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This article applies to the United States of America (USA), its 50 states and the District of Columbia. It's valid for all of the continental mainland, the islands of Hawaii and partly for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean too. There, the same operators are on the air forming one common network without roaming fees. Other overseas areas attached to the US where different providers operate are featured in seperate chapters like Guam or Samoa.
CDMA- vs. GSM-based networksEdit
In the US two different mobile network systems operate which are not compatible (at least until 4G/LTE has arrived). The CDMA technology is used in very few countries of the world like Japan or China. But in the US it's employed by major operators like Verizon and Sprint. You could easily identify it by the non-detachable SIM card (but this has changed for LTE). Still, the device is “married” with the provider and you can’t change that. You can still buy a Verizon phone or modem, but you can use it only on their network and nowhere else.
The big advantage of GSM-based technologies: the SIM card of (unlocked) devices can be taken out and changed to one of another operator and country. This what this WIKI is all about. As only GSM technology enables you to perform the procedures described here, GSM-based providers are shown in the list below. This leaves you with a rather limited choice in the US as only two (physical) cellular networks support GSM and its advancements: AT&T and T-Mobile US (and their respective MVNOs).
Slowly the gap between CDMA and GSM narrows as the same 4G/LTE technology is now used by both system lines. CDMA-operators now sell "world phones" with a SIM card slot working in GSM networks outside of the US. GSM-device owners still have a very restricted access to CDMA networks as shown in this sub-article "CDMA in the US". For this article here we stick to GSM.
AT&T vs. T-Mobile US networkEdit
This is a very tricky one. You can count yourself lucky that you still have the choice as some years ago T-Mobile US was to be sold to AT&T but this was rejected by anti-trust authorities. Superficially, it’s an easy call. AT&T has more than twice as many customers and the better nationwide coverage on 2G, 3G and 4G. But T-Mobile has focused on the big cities and gives better speeds there combined with very aggressive pricing mostly well below the rates of AT&T.
Compatibility and frequenciesEdit
To really work out the differences you have to compare the frequencies of your device with the frequencies offered by AT&T and T-Mobile as there are a lot of incompatibilities with devices from out of the US. For major phone models it is shown HERE. Have in mind that some models or modems are sold in different versions in the US and Europe/Asia.
2G/GSM (GPRS, EDGE)Edit
For 2G you should have a phone that supports 850 and 1900 MHz bands. From Europe or Asia a tri- or even better a quad-band phone does this. AT&T will shut down it's 2G network nationwide on January 1st, 2017. So T-Mobile remains the only player. For T-Mobile you need to have at least 1900 MHz as it's their primary frequency.
On 2G you can only get EDGE with slow data speeds up to 200 kbps. If you want to use 2G on roaming like in dual-SIM phones, be sure that your roaming partner supports T-Mobile in the US or you will be shut out. For instance many Vodafone networks from Europe only roam on AT&T and thus in 3G or 4G-only.
3G/UMTS (HSPA+, DC-HSPA+)Edit
Now it’s getting complicated: AT&T has a good (though sometimes slow) coverage on 850 MHz and 1900 MHz up to HSPA+ (= 21 Mbps) speed. In most markets they use both bands with aggregation for extra speed, but in some states they have licences for just one of them. When checking frequencies on your device, be aware that 1900 MHz on 2G doesn't automatically mean, that it's on the same band on 3G.
T-Mobile used to operate 3G on the 1700 MHz (= AWS) band only. This was (almost) the only operator in the world on this frequency, so hardly any non-T-Mobile US phone could cope with it. AWS is sometimes referred as “1700/2100” MHz suggesting a 2100 MHz phone would work. This is misleading as AWS is using the 1700 spectrum for uploading and 2100 for downloading and can’t be handled by a 2100 MHz-only device.
Luckily, T-Mobile changed the game when it acquired new frequencies in 2012. They were now shifting (or “refarming”) the most of their 3G spectrum from 1700 AWS to 1900 MHz (= PCS band). This gives much better compatibility with lot of devices like the iPhone. In 2014 the refarming has been completed and 1900 MHz HSPA+ (up to 21 Mbps) coverage is now in most markets, but a few rural areas.
T-Mobile shut down 1700 AWS in some of these markets in 2015 and keeps on shifting more markets from 1700 MHz AWS to 1900 MHz PCS on 3G. In markets where 3G HSPA+ is offered on both 1700 MHz and 1900 MHz, T-Mobile offers DC-HSPA+ at speeds up to 42 Mbps on devices that support both, which is mostly only US-sold phones. So in 2016 for T-Mobile's 3G you need to have a 1900 MHz device now, 1700 MHz has become optional for extra speed.
