Today, the FMCA announced another unlimited offering included with their new Tech Connect+ Membership. For $49.99 per month, the new membership package includes an unlimited Sprint based hotspot plan.
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Details of the new FMCA Tech Connect+ Package
This new Sprint plan is offered as part of the FMCA Tech Connect+ package, which includes discounts to various technology items (similar to discounts our premium members of this site already receive on boosters and Wi-Fi equipment).
The Sprint plan, unlike the Verizon plan announced last week, actually offers truly unlimited high-speed data subject only to network management. The new plan has some interesting details and may also be suitable for part-time RVers & snowbirds looking for short term mobile internet solutions without a commitment.
Here are the Basics:
- Price: $49.99/month, plus a one-time $39.99 rental fee for the hotspot. All fees will be paid directly to the FMCA as part of their Tech Connect+ membership, and the plan is administered directly by the FMCA, not Sprint.
- Speed: Full un-throttled and uncapped 3G & 4G LTE speed, but data is always subject to network management by Sprint.
- Qualifications: No contract, the plan is month-to-month and can be cancelled at anytime. Requires at least 1 year remaining on a FMCA membership to qualify, and they reserve the right to modify the plan at anytime. There is a limit of one device per member number.
- Device: Includes a Franklin R910 hotspot (Sprint's most current model), rented for a one-time fee of $39.99 - regardless of how long you keep the plan. The hotspot must be returned within 15 days if the plan is cancelled - failure to return the hotspot results in a $200 administrative fee. There is no option to bring your own device and the SIM cannot be used in another device.
- Coverage: All of Sprint's domestic coverage including their extended LTE, and up to 300MB a month of domestic roaming. No international coverage is included.
Now for all the details:
Overall the plan is well priced, especially for those looking for a short-term or temporary solution.
However, many people who want Sprint access and need a regular, long-term plan may find other options a better value.
Comparison with other Sprint options:
Sprint Unlimited Freedom Data Plan: Sprint charges $50 a month for its own newly launched unlimited data hotspot plan when added to an Unlimited Freedom smartphone plan ($75/month if it is a standalone plan). Sprint's plan also comes with additional unwelcome restrictions such as throttling for video, musicand gaming that this FMCA plan does not have. For those without a Sprint smartphone plan, the FMCA deal is definitely a better deal. February 2018 Update: Sprint discontinued the unlimited data hotspot option and it is no longer available.
- Nonprofit Plans: The Non-Profit based plans, such as Calyx Institute or PCs for People, can be cheaper if you're willing to prepay a non-refundable year of service. Costs can be as low as $10-33/month depending on income qualifications. However, unlike the FMCA plan, the nonprofit plans do not include any domestic roaming and are 4G LTE only (no 3G coverage). With these plans you are technically purchasing a membership with the non-profit - which does not guarantee cellular service. As we saw with the recent 4GCommunity termination, this could potentially leave customers with prepaid service that is not delivered. However Calyx has gone on record stating the 4GCommunity situation was an isolated incident and their Sprint contract should be good for the long term.
- MVNO/Reseller Plans:
- FMCA's offering is definitely cheaper than Unlimitedville's $99/month 'Yellow' plan. Unlimitedville offers easy one-stop shopping for rental unlimited plans on all four carriers, usually at a substantial mark-up over retail value. It's been well over a year since they offered a Sprint contract based plan for $47.99/month.
- Other Sprint MVNO/Resellers do not offer unlimited hotspot data or only offer it at throttled (2g) speeds after consuming a small bucket of high-speed data.
The plan is administered by FMCA and the monthly fee is paid via the credit card used to sign up for the Tech Connect+ package. The plan does not require any special credit checks and consumers do not become direct Sprint customers (although technical support is handled by Sprint). This makes the plan available to Canadian snowbirds without a US address to sign up directly with a carrier.
For more unlimited options on other carriers: Guide to Unlimited Data Plans
The biggest upside of this plan is that it is truly unlimited and high-speed data. There is no throttling of video, audio or any restrictions on data use.
The plan includes 300Mb of domestic roaming which, at LTE speeds, will be consumed quickly but it's a nice option to have. Additionally, the plan includes access to Sprint's older and slower 3G "Fallback" network.
The plan is, however, always subject to network management by Sprint, so data might be slowed before other users on congested towers. At present time, we do not have too many reports of network management being a problem for Sprint customers on their unlimited plans. But this could definitely be an issue for those in saturated markets.
The biggest downside to this plan is that it's with Sprint - the carrier with the least nationwide coverage for travelers.
If your travels keep you mainly in urban areas or along interstates, you may find this plan is quite suitable for your mobile internet arsenal. But for those venturing more off the beaten path, you'll be hard pressed to find usable coverage with Sprint.
Also keep in mind, Sprint is the hardest carrier to get an enhanced signal. Most of their frequency bands are not supported by today's cellular boosters (members, there's an in-depth analysis in our Guide to Cellular Boosters going over why). And while the Franklin 910 mobile hotspot that is required with this plan has the latest modem chipset for the greatest performance, it does not have antenna ports for direct wired antennas.
As a member benefit, the FMCA requires at least one year of remaining membership to qualify for this plan. Should a membership lapse, FMCA will cancel the plan and require the hotspot be returned. FMCA membership costs $60 for one year for new members - existing members can renew for $50.
Only one hotspot is allowed per FMCA membership number.
In their Terms and Conditions they also specifically state that there will be no refunds of membership dues if you cancel your Tech Connect+ membership with the Sprint plan. There is also no option to suspend the plan.
After signing up, FMCA will ship the hotspot to you with 2-day shipping including to mail forwarding addresses, but not P.O Boxes.
Also keep in mind - since FMCA is administering the plan and there are no contracts (or any option for a contract). Update: The FMCA has changed their policy to specifically state that the pricing of the Tech Connect+ package is locked in until 11/15/2019 (two years from the launch of this program.)
Summary: Worthy Sprint Option
Overall this is a unique addition to the few existing Sprint unlimited data hotspot options. And we especially love that the FMCA worked out a no-contract option on this one.
It fills a niche that seems especially flexible for part-time RVers who need unlimited data for the annual summer motorhome vacation or snowbirding south for the winter. Or perhaps an RVer who finds themselves located for a while in a solid Sprint service area or for those who just want a Sprint option in their arsenal.
However, be sure to check Sprint's coverage maps to make sure they will match your travel intentions.
There's little risk to trying this plan out for those who would already be members of the FMCA. If it doesn't work for you, your only cost is your monthly service fee, $39.99 rental of the device and postage to return the device. Just keep in mind if you join specifically for this plan, they will not be offering FMCA memberships refunds should the plan not work out.
- Cellular Data Plan Review Center
- Understanding Unlimited Cellular Data Plans: Network Management, Throttling & Mobile Hotspot Usage
- The Four Major US Carriers – Which is Best for RVers?
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