge On video streaming that lets you watch 3x more video with your high-speed data, 6GB and more stream unlimited video on popular services like Netflix, HBO NOW, Hulu and more without using your high-speed data allocation.

Overage - There are no overages, data over your limit is throttled to slower 2G speed.

Mobile Hot Spot selection – Poor. T-Mobile had 1 device available, which supported LTE. They also had refurbished version at a discount. You can pay $0 up front, then a monthly payment for 24 months, or pay the full amount. Price range $50 - $80

T-Mobile is best when:

  • You are on a budget
  • You are a Heavy Data User
  • You use a lot of video
  • Good Coverage in your local area
  • You can accept their limit hotspot selection

virgin-mobile-logo

Virgin Mobile is a subsidiary of Sprint and uses the same CDMA technology and network. Virgin's lowest priced plan offers access for $5/day. However, most people will use it more than this, so a monthly plan is a likely a better bet. There are no contracts or overage fees, with the only downside is that throttling starts after you run out of your allotted data.

Coverage - Okay to good depending on your area. Better on the East Coast than the West Coast. Check their coverage maps

Best Plan - Virgin-Mobile has a good no contract Broadband2Go, $25 per month plan with 1.5GB of high speed 3G/4G WiMAX data. If you only need temporary access and 250MB of data, they have a $5/day plan.

Overage - There are no overages, data over your limit is throttled to slower speeds.

Mobile Hot Spot selection – Very weak. Virgin-Mobile did not sell any mobile hotspots online.  They tell you to check with a local retailer.

Virgin Mobile is best when:

  • You are a Moderate Data User
  • Sprint has good coverage in your area

Straight-Talk-Logo

Tracfone owns NET10 and Straight Talk. Straight Talk is a little more expensive than other pre-paid wireless providers, but it utilizes both CDMA and GSM technology used on the AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint network. They utilize Verizon for their Mobile Internet Hot Spot. Straight Talk lets you connect up to 5 devices to their Hot Spot.

Coverage - Okay to good depending on your area. Check their coverage maps

Best Plan - $15/month gets you 1GB of high speed data, valid for 30 days, with no contract. $25 gets you 2GB. More air time is available at higher costs. They block you after you use up your data. Non Hot Spot Plans will not work with their Hot Spot. No rollover.

Overage - There are no overages, data over your limit is throttled to slower speeds.

Mobile Hot Spot selection – Good. Straight Talk has 2 different options ranging from Free to $49.99.

Straight Talk is best when:

  • Verizon has good coverage in your area
  • You have limited data needs
  • You can accept the limit number of hot spots

ting

Ting hotspots uses the Sprint Network (CDMA) and lets you customize your account with different levels of data. Roaming onto Verizon and other networks with no extra cost. LTE is available in some areas. Connect up to 10 Wi-Fi enabled devices simultaneously. They do allow tethering (setting up a mobile hot spot) to their smartphones, so that is even a better option.

Coverage – Uses Sprint Network

Best Plans –Customizable based on your needs.  2GB Data $26/month

Overage - There are no overages, data over your limit is throttled to slower speeds

Mobile Hot Spot selection – Very Weak. Ting had 1 device available. Price $164. Expensive

Ting is best when:

  • Sprint has good coverage in your area
  • You need versatile plan based on use
  • You can use their smartphone tethering
  • You can accept their limited selection of hotspots

freedom-pop-logo

Freedom Pop offers a variety of devices where you pay for the device and get Free monthly allotment of Data. For example: Freedom Pop now offers 500MB 4G/3G Data free. 2GB costs $19.99. You can rollover data with the $9.99 Premier plan. There is also a free one month trial.

Coverage - Okay to very good depending on your area. We have experienced dead spots. Check their coverage maps.

Best Plan – Free 500MB. 2GB of data costs $19.99.

Overage – You need to pay after you pass your allotment.

Mobile Hot Spot selection – The Best. Freedom Pop had many devices available. Prices $29 - $169.99, but are on sale from time to time. 3G and 4G devices are here. Many are pre-owned or refurbished.

Freedom Pop is best when:

  • You have limited data needs
  • Sprint has good coverage in your area

 

att-wireless-logo

AT&T sells no contract AT&T Mobile Share wireless service at a fairly high price and with hard bandwidth caps. It is targeted toward business folks. A credit check may be required. Mobile Share plans are available to share your data between phones and mobile hot spots. AT&T has a reasonable amount of coverage nationwide. They are one of the most reliable wireless networks to be on. No annual contracts.

Coverage - Good to very good depending on your area. Check their coverage maps.

Best Plan - $25/mo DataConnect 2GB, $50 for 5GB.

Overage - There are overage costs.

Mobile Hot Spot selection – Good. AT&T  had 5 devices available. Price $0 - $49.99 with commitment. (Optional) You can also just pay the full amount for the hot spot upfront. A refurbished model was available.