Things are even more complicated with LTE. AT&T started its 4G/LTE in 2011 on 700 and 1700 MHz depending on region added by 1900 MHz and 2300 MHz later in some city centers. It covers 365 mio. people in 2016 in THESE areas. T-Mobile started with 4G/LTE in 2013 on the refarmed AWS frequency of 1700 MHz and acquired licences on 700 and 1900 MHz to reach 311 mio. people in 2016 in THESE areas. The employment of 700 MHz in rural areas by T-Mobile will further broaden their coverage and reduces their gap to AT&T and Verizon.
Be aware that the 700 MHz frequency used in the US is on bands 12, 13, 14, 17 and 29 that are all incompatible with 700 MHz that is going to be employed or already in use in Europe, Asia, Australia and Latin America on band 28 because of different up- and download spectrum. Nevertheless, at least 4G/LTE is able to bridge the gap to CDMA (see Basics above and here) as both systems agreed on the same technology for 4G/LTE.
LTE compatibility Edit
Unfortunately all mentioned LTE frequencies are hardly used for LTE anywhere else in the world and a phone from outside the US is pretty unlikely to handle US LTE. Only iPhones 5-7, some high-end Android phones and a few Windows Lumias from other parts of the world have this ability. The same applies to routers, tablets and modems too, which are hardly available for US and overseas markets at the same time.
In the US cheap disposable phones are sold. But have in mind that a cheap smartphone with LTE will still cost you $100+. It will only work in the US and nowhere else and is likely locked to the provider. Furthermore, most routers and modems are priced higher in the US than in Asia or Europe.
|2G (GPRS, EDGE)||closed down in January 2017||850, 1900 MHz|
|3G (UMTS, HSPA+)||850, 1900 MHz||
(1700,) 1900 MHz
|4G (LTE)||700, 1700, 1900, (2300) MHz
= Bands 2, 4, 12/17, (29, 30)
|1700, 1900, (700) MHz
= Bands 2, 4, (12)
Prices and taxes Edit
Like usual in the US, all prices mentioned below are without taxes. In most states, you need to add sales taxes of up to 10% to the given prices. This applies to starter packs as well as refill cards sold over the counter. Even online refills on the websites of the providers are taxed additionally. A reliable workaround for many providers is the 3rd party top-up site of Callingmart. For whatever reason, they don't charge any tax and only a minimal fee of up to 2% on some operators, which can sometimes be waived by using promotional codes.
Plugs and voltage Edit
Most power adapters can cope with both 110 and 220 Volts nowadays, but you should better check before, if 110 V is written on it. So only the US flatpin power plug can be a challenge for visitors from overseas. All roundpin plugs and Australian flatpin plugs need an adaptor to fit. A 2-pin adaptor is sufficient. These are available for around $1-2 in cheap Chinese stores downtown, but some 'travel accessories' stores want to charge you $20+ for a set of this small plastic part. If you don't go to a city with a 'Chinatown', you might better bring it from your country.
More info Edit
If you need further information, check out this brilliant updated survey: http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2011/03/us-prepaid-gsm-voice-text-and-data.html
AT&TEditAT&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
T-Mobile USEditT-Mobile US is the rising star amongst the “Big 4”. In the last years it gained the most customers by very agressive pricing and innovations surpassing Sprint at #3 in the US.
2G is on 850 and 1900 MHz up to EDGE speed, 3G on 1700 and 1900 MHz up to DC-HSPA and 4G/LTE mostly on 1700 MHz and new on 700 and 1900 MHz. See Basics chapter above for specifics and compatibility.
Availability and start-upEdit
Their starter packs are called “activation kits” and consist of a SIM card and an explanation leaflet in English and Spanish. They are available online to be sent to an US postal address, at T-Mobile branded stores (locator) and other stores without ID. Note, that activation kits sold in T-Mobile stores need to be activated at time of purchase. You can not buy just the SIM card. Micro-, mini- and nano-SIMs are available.
The official price in stores has been raised in 2014 and again in 2016 to $20 (plus taxes) containing only about $3 credit. Some shops want to charge even higher prices or hefty fees for cutting. So it's a better idea to buy the SIM in advance by independent merchants on eBay (search for “T-Mobile Activation Kit”) that are also shipped overseas for a small fee to avoid being overcharged. They have often bought the activation kits at one of T-Mobile's many promotions for $1. But you can't rely on getting one for this start-up price in a T-Mobile shop and promo codes are only for online orders to be sent to an US postal address.
