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Prepaid Mobile UMTS Tethering in the USA

Discussion in 'PRE-PAID Cell Phone Companies and Plans' started by schmoove, Jul 11, 2011.

  1. schmoove

    schmoove New Member

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    I will be visiting the USA for a short trip (4 weeks) and am looking for a prepaid mobile data plan that supports tethering.

    So far I have found:

    U.S. Cellular -- prepaid wireless plans -- Looks good


    AT&T -- Prepaid DataConnect Pass
    -- No info on tethering

    Any other recommendations?

    To avoid any misunderstandings:
    - I already have a cell-phone that works in the USA. I am merely looking for a prepaid plan from any carrier in the USA.
    - Prepaid is a must. I will be in the USA only temporarily. I do not need a long term contract.
    - Tethering is a must. I see lots of prepaid plans, but it is hard to find information on the possibility of tethering

    Regards,
    Schmoove
     
  2. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    What phone do you have exactly? As far as I know, US Cellular runs a CDMA network, so if you have a GSM/UMTS phone it won't work on that network. AT&T is GSM/UMTS, but I don't think they are too friendly with pre-paid tethering.

    You might want to look at T-Mobile, they are GSM/UMTS (note: UMTS on 1700MHz) may be more pre-paid friendly, but T-Mobile focuses coverage mainly in cities, so you probably won't have much luck with coverage if you will be in rural areas.
     
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  3. schmoove

    schmoove New Member

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    My phone is a Samsung I9000 Galaxy S which supports GSM-Quadband (850/900/1800/1900) and UMTS-Triband (900/1900/2100) and no CDMA.

    Thanks for pointing out the CDMA vs GSM/UMTS issue. I believe CDMA is specific to the USA, so any foreigner like me wanting to use their cell-phone in the USA will most likely be limited to GSM/UMTS carriers, as their phone most likely won't support CDMA. I see Wikipedia has a list of United States wireless communications service providers which shows who supports GSM and UMTS.

    Another problem could be my phone's supported UMTS frequencies. According Wikipedia's list of UMTS frequency bands, some USA carriers use the 1900 MHz frequency (AT&T, ...), while others use 1700 MHz (T-Mobile, ...).

    That makes the list of carriers even smaller for my phone's case and merely leaves AT&T in the field of possible options if I am correct?
     
  4. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    AT&T uses both 850 & 1900MHz frequencies for both their GSM and UMTS networks. I have played with the phone you have and here in the Bay Area, CA the 3G appeared a lot less frequently than on the phones that have both 850 & 1900 UMTS radios. I also have a friend who owns a similar Android device and he also doesn't see 3G very often.
     
  5. schmoove

    schmoove New Member

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    I just read that T-Mobile in the USA not only uses the 1700MHz frequency but also 2100MHz. That should work with my phone then and gives me another option :)

    I have read that T-Mobile generally offers tethering, but I was not able find out if this also pertains to their prepaid plans. I don't know if AT&T offers tethering (for prepaid), I haven't searched for an answer yet.
     
  6. COtech

    COtech Bronze Senior Member
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    That won't work as you think. In North America 1700 MHz (lower end of what you know as 1800 MHz) is paired with 2100 MHz, and is called the AWS band. In most of the rest of the world, 1900 MHz is paired with 2100 MHz. See this graphic. You might enjoy the entire article, which starts here.

    COtech
     
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  7. schmoove

    schmoove New Member

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    Thanks COtech for pointing out the pairing issue. So since my European phone doesn't support 1700MHz, it won't be able to use the AWS band in the USA and thus our European "UMTS phone" won't work as hoped for with the missing UMTS band in the USA and the given AWS band.

    But what about the 850MHz band? My phone supports that. As I understand pairing is not an issue for this band, since sending and receiving is both covered in the 850MHz ? So now I am hoping my phone will work in the USA via 850MHz? I wouldn't really mind 2G technology like GPRS or EDGE just as long as can get online.

    BTW, are there any carriers in the USA that offer 3G via 850MHz? I would extremely doubt it, but maybe I am wrong?
     
  8. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    AT&T uses 850MHz for GSM and UMTS.
    In short, with your phone, if you want to use 3G UMTS, then AT&T (or a MVNO using the AT&T network) is your only option. You can use T-Mobile, but only 2G GSM.

    Have a look at my MVNO list page:
    MVNOlist.com

    I haven't updated it in a while, so it's a little out of date, but maybe you can spot a MVNO on there that uses AT&T's network and offers pre-paid data.
     
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  9. schmoove

    schmoove New Member

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    To finish off this thread, I'm back from my trip to the USA. In San Francisco I went to an AT&T shop and was turned down as they had no prepaid data deals to offer at all. Good thing the next T-Mobile shop was just across the street. The competent salesman recognized me as a foreigner and knew right away what I wanted ;) So I got a prepaid SIM with a 90-day flat for data and all calls within the US, landlines and cellphones. for an extra $10 I got a flat for landline calls to Europe and free unlimited SMS to Europe. If I remember correctly, I think the first 50MB were at 3G speed, after that I was surfing at 2G EDGE with my European Phone that I had with me. That was OK, enough for navigating with Google Maps and other basics. I didn't try tethering between my notebook and my phone, instead I used WIFI hotspots which were common and usually free all over the place.

    All in all I was happy with the T-Mobile deal, I think it was $60, which included $10 for whatever was not covered by all the included flatrates. I used that for calling European cell phones for I think about 30 or 40 minutes.

    One more note regarding connectivity in remote places. I went camping in northern California and connectivity on practically all campgrounds were non-existent. This was a bummer, since that is were I would have had the most time to go online. As soon as I got out of any city and off the highway, GSM connectivity was gone. I think I only recall one campground where a neighbor with a CDMA phone had connectivity, other than that I think it didn't make a difference if one had GSM or CDMA. There are just too many nice remote places in California :)

    OK, I hope this info might help someone visiting the USA and wanting to stay online plan there trip.
     
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  10. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Thanks for the nice write-up!
     

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