To handle the US chapter better on a mobile device, it's now split according to operators.
AT&T (Go Phone)EditAT&T is the biggest GSM-based provider in the US rivalling only with Verizon. It has the biggest coverage nationwide aside from Verizon and gives the best compatibility.
AT&T's 2G is on 850 and 1900 MHz up to EDGE in certain areas only and going to be shut down by January 1st, 2017. 3G is on 850 and 1900 MHz up to HSPA+ and 4G/LTE on 700, 1700, 1900 and 2300 MHz (see Basics chapter for details).
Availability and start-upEdit
Their prepaid lines are all called GoPhone. A starter pack is called “GoPhone SIM card kit”. The SIM card only is referred as “Bring your own” (device). The SIM card is available for free from AT&T stores (locator) or for $9.99 online to be sent to an US postal address or at other stores such as Target (also for $9.99). Mini-, micro- and nano-SIMs are available. Take care that some mall kiosks like to charge you more for the SIM card. Alternatively, you can buy at online dealers e.g. on eBay to be shipped overseas for a surcharge. Commercial vendors like them here ship it worldwide for a steep surcharge: For instance the $45 plan with SIM is sold at £71 (= $88) which constitutes an almost 100% surcharge.
There are two different kinds of plans on offer: one with voice, texts and data for phones and another with data-only for tablets, routers and modems. The data-only plans work in phones and modems too, but are intended for tablet use and your phone will not send/receive calls or text messages with a data-only SIM (even though it still has a phone number). To avoid confusion in shops, state that you want to use it in a tablet, even if you plan to put the data-only SIM into a phone. There is no need to conceal anymore that you bring an iPhone from overseas. This caused problems until some years ago, but AT&T now welcomes foreign iPhones too.
The SIM cards sold in stores like Target work with both the data-only and phone plans, you decide when activating the SIM which kind of plan to use and you can change from one type to another later. The instructions with the SIM explain how to activate it, which is done differently for the plans.
If you buy the SIM in an AT&T store, then keep your receipt, it shows the phone number of the SIM card. If you activate the SIM yourself, you will recieve an SMS message showing your phone number after activation. SIM cards bought in their stores normally don't have any instructions or other information and you get only the plain SIM card.
Activation can be done in three ways:
- from your GoPhone (phones only): place card in phone, turn it on, select rate plan, type activation code, select ZIP code, send, turn it off and turn it on after 10 minutes to be activated.
- from any phone: call 877 426 0525 and follow instructions
- online at: https://www.wireless.att.com/activations/
When you are not in the US and want to activate your SIM before (e.g. to know your number ahead) follow this procedure: Use the online link (see above), as IMEI enter 15 times 1 (“111111111111111”), you can add a non US-based credit card, but choose USA as country and use any US address you can think of. AT&T uses entered IMEI number to determine, if device supports LTE. If it thinks that this device is not LTE-capable, the network will not allow any LTE connections. E.g.“111111111111111” is considered not LTE capable. It's recommended to enter a LTE-capable IMEI, if you need LTE. If LTE is not activated on your account but your phone supports LTE, better disable LTE on your phone. If you don't, your phone may periodically try to switch to LTE, but fails and for the duration of the attempt you may lose connection altogether. As ZIP code take any US ZIP code and as 4 digits of SSN enter “1234”. Then you can recharge, but can’t choose your plan though, because the verification SMS won’t be forwarded roaming abroad. For that you have to call customer service at +1-800-331-0500 to add your data plan manually. Have in mind, that the plan starts from this moment on.
Recharges and validityEdit
At least some credit cards not issued in the US can be added to the account (see above). If you don’t succeed in adding yours, just buy vouchers, called refill cards in the US. They are available at AT&T stores, many supermarkets, gas stations, Walgreen’s and CVS drugstores, 7-Eleven and many other outlets. Minimum value is $15. A refill of $15 is valid for 30 days, up to $50 for 90 days and from $100 for 365 days. Take care: If not used up and extended in time, your credit will be lost, the account closed and the SIM card terminated. The account closure time differs between phone and data-only plans. As of 2015 the phone plans close 60 days after last credit expiry and data plans 365 days after last expiry.