The activation kit comes only with an activation code and no number assigned to it. Activation is done by calling 877-778-2107 from any phone, *611 from T-Mobile phone or online HERE. This is where you can choose your number and plan too. Signing up can be done while you are in the US or before at home. You will get a text message for verification. This SMS used not to be forwarded abroad when roaming on a network other than T-Mobile US. Recently, first users succeeded in activating it through non-US roaming networks. So you might give it a try before leaving for the US.
In 2016 T-Mobile changed their policy and started to ship SIM cards already pre-activated on the $3 "pay as you go plan". This gives the advantage that you only have to change the plan, but the highly popular $30 plan (see below) becomes now only available to un-activated kits or at Walmart.
Recharges and validityEdit
Top-ups can be done online, but you seem to need mostly an US-issued credit card. Non-residents should use vouchers instead, called 'refill cards' available at T-Mobile stores, many supermarkets, gas stations, Walgreen’s and CVS drugstores, 7-Eleven and many other places. Minimum value is $10.
For refill cards, be aware that you are likely to pay more than the 'face value' of refills in stores due to the recently-introduced '911 Prepaid Wireless Emergency Service Fee', which for example in Los Angeles is around $5.80 on a $30 refill.
For refills with foreign credit cards the online site Callingmart is a great source. They charge a 2% fee, but no taxes and accept PayPal too. The SIM is valid for 90 days after the last refill. Beyond that, it will be terminated and the remaining credit is lost. Since 2014 T-Mobile has a $3 monthly minimum charge.
There is one exception to this termination rule and minimum charge. For iPads with LTE connectivity and other certified tablets too, T-Mobile offers a 200 MB per month free plan which doesn't expire after 90 days or charge a monthly fee. According to T-Mobile, these accounts expire after 365 consecutive days of no activity. Since free activity counts, you only have to use data once per year to keep this free plan alive.
It's now verified that you can re-activate old T-Mobile SIM cards that have been terminated before and shut off. You can buy an T-Mobile Activation Code (without the SIM card) on eBay for a few $ and activate it online on an old disused T-Mobile SIM. Thus, you will get a new number, but don't have to buy a new SIM card (at $20+) or obey expiry rules and waste money on useless monthly minimum charges.
Default rate: "Pay as you go"Edit
Their default rate for voice and data costs a $3 monthly fee. This includes 30 minutes voice (incoming or outgoing, domestic only) OR 30 text messages (domestic only). These two data packs can be added:
- $ 5: 500 MB for 1 day (based on one calendar day on Pacific Time)
- $ 10: 1 GB for 1 week
Activating one of the data packs can be done online at the "mobile" My-Account site ma.web2go.com, in person at a T-Mobile store, or by calling customer service. The $10 data pack can be renewed within the 7 days when the data is used up (or before, but you lose any remaining data for that pass).
Monthly rates: "Pay by the month – Unlimited": Edit
|Rate||Dom. calls/txts||Mobile Data|
|Simply Prepaid Plans:|
|$ 30 *||100 min||5 GB *|
|$ 40||unlimited||3 GB|
|$ 50||unlimited||5 GB|
|$ 60||unlimited||10 GB|
|Simple Choice Prepaid Plans:|
|$ 50||unlimited||2 GB|
|$ 65||unlimited||6 GB &|
|$ 80||unlimited||10 GB &|
|$ 95||unlimited||unlimited @|
The difference between the plans: For a $5 add-on you get 4G data in Mexico and Canada included in your plan on Simply Prepaid Plans of $40 and more. On Simple Choice Prepaid plans this is included for free as well as unlimited internatl. texting from the US, on Simply Prepaid plans don't.
All prepaid customers are exempt from "unlimited worldwide roaming" to 140+ countries. This is only offered to postpaid clients after a credit check and generally throttled to 128 kbit/s.
& = on these plans unused data rolls over to the next month, what T-Mobile calls 'Data Stash' for a max. of 12 months and 20 GB.
@ = T-Mobile randomly throttles clients based on a unclear FUP. Some users report that speed de-priorization starts after having used around 28 GB of data, but this information is somewhat vague. The de-priorization consists in a soft-cap, where users have less traffic priority than others, until the billing cycle ends.