AT&T is best when:

  • Speed is important
  • Sharing data with Smartphones
  • Reliability
  • Network coverage

verizon-logo

Verizon has the best coverage nationwide making them one of the most reliable networks. Verizon does not offer unlimited data like some of the cheaper options described here. Share Everything plans are available to share your data between phones and mobile hot spots.  You can also tether at no additional price, making it cheaper to do thing on your Verizon smartphone.

Coverage - Good to Excellent depending on your area. Check their coverage maps

Best Plan - $30 for 4GB/month, cheaper than in the past. But $20/month to add a hotspot.

Mobile Hot Spot selection – Good. 6 options available from $0.99 to $199.99 with or without contract. $20 activation fee.

Verizon is best when:

  • Reliability
  • Sharing data with Smartphones on same plan
  • Speed
  • Network Coverage
  • Budget is not tight

sprint

Sprint's selection of wireless hot sports is very limited. The off-network roaming usage allotment is small and can easily be used up in a few days. Hot spots require a 2 year commitment. It is hard to recommend Sprint.

Coverage - Good to very good depending on your area. Check their coverage maps

Best Plan - $50 per month for 1.5GB of mobile hotspot data. Only plan - poor choice.

Overage - 5¢/add'l MB.

Mobile Hot Spot selection – Very Good. Sprint had 5 devices available. Price $0 - $49.99. 2 year commitment required for all of them or pay up front.

Sprint is best when:

  • You love paying Sprint!

Other Carriers without Mobile Prepaid Wireless Internet Hot Spot Plans

  • Aio Wireless
  • Airvoice wireless
  • Boost Mobile
  • MetroPCS
  • Net10
  • PagePlus
  • PTel
  • Republic Wireless
  • TracFone

Conclusion

The consumer has the most control with no-contract mobile Prepaid Wireless Internet hot spot plans. You can switch carriers or devices at any time. Review the details above + select the one that fits your needs. We recommend trying at least two or three different services for a month and pick the one best for you. Take Price, Coverage, Hot Spot Selection, and monthly Bandwidth Allotment into consideration. The best thing about no-contract plans is that you can stop using the service at any time. There is no 2 year commitment.

Is this list helpful? How do you use your mobile hot spot?

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19 responses to “How to Find the Best Prepaid Wireless Internet Mobile Hot Spot Plan 2016”

  1. Kate says:

    Will my samsung galaxy tab 3 tablet work for straight talk sim card. They say I have to add a sim card before I can connect with the wireless pin cards they sell

  2. Linda Gorby says:

    I’d like to get the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 16 GB wifi only; can I use a HOTSPOT with this device or do I need a SmartPhone also? Right now I have a Huawei U8652 with Consumer Cellular. They don’t offer Mobile Hotspots. Just wondered what would be the best to use with no contract. Thanks.

    • norman says:

      Yes you can use a mobile hot spot with the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9. You can look for a different smartphone – provider that supports the hot spot feature. Getting a separate hotspot is expensive.

  3. John nelson says:

    Okay in the graph it says at&t/tmobil for straight talk but in the write up it says uses Verizon. Witch is it

  4. Bobby Jarrell says:

    Thank you for the article. In rural areas in Georgia it’s difficult to get Internet services for a low income family. The only solution that I have found is a Mobile Hotspot for use with WiFi tablets. The elderly woman and her husband that needed this to get a Internet connection with a Acer A500 that I gave them as a gift. After reading this article I have a much better understand of the cost of a Mobile Hotspot. But I’ve came to a conclusion that it not cost effective for poor low income households. Again thank for the article.

  5. Keith Walker says:

    What if I have a strate talk or boost mobile phoneid like to activat with freedom pop how do I do it when phone has already Ben activated but have no minuts or never down loaded the freedom pop app please help. I’d like to learn more

  6. Bill says:

    Thank You for the mobile hotspot info…. Very Helpful. I’m liking the free 500mb per month on Freedom Pop….

  7. sisi says:

    Does any hot spot will wil work my sprint unlimited sim card cellphon?

  8. B Ric says:

    I teach school where I use a lot of technology but they won’t provide the wifi password for non school purchased devices anymore. I’m trying to figure out the best wifi hotspot option or tethering option to use. Cell service is very poor at the school even though its in metro ATL.

  9. Josh lumpkin says:

    I was wondering if straight talks mobile hotspot throttles the speed after you use all your date

  10. luis says:

    How good is boost wifi hotspot

  11. Frank says:

    On 2016 I notice that Straight Talk do not have the best DATA prices for heir hot spot so I called them to get an unlock code from them and they let me know that Straight Talk will not let you unlock their hot spot (even though I paid about $90 for it a couple of years ago, (thought that was illegal)).

    They are not updating their data price; they claim they have the best devices, best network, half the cost (presumably for their plans). Verizon and AT&T have a better data price than Straight Talk (Both Verizon and AT&T have 5 GB DATA for $40). Even Straight Talk phones have a better DATA price than their own hotspot (Unlimited DATA, the first 5 GB LTE, slower after that, plus unlimited talk and text for $45).

    I would not recommend Straight Talk until they catch up with their pricing scheme and begin living up to their own LOGO “best devices, best network, half the cost”

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