Voice plans with dataEdit
The following monthly packages are offered for smartphones:
|$ 30||unlimited||not included, @ $2/MB or 250 MB for $5|
|$ 45||unlimited||4 GB in 4G included; upsize: 1 GB for $10|
|$ 60||unlimited (to Mexico and Canada included)||
8 GB in 4G included (in Mexico and Canada too); upsize: 1 GB for $10 or 3 GB for $20
All plans include unlimited domestic SMS and MMS and international SMS to more than 100 countries. Upsizes can be made up to three times per month and may roll over to the next month. When data volume is used up, speed will be reduced to 128 Kbps. Data default rate outside the mentioned packages is 1c per 5 KB which amounts to $2 per MB. The $30 plan doesn't come with data. This is why a data add-on card is needed to be purchased for $5 so users can enjoy 250 MB of data.
A profile for a mobile hotspot necessary for tethering on an iPhone is supplied only for the $60 package. Unused data on the $45 and $60 plans will roll over to the next month, when the plan renews, but then plan data will be used before rollover data and the data rolled over will finally expire after the 2nd month.
AT&T considers one month to be 30 days, including the day of activation. Monthly plans expire at 11:59pm Central Standard Time on the 30th day of service. If you link it to auto-pay on your credit card, the plans are discounted by $5, but you need to cancel later.
Daily plans Edit
$2 per day for unlimited domestic voice and text, charged only on the days used. Outgoing call or SMS, or accepting an incoming call, activates the plan for the day. $8.33 is the minimum monthly cost. A $0.25 to $2.50 per month "911" fee is deducted from your prepaid balance in some states. This daily plan expires at 11:59pm in the time zone, where it was activated.
Default data rate on this plan is 1c per 5 KB (= $2/MB), but AT&T actively blocks this default rate on smartphones to avoid bill shock. However, in case AT&T doesn't accurately detect your device type, use caution to avoid accidentally emptying your balance.
Instead a new $1 per day 100 MB Data Day Pass is now available to users on the $2 Day Plan. The new Data Day Pass for Daily plan users is good, since using data doesn't trigger the $2 daily fee, which is only charged if a call is made or received or a text sent. $1 per day for data-only use is a pretty good deal for short-term international visitors or anyone who needs data only occasionally. Visit this site to activate this data pass, or free call 611 from the device.
This $1/day 100 MB day pass expires at 11:59pm Central Time (not your local time zone) the next day following the day of purchase or upon using the whole allotment. So by purchasing in the morning of the first day, you can get almost 48 hours of usage on one pass.
Once you have used at least 90 MB you may purchase another pass manually, it doesn't auto-renew. Purchasing a new pass does not expire the remaining MB from the previous pass. To check remaing data enter *777*3#.
These monthly packages are for tablets, but work on phones and modems too:
|$ 25||2 GB||500 MB for $ 10|
|$ 50||5 GB||1 GB for $ 10|
|$ 75||8 GB||2 GB for $ 10|
Unused data will not roll over to the next month. Plans expire in 30 days and can be renewed prior to expiration as long as the account is active. They don’t renew automatically and there is no voice nor text on this line. Accounts can be managed online or by calling 866 707 5550. Accounts for data-only plans are cancelled 365 days after the last plan expires (i.e. if you have a plan for January 2015 and it expires on Feb 1st, 2015 then you can still renew the plan anytime until Feb 1st, 2016. After that time the account is closed and you must get a new SIM card). This expiry time is longer than for phone plans (which expire 60 days after the last plan expires).
Note that AT&T uses the device IMEI No. given during account setup to determine the type of device being connected to the network. If your device can't be ascertained by AT&T's system IMEI, the system defaults the account to a phone, not a data-only account If you later try to go into AT&T's online account management system and change your plan from one of the above listed plans to another (say $25 to $50 data plan) you can only change to phone plans. In order to change the data plan, you must call AT&T and have it changed manually by a customer service representative.
If your device connects proper to the AT&T network, but can't get data connection (only a few AT&T sites), check the appropriate APN (see below). If you then get a message that you don't have any data credit available, even if you have topped up before, your account may have been switched to phone by default (see above). So call 1-800-331-0500 and talk to a technical support representative to activate your plan as data, not as phone.