$30 'Walmart plan' Edit
* = the $30 plan is often dubbed 'Walmart plan' as it's offered by Walmart, the biggest retail chain in the US. It's not available in T-Mobile stores or by phone and can only be activated on new SIM cards, either online or in a Walmart store. The new shipment policy of already pre-activated SIM cards by T-Mobile (see activation above) makes it even harder to get this plan, as you need to get an un-activated T-Mobile SIM for this plan. When a different plan is loaded, you will never be able to change it back to the $30 plan; once you've moved away from it, it's gone forever and you'll need to buy a new SIM.
To get this plan, you will need to activate a new SIM card at Walmart. This not an option, if you visit e.g. New York City only, as all Walmarts are out of town. But you will surely hit a Walmart soon travelling by car through the country. The only alternative is to go to the nearest major retailer such as Best Buy or Walgreens, purchase an un-activated T-Mobile SIM there along with a refill card and then activate the SIM on T-Mobile's website. From there you have the option of choosing the $30 plan. Again, you won't get this plan in a T-Mobile store or on an already pre-activated SIM that is sent out by T-Mobile or other dealers.
The only other restriction is that the 'Walmart plan' only allows 100 MB of hotspot data or tethering. Effective 2015 T-Mobile has opened the unrestricted use of all plans through a hotspot, also called tethering, but only the 'Walmart plan' remains limited to 100 MB hotspot data.
IDD call add-on Edit
For calling abroad, you can have a special add-on called "Stateside International Talk". This can be added to all monthly prepaid plans costing $40 per month or higher, not the Walmart plan. There are two options:
- $ 10: unlimited calls for landline phones of over 70 countries (list, countries in bold)
- $ 15: like the $10 plan plus 1000 minutes for mobile phones of over 30 countries (list, all countries)
International Tourist PlanEdit
For $30, T-Mobile offers a new International Tourist Plan. This plan is aimed towards short term visitors to the US and only lasts for 3 weeks, is not renewable or expandable. It includes 1,000 domestic minutes, unlimited domestic and global texting to 140 countries, and 2 GB of 4G/LTE data along with a free SIM card. Beyond the given volume speed will be throttled to 2G speed (about 150 kbps). You can't add extra packages. Visitors to the United States wishing to activate this plan can just walk into any T-Mobile store and ask for it.
T-Mobile sells data-only packages too. They are called “Pay in Advance Mobile Internet” and don’t have voice or text. You can activate any un-activated starter pack to it, but once a SIM is activated to a phone, it's not eligible for data plans. These data plans are for non-telephony devices only - although the T-Mobile site is silent in this matter, store representatives indicate these plans are only for tablets and the like - not for phones.
For tablets T-Mobile now offers 200 MB per month free for iPads with LTE connectivity and certain other certified tablets as well. Once you sign up for this 200 MB/month plan, you can't use the same SIM in any other tablet or phone. But you can buy the on-demand packs below to expand beyond the 200 MB, and also the free renewing 200 MB plan keeps your SIM alive for 365 days without any activity.
- On demand rates
|$ 5||500 MB||1 day|
|$ 10||1 GB||7 days|
|$ 30||3 GB||30 days|
|$ 40||5 GB||30 days|
|$ 50||7 GB||30 days|
|$ 10||5 GB||150 days (see remarks below)|
If offered, a special promotional 5 GB for $10 pass lasts for 5 months and can only be purchased once. After any pass has been purchased, this special pass can not be bought again. So buy this special pass before any other passes. This special pass is not available to everyone, but often appears after activating the free 200 MB/month plan on LTE capable iPads and possibly other tablets.
These packs can be booked online on demand through your account and don’t renew themselves. One day is based on 0.00am-11.59pm in Pacific Time.
- Monthly packs
Furthermore there are monthly packages (for 30 days) which renew automatically:
- $ 20: 2 GB
- $ 35: 6 GB
- $ 50: 10 GB
- $ 65: 14 GB
- $ 80: 18 GB
- $ 95: 22 GB
Settings and infoEdit
- APN: epc.t-mobile.com
- APN for LTE devices: fast.t-mobile.com
- Customer Support Line: 877-453-1304
- Website: www.t-mobile.com
AirVoice Wireless (on AT&T)EditAirVoice Wireless is a MVNO on the AT&T network in 3G and since August 2016 on 4G/LTE too, but no 2G anymore (for frequencies see AT&T and Basics).
