Pay-per-Megabyte Internet Could Work for Infrequent Travelers

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The idea of four-cents-per-megabyte 3G wireless data with no two-year contract might just be simple enough to work. And when I say “work” I mean both for consumers and for the company providing the service.

Here’s the deal: This company, TruConnect, is offering access to Sprint’s nationwide 3G data pipe for $5 per month and 3.9 cents per megabyte. You’ll have to shell out for either a USB stick for your laptop ($70) or opt for the more practical, yet slightly more expensive MiFi router ($90) that allows you to connect up to five devices that have a Wi-Fi chip—that’ll basically cover any modern day connected device.

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After that initial financial outlay, you agree to pay $5 per month whether you use the service or not. Tough but fair? Tough but fair. When you do use the service, each megabyte will cost you 3.9 cents. Aside from that, there’s no two-year contract to get locked into.

For comparison, AT&T’s least expensive 3G data plan that works with the iPad runs $15 per month and gives you 250 megabytes to work with. Once you’ve used up all those megabytes, you’ll have to shell out another $15 for 250 more. Or you can pay $25 per month for two gigabytes (roughly 2,000 megabytes). This TruConnect deal would cost you $14.75 ($5 plus $9.75) and if you went over 250 megabytes, you’d still just pay 3.9 cents per additional megabyte used, instead of another $15 like you would with AT&T.

If you use a lot of data, however, this isn’t nearly as good of a deal at all. Under the same scenario as above, two gigabytes would cost you around $80 via TruConnect, but only $25 using AT&T.

So it could work out well for people who travel infrequently yet want access to nationwide 3G data sporadically, and it could work out well for TruConnect when some of those people end up using more data than they thought they would. For general web surfing, especially on a tablet, it’d be tough to crack 500 megabytes in a single month, which is when the pay-per-megabyte model would start to lose its consumer benefit. Even then, though, you’ve got the no-contract angle and the ability to share with four other devices, too.

Now we just need something similar for super fast 4G data. Clearwire’s $5 per day “Rover” service did just that but the $5-per-day option was killed off earlier this year. This is why we can’t have nice things.

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