Settings and infoEdit
- APN for smartphones: phone
- APN for modem, routers and tablets: broadband
- Customer Support for GoPhone: 800-901-9879
- Website: www.att.com
AirVoice WirelessEditAirVoice Wireless is a MVNO on the AT&T network in 3G and since August 2016 on 4G/LTE too, no 2G.
Their SIM cards are available only online as mini-, micro- or nano-SIMs for $4.99 to be sent to an US postal address. International customers can use vendors on eBay who do overseas shipping for a surcharge. Refills can be done offline at Western Union outlets (list). Available are top-ups of $10, 20 or 30 which keep the card active for 90 days each. Online you can use callingmart without surcharge via PayPal or credit card. Activation is done online here or by calling 888 944 2355 from another phone.
The is a maintanance fee of $1 per month, and is usually billed on the 8th day of the month. If your account has less than $1, your remaining balance will be depleted.
Default data rate is $0.066 per MB and the following packages are available:
- Unlimited Plans: They come with unlimited domesitc mins, text, MMS, internatl. SMS and data
- $5 for 5 days: 25 MB
- $20 for 30 days: 100 MB
- $30 for 30 days: 1 GB plus internatl. calling to 80+ countries
- $50 for 30 days: 5 GB plus internatl. calling to 80+ countries
- Pay as you go Plans: They come with an airtime allowance. These are actually refills in a given amount and validity. Data stays at the default rate of $0.066 per MB all the time:
- $10 for 90 days
- $20 plus $1 bonus for 120 days
- $30 plus $2 bonus for 150 days
Settings and infoEdit
- APN: att.mvno
- Proxy: 22.214.171.124
- Customer support: 888 944 2355
- Website: www.airvoicewireless.com
Cricket Wireless Edit
Cricket Wireless was acquired by AT&T, but is not sold at their stores. It uses AT&T network in 3G and 4G/LTE, no 2G. You can bring any AT&T compatible device.
Start up Edit
The SIM is sold online or offline at various independent shops and authorized dealers (locator) but not branded AT&T stores for $10, where refills can be found too. Activations can be made in stores for $25 or online for free.
Data packages Edit
They have these monthly packages on offer. All packs include unlimited domestic calls and texts:
- $ 30: 1 GB
- $ 40: 2.5 GB
- $ 50: 5 GB
- $ 60: 10 GB
- $ 70: unlimited
Additional data is available at $10 per 1 GB extra. There is a further reduction on all plans of $5 on plans of $40+, when you enable auto-pay. Thus your prepaid turns to a contract, billed on a credit card. You have to have a MasterCard, VISA or Discover and at least in the US a good credit rating. Be aware, that you need to cancel auto-pay online, if you leave the country, or they will keep on charging your credit card.
Max. speed is throttled to 8 Mbps on LTE and 4 Mbps on 3G. For data beyond the quota, speed will be further throttled to 128 Kbps. All packages will renew automatically, if there is credit. If not, service will be suspended.
For tethering, they offer a "mobile hotspot" feature for $10 extra. Their "officially supported phone" list for this feature is very short and includes only several specific Android and Windows models. There are workarounds on the internet for other devices.
Additionally on $50, $60 and $70 plans, the domestic data allotment can be used in Mexico and Canada subject to TOS restrictions: the Mexico and Canada roaming voice, messaging or data use must not exceed 50% of total use in any consecutive 3 month period similar to certain T-Mobile plans.
Settings and info Edit
- APN: ndo
- Customer support: 1-800-CRICKET (274-2538)
- Website: http://www.cricketwireless.com/
H2O Wireless EditH2O Wireless by Japanese Lotus Commubications is a MVNO on the AT&T network in 3G and 4G/LTE (for frequencies check AT&T, no 2G).
H2O sells SIMs for $9.99 for regular and micro SIMs and $14.99 for nano SIMs with free shipping in a lot of retailers like Target, 7-Eleven, Best Buy or Family Dollar (locator) where refills can be too or online at www.callingmart.com without surcharge via PayPal or credit card. It's also possible to buy SIMs on eBay.com for less than $1, including shipping.
