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T-Mobile tempts with no-contract mobile broadband

On May 20, T-Mobile will sell monthly 4G data access sans contracts.


Having fast 4G access wherever you roam has a particularly sweet and succulent taste all its own. Committing to an onerous monthly contract, though, is a bitter pill to swallow. T-Mobile, with its new prepaid data plans, thinks it has an attractive alternative.

The carrier announced today that it will sell what it calls Mobile Broadband Service Passes, which start at $15 per week (300MB) and run the gamut from a 1.5GB data bucket ($25 per month) all the way up to a full 5GB for $50 monthly fee. Notably, you can pay up-front for these passes without having to enter a binding monthly contract.

That's sounds compelling to me, especially if I plan on doing lots of business travel in a short time frame and won't have much use for 4G access the other 10 months out of the year. One issue that isn't clear from T-Mobile's press release is whether you'll have to buy one pass for each mobile device you plan to use; phone, hot spot, USB modem, antablet.

Another caveat is that T-Mobile's "4G" network technically runs on HSPA+ infrastructure. While it theoretically offers download speeds of up to 42Mbps, I typically clock throughput at around 8 to 10Mbps down. That can't beat the approximately 17Mbps (down) I regularly observe on Verizon and AT&T's LTE 4G networks here in New York . Still, this could be a way to try 4G without much risk.