Variable Data Needs
If you're a full-time or most-time nomad, investing time and money in a sweet mobile internet setup is well worth the effort.
However, if you'll be traveling for shorter spells and only need mobile internet access sporadically, finding the right set-up can be a bit complicated.
Especially if your short term, sporadic travel needs call for large amounts of high speed data access.
The occasional nomad needs to balance costs and complexity against variable needs. Some may even have to weigh the need pay for data plans that you don't use all of the time just to keep them active.
This guide is being written to address this unique perspective on mobile internet setups, and we are aiming to release it in late 2019.
Included in this Guide:
- Challenges of a part-time setup
- Costs vs Benefits
- Protecting Legacy Data Plans
- Seeking Out Flexible Options
- Using Mobile Internet Year Round
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Challenges of a Part-Time Set Up
When you stagnate at a single location for a lengthy period of time, getting hooked-up with the best internet solution is typically pretty straight-forward. Mobility, however, presents some unique considerations.
You need to be prepared for the reality that what gets you online today may not work tomorrow when you move to a new location - which means you'll have to weigh how many options are practical for your own personal mobile internet needs.
Most part-time nomads will be maintaining both a classic, stationary internet option in their immobile residence - and require a mobile internet solution for when they are on the go.
Both internet set-ups will likely require separate equipment and data plans.
Investing in devices for each living situation will incur costs. And investing in data solutions for each domicile will also incur costs.
And while some folks will find solutions where payment of plans won't overlap - sometimes, it's smarter for the part-time nomad to pay for a plan they aren't currently using, so that they don't lose it by the time they decide to hit the road or water again...
Data Plan Maintenance & Timing
... because some plans are unicorns. And if you catch one before it disappears, you will need to weigh the costs of keeping it - even when you're not using it.
Most plans that are no longer available to new customers exist in a grandfathered state for customers who purchased the plan before it terminated. To maintain the ability to use that plan - and stay grandfathered - you need to keep paying for that plan.
These 'grab them while you can get them' data plans often have (nearly) unlimited data, are available for use via hotspotting of data, and are relatively cheap. They pop-up from time to time, and when they do, we typically make a pretty big deal of them at the Mobile Internet Resource. Because we know, that historically, they won't be around for long.
- The Mobley Plan - a $20/month unlimited hotspot data plan on the AT&T network subject only to network management at 22GB available for a bit in 2017, then again for a few weeks in 2019
- The Prepaid Verizon Unlimited Hotspot Data Plan (pUDP)- a $65/month unlimited hotspot data plan on the Verizon network always subject to network management available from November 2018 until May 2019.
- AT&T Unlimited Plus Hotspot Lines - AT&T allowed the activation of mobile hotspot devices without ANY high speed hotspot caps on Plus plans until May of 2018.
- Verizon Legacy Unlimited Data Plans (gUDP) - the holy grail of unlimited, un-throttled, non-network managed plans ranging in price from $40/month - $100/month. Available directly until 2011, then available through assumption of liability until 2017.
We typically recommend holding on to these types of plans. But if you're a part-timer, you'll really need to analyze your personal needs and weigh the costs of maintaining these lines versus neglecting them.
As a part-time traveler, sometimes these types of plans may arise when you aren't currently traveling. The part-timer then needs to choose if it's worth it to them personally to jump on the plan - and pay for a data they may not use for a time period - or to let it pass by and hope for another plan to pop-up with better timing.
If you're a part-timer, you'll need to decide if grabbing one of those plans while they're available - especially if you're not currently traveling - is worth it. And then, when you stop traveling for the time-being, you'll need to decide if keeping one of those plans (which typically end up grandfathered) is worth the cost while not using it. But, if you don't pay for it - you'll lose it - and need to find a new plan when you resume travels.
An important piece of aiding you in making these decisions comes in the form of fully assessing your personal mobile internet needs. And lucky you - we've got a guide to help you do that!
Protecting Legacy Data Plans
So, you've decided that the data plans you have been utilizing while on the move are worth keeping.
How do you make sure you can keep that special data plan? That Mobley Plan? That pUDP? That gUDP?
First, and foremost:
Don't stop paying the bill.
Most cellular carriers are more happy to keep you on a plan that is no longer available so long as your account is in good standing.
We recommend having your plan on auto-pay (which sometimes even saves you a few bucks in the form of an auto-pay discount!) and having a back-up card on file for auto-pay if possible.
Make sure you're utilizing the plan for its intended purposes.
Some plans have terms of service which flat-out prohibits use of a plan in a data only device. Other have 'gray areas' for this use. If either of these is true for your plan, we recommend placing it in its intended device (often a phone) if you have been using it otherwise while traveling.
Some plans are a bit trickier to keep - with carriers actively trying to weed them out, without causing too much of a PR nightmare for themselves.
The coveted Verizon Legacy Unlimited Data Plan (gUDP) is one such plan.
If you are maintaining a plan like this - being a part-time traveler, or a full-time traveler - we highly recommend keeping a close eye on reports of terminations. We closely track terminations and changes of all our Top Pick or former Top Pick plans - as well as of any other plan we consider a viable mobile internet data plan.
We share pertinent changes in plans, tips for keeping plans safe, and report on termination occurrences and reasons - first to our supporting MIA members, and then, if warranted, to the wider public.
Proximity to the Lifestyle
For many of us, when we're not actively a part of a lifestyle - we let it slip onto the back-burner.
The world of mobile internet changes rapidly.
This can make stepping back into the mobile internet world after immersing yourself with the worries and joys of the stationary world a bit overwhelming.
- What plans are currently available? Which are top rated?
- Have any new devices hit the market?
- Are the devices you used last season (and the season before that - and likely before that) obsolete? Will they support the current most important cellular frequency bands - permitting you to utilize a carrier's network?
- Has any new cellular or Wi-Fi enhancement gear hit the market?
- Which cellular carrier is currently top rated for coverage? Speeds? Price?
We highly recommend popping in to check on the current state of the mobile internet world at least once a month while you're not traveling and utilizing your arsenal.
And, if you do end up tuning out the world of mobile internet while you're on nomadic hiatus, do try and check in at least a month before relaunching. It takes time to reconfigure an arsenal!
We keep an archive of News Stories and Updates, here:
We also keep a guide updated with our currently available Top Pick Data Plans, here:
And, in our Gear Center, you'll find our current Top Pick devices for sharing data and enhancing cellular and Wi-Fi signals. Just look for, or filter by 'Top Pick' status: