Good news out of IntoMobile: Virgin Mobile USA will be streamlining their prepaid mobile data offerings and introducing an unlimited plan for only $40 for 30 days. That’s cheaper than 2-year contract plans with data caps. Might be time for me to order a VM Mifi hotspot.
The price drop comes amidst increased pricing competition and changes in service offerings. Verizon offers built-in mobile hotspot service with DROID phones. Spurred by the iPad’s 3G plan, consumers are starting to expect standalone data plans to be the same price as add-on plans (and with no contract). Virgin Mobile USA offers both a USB modem and Mifi 2200.
One strange wrinkle is that Virgin will be advertising “unlimited” 3G usage at a time when many service providers are moving away from such language and acknowledging caps. Of particular note is that Sprint, which provides the service that Virgin Mobile USA resells, offers 3G at 5GB/month for $60 with 2-year contract. Not sure how VM USA expect to make a profit with this or avoid ticking off Sprint, unless Sprint is bringing down their pricing as well.
IntoMobile also notes that Clearwire, Sprint’s 4G partner, will be partnering with Best Buy for retail support, presumably of their CLEAR line. CLEAR offers $40 unlimited data but only through 4G (no 3G), as well as $55 mixed 3G/4G but with the 5GB cap on 3G. It’s possible VM USA’s price drop was meant to compete with this. Regardless, if you’re in an area with good Sprint 3G coverage, you will have a lot of interesting mobile broadband options from which to choose.