Comparing Mobile Internet Service through Wireless Carriers

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I’ve compared various satellite services in my previous post, now I’ll look at wireless Internet service as provided by wireless (cell phone) carriers AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. The key advantage of using these providers — and their “air cards” — is that you just plug them in and, provided you’re in their coverage area, you have instant access to the Internet. Compare that to the hassles of setting up your satellite dish and pointing it towards a clear view of the southern sky.

AT&TVerizonSprint
Equipment Cost ~$100 $50 – $100 + $35 activation fee $50 – $130
Monthly Service Cost $60 / computer $59.99 / computer $59.99 / computer
Data Transfer 5GB/mo included | $0.015/kb Canada 5GB/mo included | $0.002/kb Canada 5GB/mo total or 300 MB/mo roaming
Download/Upload Speed 3G Downloads: 600 Kbps–1.4 Mbps / Uploads: 500–800 Kbps | Edge: 70-135Kbps Downloads: 600 Kbps–1.4 Mbps / Uploads: 500 Kbps–800 Kbps Downloads: 600 Kbps-1.4 Mbps / Uploads: 350-500 Kbps
Coverage Best map Middle map Worst map

So as you can see, all of the companies offer a very similar service in terms of price and speed, though the coverage area varies. Verizon and AT&T seem to have similar coverage areas, while Sprint is still catching up. Note that none of these speeds have been tested but are all based on what the companies report themselves.