Top ups are available for $10, $20 and $30 keeping the account active for 90 days and for $100 active for one year. Activation is done online or by calling 800 643 4926 from another phone.
Following monthly packages are available and include unlimited domestic calls, unlimited international texts, unlimited calls to 50 countries, these unthrottled 4G/LTE data allowances and some credit:
- $ 30: 2 GB hard-capped, $ 10 intern. call credit
- $ 40: 4 GB, $ 20 intern. call credit
- $ 50: 6 GB, $ 20 intern. call credit
- $ 60: 7 GB, $ 20 intern. call credit
Default data rate is $0.10 per MB. All plans $ 40 and up are soft-capped: speed will be decreased to "2G" when quota is used up, which proved to be around 128 kbps. Additional data is available at 5¢ per MB by adding a $10 "Feature Card". Unused Feature Card balances expire at the end of the plan month. All plans have rollover data, meaning that unused high-speed data rolls over to the next month. Rollover data never expires as long as the plan stays active but it's capped at a maximum of 5 GB. When using auto-pay all rates are discounted by 10%, but you will have to cancel.
Settings and infoEdit
- APN: att.mvno
- APN for 4G/LTE: PRODATA
- Customer support: 800 843 4926
- Website: www.h2owirelessnow.com
NET10 and Straight TalkEdit
These are two MVNOs of América Móvil by Mexican Tycoon Carlos Slim with similar rates and setups. Both brands can be used on AT&T and T-Mobile network in 3G and 4G/LTE (frequencies see above). But you must choose one network, when buying a SIM card and then there is no switching or roaming between AT&T and T-Mobile networks.
Straight Talk EditThe SIM card-only with “bring your own phone” is sold exclusively at Walmart (Store finder), including the two monthly combo plans with unlimited domestic calls and texts and a data allowance included:
- 5 GB: $ 45
- 10 GB: $ 55
When data is used up, speed will be reduced to 64 Kbps. For more data, you can only reset your plan ahead of time. Tethering is allowed and without surcharges.
Activation is done online or by calling 877-430-2355 from any phone except the one you are trying to activate. Top-up cards can be bought at some convenience stores and at Walmart only.
Customer support can be reached on 877 430 2355 or online at www.straightalk.com
Net10 WirelessEditThe SIM card-only can be bought for $6.99 at certain retailers like Radio Shack, BestBuy and Walgreens and others: NET10 store locator where refill cards can be purchased as well. They have monthly packs with unlimited domestic calls and texts and a data allowance in 3G and 4G:
|Price||$ 35||$ 40||$ 50||$ 60||$ 70|
|Data||500 MB||1.5 GB||5 GB||7 GB||10 GB|
When all data are used up, speeds will be reduced to 64 Kbps. Activation can be done here. Tehtering is allowed and free. It's not possible to send many internatl. SMS. Customer support is 877 836 2368 or online www.net10.com
Settings and more info Edit
For both Straight Talk and Net10:
- on AT&T network: APN: tfdata (new) /or/ att.mnvo (old) Port: 80
- Websites: http://www.straighttalk.com and http://www.net10wireless.com/
TracFone is another MVNO of the América Móvil family (see above) on Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile networks. But you will have to choose one network and can't switch or roam. Starting in 2015 TracFone allowed "BYOP" (= Bring your own phone) GSM devices for their AT&T based SIM cards, but not for other networks. AT&T's 4G/LTE is supported too.
Start up Edit
You can buy the SIM card in stores or the activation kit online for $6.99. Shops include major retailers like Target, Best Buy, Walmart and Costco. GSM phones should activate automatically when the phone is turned on with a Tracfone SIM in it. Tracfone requires to buy an airtime card for at least $19.99 as a base plan. This is valid for 90 days and contains 60 domestic minutes.
Reload cards or codes are available at convenience stores, supermarkets, chain drugstores and big box retailers like Target or online by credit card.