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 (on AT&T) 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/
MetroPCS (on T-Mobile) Edit
MetroPCS used to be an own CDMA provider until it was acquired by T-Mobile in 2013. The parent company then moved customers from CDMA to its own GSM network. In June 2015 CDMA was closed, but MetroPCS remains a seperate brand reselling T-Mobile's GSM network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE (for coverage and frequencies see T-Mobile). Since 2014 MetroPCS supports BYOP (Bring your own phone) of any T-Mobile capable, unlocked devices.
Start up Edit
Recharge and Balance Edit
MetroPCS offers a number of ways to pay without surcharges: Online using a credit/debit card or a MetroPCS payment card sold at Walmart, BestBuy and other retailers. For a fee of $2 you can use a 24-hour payment machine at a MetroPCS store. For $3 you can top-up over the counter at a MetroPCS store or authorized dealer.
Check your balance and expiration date in the MyAccount section of the MetroPCS website, using the MyMetro app on the phone or by calling *611 from your MetroPCS phone, or 888-863-8768 from any phone.
Data packages Edit
MetroPCS offers only monthly combo packages for data and voice for BYOP:
- $ 30: unlimited domestic talk and text, 3 GB data - not available online, only in stores, no BYOP
- $ 40: unlimited domestic talk and text, 3 GB data
- $ 50: unlimited domestic talk and text, 4 GB data
- $ 60: unlimited domestic talk, text and data (hotspot use/tethering limited to 6 GB)
Beyond the included data quota, speed will be throttled to 128 Kbit/s.
You can activate monthly packages online, at a MetroPCS store or an authorized dealer. The $30 and the tablet plans are not available for BYOP. For these plans you'll have to buy the device at MetroPCS.
- for a $ 5 surcharge, you are offered unlimited talk, text and data in and to Mexico or Canada too
Settings and info Edit
- APN: fast.metropcs.com
- Customer support: *611 from a MetroPCS phone or 888-863-8768 from any phone
- Website: http://www.metropcs.com
GoSmart mobile (on T-Mobile)EditGoSmart is a subsidiary of T-Mobile on their US network in 2G and 3G (check frequencies in Basics and T-Mobile section). It has opened 4G/LTE only for Facebook and Facebook Messenger so far, other speeds stick to 3G of 1-20 Mbps, but no 4G/LTE.
The SIM is sold as a Mobile SIM Kit online or offline at various independent shops (locator) and Target branches, but not at T-Mobile stores, for $ 8, where refills can be found too. SIM come either in mini and micro size or in nano.
They have these monthly packages on offer. All packs include unlimited domestic calls, internatl. SMS and unlimited Facebook and Facebook Messenger in 4G/LTE, all other data is in max. 3G:
- $ 25: unlimited 4G/LTE Facebook only
- $ 35: 4 GB, beyond throttled to 128 kbps ($30 with auto-pay / linked to a credit card)
- $ 45: 12 GB, beyond throttled to 128 kbps
- $ 55: 20 GB, beyond throttled to 128 kbps
All data except Facebook remain in 3G speeds. All packages will auto-renew, if there is credit. If not, service will be suspended. There is no roaming abroad, tethering is allowed without surcharges.
Settings and infoEdit
- APN: multibrand
- Customer support: 877-582-7788
- Website: www.gosmartmobile.com
H2O Wireless (on AT&T)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 2G (T-Mobile only), 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
- on T-Mobile network: APN: wap.tracfone Port: 8080
- Websites: http://www.straighttalk.com and http://www.net10wireless.com/
TracFone (on AT&T) Edit
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/
Simple Mobile (on T-Mobile) Edit
Simple Mobile started as MVNO, was taken over in 2012 by TracFone and now belongs to the América Móvil family. It uses T-Mobile US in up to 4G/LTE and gives good roaming rates down in Mexico too.
Start up Edit
You can buy the SIM card online , on eBay.com or in small independent stores (locator) for $0.99. Shops are mostly small telco outlets and the SIM card only is refered as BYOP (= bring your own phone). Mini and micro SIM sizes are available.
You need to activate you SIM card online or by calling 877-878-7908 from another phone.
Reload PINs are available from their outlets. The PIN code has to be texted to 848484 like this: REUP#<PIN Code>. Alternatively, you can top-up online by debit or credit card. To this card, you can link auto-pay, but don't forget to cancel later. Thus, you will receive a 10% discount on every top-up.
