Here at the Mobile Internet Resource Center we are constantly tracking cellular data plans.
For seasonal and full time nomads, cellular data isn't just a supplement to a smartphone plan - it's a home internet replacement. RVers and cruisers usually need more data than the mainstream carrier plans provide.
We're not just looking for data we can use on a smartphone or tablet, we need data that is able to be used for getting laptops, computers and streaming devices online to enable remote work, homeschool, travel research, banking, entertainment and social connections.
This guide is kept constantly up to date with our top data plan picks. You can also find this guidance embedded in most of our guides about cellular data plans so that it's available throughout the site.
Additionally, we have other guides going over cellular carriers and data plans to further educate and present additional options.
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Quick Video Overview with our top picks (updated July 26, 2018):
Top Pick Plans:
These top picks focus on plans that provide the maximum amount of hotspot-enabled data (or on device for a tablet/PC) for the lowest cost.
- Verizon's "Unlimited" - Verizon's Above Unlimited plans include 20GB of high-speed mobile hotspot per smartphone. However, data only devices (like hotspots and tablets) can be added for $20/mo each, and only include 15GB of high-speed hotspot data. Data top-ups are available for $35 for 5GB as needed.
- FMCA offers a 25GB 'unlimited' plan on a hotspot device to their members that comes with a 25GB high-speed limit for $49.99/mo. It requires, however, a 2-year Verizon contract, and an active 2-year FMCA membership.
- Visible is Verizon's new prepaid brand. For $40/month you get an iPhone based unlimited plan with all data capped at 5 Mbps (very usable!). As part of their pre-launch, they are including mobile hotspot use, but only to a single device. BUT this could change upon official launch.
- Verizon Legacy Unlimited Plans - A grandfathered/legacy unlimited data plan has been the best deal for most US nomads who need lots of bandwidth and nationwide high-speed coverage - the plans are not subject to network management or throttling (except HD video). Monthly rates vary from $45-249 depending on the method, including rental vendor options. However getting these plans is now a bit tricky, and there ongoing aggressive terminations.
- Wireless Home Phone & Internet plans on the Wireless Internet device are available for $60/month for 50GB or $100/month for 100GB.
- Unlimited Prepaid iPad Plan - AT&T offers prepaid tablet plans for $29.99 -35/month, but data is only available on the device (no hotspot included). But with HDMI out for TV viewing and a Bluetooth keyboard, a tablet can be quite a capable device. (Some do put the SIM in a hotspot device, and it works - but this is against terms of service and AT&T could enforce it in the future.)
- Rental/Lease Vendors: There are many rental vendors out there offering plans from $60 - 199/month. Check our Guide to Unlimited Data for listings and warnings. The two cheapest right now are:
- Netbuddy.co & OTR Mobile at $60/mo (members, check our Member Discount page before signing up.)
- T-Mobile One+ smartphone & tablet plans include 20GB of 4G personal hotspot use for $85/month, with unlimited on-device data (55+ and Military qualify for great discounts!) - however, hotspot use is de-prioritized a bit over on-device use. (The +International option mentioned in the video quietly retired on 8/9/2018 and is no longer available.)
- Rental/Lease Vendors: There are many rental vendors out there offering plans from $70 - 250/month on data only devices. Check our Guide to Unlimited Data for listings and warnings.
- Non-Profit Unlimited Plans - Joining a non-profit (such as Calyx Institute or PCs for People) to obtain an unlimited Sprint plan due to some prior agreement the carrier inherited is the most affordable option out there. Pricing ranges from $10-33/month.
- FMCA Sprint Plan: FMCA members have access to an unlimited Sprint hotspot plan for $49.99/mo, with no contract but does require an active 2-year FMCA membership.
- Sprint Unlimited Premium - Sprint's premium smartphones plans include 50GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data a monthly, plus a bunch of other perks.
- Sprint Direct 50GB Plan - Sprint offers a direct mobile hotspot plan with 50GB of data for $50/month for use with dedicated data devices.
- Sprint Direct Tablet & 2-n-1 Unlimited Plans - For $15/month, Sprint offers an unlimited on-device plan for tablets and select 2-n-1 PC devices and includes 10GB of high-speed hotspot data.
Last update: 9/20/2018
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