Data feature packages Edit
To the airtime card of at least $19.99 (for 3 months), you can add these plans for data:
- $ 10: 1 GB for the running time of the base plan
- $ 15: 200 MB, 200 mins, 200 SMS for 30 days
- $ 25: 500 MB, 500 mins, 1000 SMS for 60 days
- $ 35: 1 GB, 750 mins, 1000 SMS for 60 days
- $ 125: 1.5 GB, 1500 mins, 1500 SMS for 365 days
All these packages need to be purchased online on http://www.tracfone.com/
Settings and info Edit
Tracfone users can make calls to 60 countries including Canada, Mexico, China and most Western European countries (list) for the same price as a domestic call. To make an international call you first dial 1-800-706-3839. You will then prompted to select your language (1 for English) and then to dial 011 plus the country code and number. It's not possible to call other countries besides the 60 supported ones and Tracfone doesn't support sending international text messages either.
- you can check your balance at http://www.fastactportal.com/static/balance
- APN: att.mnvo
- Customer Support: 800-867-7183
- Website: http://www.tracfone.com/
Red Pocket Mobile (on AT&T)EditRed Pocket Mobile is a MVNO on AT&T while T-Mobile was dropped in 2015 and rejoined again in February 2016. 2G with T-Mobile, 3G and 4G/LTE of both networks are supported, but you have to decide which network to use and there is no roaming between them.
Start up Edit
The SIM cards are available for $9.99 online to be sent to an US postal address or offline at Red Pocket outlets. Take care which network you choose. Unfortunately they don’t have a retail outlet list, but on eBay vendors sell them as low as 99c plus postage with international shipping. Reload cards can be found in their stores, supermarkets or at callingmart.com without surcharges. Available top-ups are: $10 for 30 days, $25 for 90 days, $50 for 180 days, $100 for 365 days. If not topped up, account will be terminated and credit is lost. The SIMs can be activated online or by calling 888-993-3888 from another phone.
AT&T Plans Edit
They include unlimited talk, text and MMS, unlimited calling to landlines and mobiles in China, Hong Kong, Canada and Thailand and unlimited calling to landlines in France, Israel, Mexico and UK valid for one month.
|Value||$ 24.99||$ 29.99||$ 39.99||$ 49.99||$ 59.99||$ 69.99|
|Data||100 MB||500 MB||1 GB||2 GB||3 GB||4 GB|
The $ 24.99 is hard-capped, all other plans are throttled to 64-128 Kbps beyond quota. $8.33 is the minimum monthly cost which is achieved by using a $25 top up every 90 days. Default data outside of plan is $0.10 per MB.
Settings and infoEdit
- APN for AT&T: att.mvno
- Customer support: 888-993-3888
- Websites: goredpocket.com
FreedomPop launched as a Sprint MVNO in 2012 and claims to have added over one million US customers since launch.
In January 2016 FreedomPop began offering FreedomPop Global GSM service to their US customers. They use a Three UK based SIM that roams at no cost in 25 countries including the US, where FreedomPop Global uses both the T-Mobile and AT&T networks, in 2G (T-Mobile only) and 3G, but no 4G/LTE for data and seems to prefer AT&T.
Business model Edit
FreedomPop uses a business model called 'Freemium' that provides users with a limited amount of free data and phone service and makes money by selling devices and extra features like voice mail and faster data and by charging overage rates for data, texts and minutes after the free allotment is used up. More than 1/2 of all their US customers buy add-ons for pay that are not so cheap after all.
As a freemium provider FreedomPop needs users to sign up for add-on services. They make it easy to add extra cost plans and services, but quite hard to remove them. When you activate a device, by default you get signed up for multiple offers and add-ons which are advertised as free trials. However they are only free for the first month, if you don't cancel them before the month is up they will automatically renew and you will be charged for subsequent months. It's possible to decline some of the add-ons and trials during the initial sign up, but you have to read the sign up pages carefully to find the link to opt out of each one. To disable extra cost services you don't want: Go to My Account > Services and click the Deactivate link next to the services name. Note, that free customers don't get any customers support whatsoever.
'Free' Global plan Edit
The free GSM plan called FreedomPop Global includes 200 MB data. Data on the GSM service is limited to 3G/HSPA+, LTE is only available on the 4G plan (see below). Data traffic is routed through a server in the UK which is probably responsible for the high pings of 300ms.