Data feature packages Edit
You can add these combo plans valid for 30 days. All contain unlimited domestic calls, domestic and international SMS, calls to some internal. countries and this domestic data allowance:
- 2 GB (4 GB): $ 40
- 4 GB (8 GB): $ 50
- 10 GB (20 GB): $ 55
- unlimited: $ 60
The allowances in () are a promotion until the end of 2016. The unlimited plan is really unlimited, but requires auto-pay. The other plans will be throttled to 64 Kbps having reached the quota. The limited plans include data roaming in Mexico on Telcel (debited from the bundle) and calls to 50+ countries (list).
Aimed at tablets, routers and modems, they sell data-only plans that are called Wireless Broadband Data Plans. These plans valid for 30 days are offered:
- 1.5 GB: $ 20
- 4 GB: $ 40
For more data, you can renew your plan at anytime.
Settings and info Edit
Plans will auto-renew every 30 days (or 7 days depending on plan). If you do not have sufficient funds in your account your service will be suspended. If you do not renew within 90 days after your account is suspended you will lose your phone number.
You can check your cash balance, change plans, add PINs and make a payments using a credit or debit card using the My Account option online (free registration required) or by calling ADD (233) from your Simple Mobile phone.
- APN: simple
- Customer Support: 611 from your Simple Mobile phone or 877.878.7908 or 877.441.4844 from another phone. Support hours are 8am - midnight (EST) every day.
- Website: http://www.simplemobile.com
Red Pocket Mobile and Mango Mobile (on AT&T or T-Mobile)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, $100 for 365 days. If not topped up, account will be terminated and credit is lost. The SIMs can be activated online or by calling 888-993-3888 from another phone.
Their flagship plans are available across both networks with very minor variations. All plans include unlimited domestic voice and domestic and international SMS, 200 internatl. minutes and unlimited calls to China and Hong Kong valid for one month
|Value||$ 29.99||$ 39.99||$ 49.99||$ 59.99|
|Data||500 MB||1 GB||2 GB||3 GB|
AT&T Plans Edit
They included 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 $0.10 per MB.
T-Mobile Plans Edit
Their reintroduced T-Mobile plans include unlimited domestic talk, text and MMS for one month:
|Value||$ 19.99||$ 24.99||$ 29.99||$ 34.99||$ 39.99||$ 49.99||$ 59.99|
|Data||100 MB||500 MB||1 GB||2 GB||1 GB||2 GB||100 MB|
The $19.99 and $29.99 are hard-capped. That means data is shut of having reached the quota. The other plans are soft-capped and will be throttled to 64-128 Kbps for the rest of the month.
Aimed a tablets and modems, they now sell two Mobile Internet plans with data-only and free tethering in 4G/LTE too:
- $ 25: 2 GB for 30 days
- $ 50: 5 GB for 30 days
Mango Mobile Edit
In 2016 Red Pocket started a new brand called Mango Mobile on the T-Mobile network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. SIM card is available online or from some local dealers (store locator) for $10. To top-up go online and pay with credit card or visit the dealer again. Auto-pay is available too.
The following monthly combo plans are available:
- $ 19 Fresh Mango - unlimited dom. talk and global text, 100 MB of data and $5 internatl. credit
- $ 19 Ripe Mango - 250 dom. minutes, unlimited global text, 1 GB of data and $5 internatl credit
- $ 25 Sweet Mango - unlimited dom. talk and global text, 1 GB of data and $10 internatl credit
Additional data can be added to any plan at: $2/100 MB, $5/400 MB, $10/1 GB, $25/2.5 GB or $50/5 GB. For slow data, you can add an unlimited add-on in 2G-only at $5.
Settings and infoEdit
- APN for AT&T: att.mvno
- APN for T-Mobile: wholesale
Lycamobile (on T-Mobile)EditLycamobile USA started 2013 as MVNO on the T-Mobile network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE (see Basics and T-Mobile section).
Start up Edit
Lycamobile SIM cards can be found in stores (locator) or on Lycamobile website with shipping to the United States only at $7 (free shipping if bought in combination with a plan) or for free, if you buy $10 or more in airtime.
In the US you can activate a new SIM by by calling 845-301-1612 from another phone, but abroad you need to activate on their website instead.
You can buy refills on lycamobile.us (even with a non-US credit card). Refill cards are available from local Lycmobile dealers. Some local and online dealers including callingmart.com offer instant PIN-less refills direct to your phone.
Lycamobile offers data only on the following data on monthly plans. The default rate outside packages is $0.06 per MB. All monthly packages include unlimited domestic voice, domestic and international text, free incoming text, a data quota up to 4G/LTE speed and an international call credit for international calls.
|Value||Data (in up to 4G/LTE)||Internatl. Call Credit|
|$ 19||100 MB|
|$ 23||100 MB||$ 1.50|
|$ 29||500 MB||$ 2.50|
|$ 35||2 GB|
|$ 45||4 GB||-----|
|$ 49||1 GB||$ 12.50|
|$ 55||10 GB|
All packages include "unlimited" data, domestic texts and voice and "unlimited" free calls among Lycamobile worldwide.
"Unlimited" means that data volume is soft-capped meaning throttled to 120 Kbps when exhausted. All packages will renew automatically if there is credit. If you do not have sufficient funds in your account to renew your service will be suspended. Unused call credits rollover provided you top up on time before the account is deactivated for inactivity.
Pay-as-you-go plan Edit
Their pay-as-you-go rate outside of monthly packages doesn't offer data or MMS. Current Lycamobile monthly plan users can switch to the pay-as-you-go plan only by adding a $10 top-up and letting their plan expire. It's the least expensive way to park a phone number as regular top-ups aren't needed. This plan is not mentioned on their website. Funds added to a Lycamobile pay-as-you-go account never expire as long as a non-toll-free call is made or received or a text is sent at least every 90 days. That means, it can cost less than 20¢ a year to keep a SIM alive.
Settings and more infoEdit
- a T-Mobile US locked phone does work on Lycamobile US using the newer 4G SIM cards
- there are reports that certain VoIP programs like Google Voice don't work
- APN: data.lycamobile.us (old) /or/ data.lycamobile.com (new)
- Username: lmus (that's not capital I, but lowercase L)
- Password: plus
- Customer Support: 866-277-3221 (toll-free)
- Website: www.lycamobile.us
ZIP SIM (formerly Ready SIM, on T-Mobile)Edit
ZIP SIM by Ozono Networks, rebranded from Ready SIM in 2016. It's a MVNO on the T-Mobile network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE (see Basics and T-Mobile section) and aimed at short-time users and visitors.
The SIM card can be bought a shops in the US and Canada (locator) or online on their website. It comes as a tri-cut SIM. As a special service, they also ship overseas in 7-20 business days, which is very rare for an operator. The SIM card is supposed to be self-activating. You only need to text your US ZIP (= postal) code and your SIM ID number for activation.
They have a very rigid top-up scheme: To be eligible for a top-up, your ZIP SIM must either have an active plan, or your plan expired within the last 72 hours.
Data and combo packagesEdit
- Data only
|Data Volume||500 MB||1 GB||2 GB|
|Validity||14 days||14 days||30 days|
|Value||$ 15||$ 25||$ 40|
For more data you need to a another package within the rigid top-up period or the card will be discontinued.
- Voice, text and data
|Data volume||500 MB||1 GB||1.5 GB||2 GB|
|Validity||7 days||14 days||21 days||30 days|
|Value||$ 25||$ 35||$ 45||$ 55|
These packs include unlimited domestic calls, domestic and international text and a data quota. You can add airtime for international calls at purchase.
Settings and more infoEdit
- Tethering is allowed
- APN: wholesale
- Customer Support: 611 from ZIP SIM phone
- Website: www.zipsim.us
Ultra Mobile (on T-Mobile) Edit
Ultra Mobile is another MVNO that started in 2012 using the T-Mobile network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE (see T-Mobile section and Basics for details).
Start up Edit
SIM cards cost $9.99 with free shipping within the US sold on their website or through their dealers (locator). Regular and micro SIMs are available. SIMs are also available from Amazon and eBay for as little as 1¢ with free shipping in the US or for a surcharge abroad. Retailers like CVS have a starter kit for $34 which includes $29 credit which can be applied towards any of their plans (the packaging may have outdated information). SIM size is regular and nano. Activate online or by calling 888-777-0446. Activation is free, you can change plans at any point.
Top-ups can be made by credit card online or over the phone or by vouchers with PIN codes sold at their outlets or online with a discount. Ultra adds a "cost recovery fee" to all recharges made at retail locations. The fee is 50¢ on loads of $10 or less and $1 on loads of $10.01 or more.