For voice calls and SMS 200 domestic voice minutes and 500 domestic texts per month are additionally available when using the FreedomPop "Messaging" VoIP and messaging app for iOS and Android. The app offers reasonable call quality when used with a good WiFi or 4G signal. There's a bit of lag but volume and clarity are good. Call quality is degraded, but still usable with a strong 3G signal. But with a weak signal or only 2G data calls break up so badly, that it's impossible to carry on a conversation.
FreedomPop offers a free international plan which includes 100 minutes of VoIP calls to over 50 countries, including calls to mobile numbers in 14 countries. International text messaging is not available.
FreedomPop roams at no extra cost in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.
WhatsApp plan Edit
In August 2016 FreedomPop launched its WhatsApp SIM in the US. The WhatsApp SIM is a version of the Global plan that works in the same countries and includes unlimited zero-rated WhatsApp calling and texting, that doesn't count against the included 200 MB of free data. Note, that the WhatsApp plan only includes 100 minutes and 100 texts while the Global plan includes 200 minutes and 500 texts.
AT&T 4G data plan Edit
In December 2016, FreedomPop launched a new US only mobile broadband service running on the AT&T network that includes 4G/LTE for data. Plan pricing is identical to that of the other mentioned plans with the free allowance of 200 MB of data per month. The new FreedomPop LTE GSM service is different from the Global GSM service. It works on in AT&T only, whereas Global GSM, which doesn't offer 4G/LTE data, works in 25 countries including the US, where it uses both T-Mobile and AT&T on 3G.
The FreedomPop SIM is available for free on their website. It's not sold in stores and there is may be a long waiting period involved. You'll need to give a postal address in one of the countries where they operate: USA, UK, Spain and soon in Mexico. A credit card must be linked to the SIM even for using only free services. You'll need to give these information when ordering. Internatl. credit card (Visa, MasterCard) are normally accepted. This makes it inconvenient for travellers, but a good backup option if you have an address in one of these countries. They provide an online account management portal with detailed call, messaging and data use records. Unused account balances expire after 90 days.
Auto-pay can be enabled or disabled. If Auto Pay is enabled your card will be charged $15 whenever your remaining data goes below 100 MB and you have a cash balance under $2. The $15 is added to your balance to cover potential overages. If Auto Pay is disabled and your account balance is greater than $0, when you have used all of your plan's allotted data you will be charged 2.5¢ per MB overage rate until you account balance reaches $0. You must have at least $5 in your account to turn off auto-top up. If you don't you will see a warning advising you that if you turn Auto-top up off you will be charged $5 which will be added to you balance.
Paid services Edit
These data packages are sold for pay beyond the free allowance for all plans. Default rate is 2.5¢ per MB:
- 1 GB: $ 13.99
- 2 GB: $ 24.99
- 3 GB: $ 31.99
- 4 GB: $ 39.99
Data include tethering / hotspot use. Plans automatically renew every month with plan and usage fees charged to your credit or debit card. If the charges are declined service will be suspended.
There are lots of add-on services for pay like data rollover ($3.99/month), usage alerts ($1.99/month), a special hotline support ($3.99/month) and many more that you may have to decline or disable.
Freedom Friends Edit
FreedomPop allows users to earn up to 500 MB per month by connecting with FreedomPop friends. You can invite anyone to join FreedomPop and if they do, you both get an extra 50 MB per month from each friend up to a maximum of 500 MB per month. On social media users share their email addresses so that other users can add them as Freedom Friends. It only takes a few minutes to gather up 10 email addresses and enter on the Freedom Friends page on the FreedomPop site for a quick 500 MB per month boost. It's a good idea to use a dedicated or disposable email address as your FreedomPop account email to avoid exposing your primary email to the world.
Another benefit of Freedom Friends is that you share data with them, up to 100 MB per friend with a maximum of 500 MB shared per month. If you are running out of data you can ask a friend to give you some using a link on the FreedomPop site.
Settings and more info Edit
- APN: freedompop.foggmobile.com
- Turn on data roaming as it's a UK-based SIM card
- Customer support: 888-701-1353, long waiting times and no support for free customers!
- Website: https://www.freedompop.com/