Data plans Edit
These monthly combo plans are offered. They all contain unlimited domestic talk and unlimited domestic and international SMS. They differ in domestic data and internatl. call allowances:
- $ 19: 100 MB data, $1.25 call credit and unlimited international talk to 30+ countries
- $ 24: 100 MB data, $7 call credit and unlimited international talk to 30+ countries
- $ 29: 1 GB data, $2.50 call credit and unlimited internatl. talk to 60+ countries
- $ 34: 2 GB data and unlimited internatl. talk to 30+ countries
- $ 39: 2 GB data, $2.50 call credit, unlimited internatl. talk to 60+ countries
- $ 44: 1 GB data, $20 call credit and unlimited internatl. talk to 30+ countries
- $ 54: 2 GB data, $20 call credit, unlimited internatl. talk to 30+ countries
After the plan limits are reached data speeds are reduced to 128 Kbps or less for the rest on the month and completely shut off at the first two plans.
Additional 'UpData' high-speed data packages priced at 500 MB for $5, 1 GB for $10 or 2 GB for $20 can be added to any plan. To activate, text 'BUYDATA' to 6700. Add-on data expires at the end of the current plan month.
Plans renew every 30 days. If you don't have sufficient funds in your account to renew, your service will be suspended. If you don't renew within 30 days after your account is suspended, you may lose your phone number. To check balance and validity, text 'BALANCE' to 6700; to check data consumption, 'DATA' to 6700.
Settings and info Edit
- Tethering is prohibited in their Terms of Service
- APN: wholesale
- Customer Support: Call 611 from an Ultra Mobile phone or 888-777-0446 from another phone
- Website: http://ultra.me/
Roam Mobility (roaming on T-Mobile) Edit
Roam Mobility is a Canada-based MVNO that offers SIM cards for the US (and Mexico) sold in Canada. So this is only a possibility, if you live in Canada or travel from Canada to the US. They use the network of T-Mobile US for roaming in 2G, 3G and 4G. For frequencies and coverage see T-Mobile above. Note that the SIM doesn't work in Canada.
Start up Edit
Their roaming SIM card can be bought in Canada only at their authorized dealers (shop locator) or online on their website for CAD 9.95. You can activate and top-up the SIM as well as choose a plan on their there using AmEx, Visa or Mastercard.
Data packs Edit
These US data-only packs are available and can be activated on their website:
- 300 MB for 3 days, CAD 9.95
- 500 MB for 7 days, CAD 16.95
- 1 GB for 7 days, CAD 21.95
- 2 GB for 30 days, CAD 29.95
- 5 GB for 30 days, CAD 59.95
To these data packs more data can be added by data bolt-ons: 300 MB for CAD 5.95, 500 MB for CAD 9.95 and 1 GB for CAD 14.95, vaild each for the rest of the running time of the existing data pack. They also sell voice & data plans that can be checked here.
Settings and more info Edit
- APN: WHOLESALE
- Data roaming must be enabled
- Website: http://www.roammobility.com
Ting is a relatively new operator. It started in 2012 on the Sprint network and spread to T-Mobile in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. As Sprint is CDMA and doesn't allow to bring your own device, only the T-Mobile plans are shown below.
Start up Edit
Their SIM card for T-Mobile is sold online on their website for $9 or other online dealers like Amazon or eBay for less. They are not regulary sold in shops which makes it inconvenient for travellers. You need to activate your SIM on their website.
You need to allow auto-pay on your credit card which makes this SIM a hybrid pre-postpaid offer.
Data rates Edit
Ting has an unusual pricing model: users are charged for separate packs (which Ting calls tiers) of voice minutes, texts and data. If you use up all the allowances in one of your buckets, Ting will automatically upgrade you to the next larger pack for the current month only. You can block these automatic upgrades by setting usage and/or spending limits that cut off your service for the rest of the month when the limit is reached.
- XS: 0 - $ 0
- S: 100 MB - $ 3
- M: 500 MB - $ 10
- L: 1 GB - $ 16
- XL: 2 GB - $ 20
- beyond XL: $ 10 per GB
The same scheme applies to domestic voice and SMS allowances. Ting also charges a $6 per month service fee regardless of usage. Data, voice and SMS tiers can be shared across multiple phones or users on the same account. Tethering is allowed without surcharge.
Settings and info Edit
- APN: wholesale
- Customer support: 855 846 4389 only Mon-Fri
- Website: http://ting.com/
FreedomPop launched as a Sprint MVNO in 2012 and claims to have added over one million customers since launch. Sprint is not accessible with a GSM or a device brought in from another network. That's why this offer is not shown in this list.
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 and no 4G/LTE for data, but 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.
Free 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 not available. 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.
In August 2016 FreedomPop launched its WhatsApp SIM in the US. The WhatsApp SIM is a version of the Global service 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.
Warning: 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.
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 100 or 200 MB allowance. 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 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, no support for free customers!
- Website: https://www.freedompop.com/