AT&T Alternative For Portable Internet

funkateer

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 29, 2010
27
0
Variations of this have probably been discussed, but I just wanted to report my experience....

I got a wifi 64gb iPad today. I decided to not get the AT&T 3G built in, even though the data deal isn't too bad. Instead, I'm using a Cradlepoint PHS 300 portable router, combined with a Virgin Broadband 2 Go USB stick. Pleased to report that it's working great with the iPad. Download speeds depend on where you are, of course...I've been testing this in a pretty bad signal area...but even in a weak area, I'm downloading comics (KICK ASS!) and streaming Netflix with only slight hiccups on either.

I was a little surprised that I had no trouble setting it up for iPad....it just picks it up as a wifi signal, I have to login through the Cradlepoint site that comes up automatically (as with any device). When I set this up to use with a Mac Air and Pro, I had to install other drivers via USB, and I was worried there might be a driver problem with the iPad. Nope. Whew. Really nice to be able to use other devices on the go at the same time.

I wound up buying the router and the Virgin card...which allows incremental data buys depending on what you need (prices between $20 and $60)...so I could ditch my AT&T cell card (which was a flat $60 a month, and I never wound up coming close to the 5G limit....I'm usually near a wifi signal).

One warning, though. I bought the Cradlepoint router from Woot a couple of months ago. To use it with a Virgin Broadband 2 Go card, which accesses the Sprint network, you have to download the latest firmware for the Cradlepoint. When I first got the Sprint card, it wouldn't work at all with the Cradlepoint....and when I called Sprint and Virgin about it, they said NO portable router would work with the card. Not true. All you have to do is get the latest Cradlepoint firmware, and it works like a charm.

The Cradlepoint router and the Virgin card are two small extra things to carry, but I emphasize small (basically a thumbdrive and a router that's smaller than, say, a DVD case), and I liked the flexibility in pricing and multiple device use enough to go this route instead of built in AT&T.

Sorry if this is a dupe, I'm a latecomer here and don't know how many of you have tried this...just wanted to report my version of this workaround works just fine.
 

TraceyS/FL

macrumors 601
Jan 11, 2007
4,063
191
North Central Florida
Thanks for the info that it works!

I pondered this option for myself over the 3G - but i was having issues finding the router piece.

I still may end up with the Virgin Stick for my laptop, but for now i went with the 1 thing to carry. I'm hoping i can do everything with the iPad in the future....

Printing is going to be my only sticking point, and I can't sort that out until i get my hands on "my" iPad (as opposed to the few minutes the kid lets me use hers! LOL!!).
 

funkateer

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 29, 2010
27
0
Something that might be an issue, that I haven't explored yet (hey, I've had this thing for six hours, I'm still getting my mind blown): aren't there some streaming/internet apps that work only with wifi, and not with a direct cell connection? If that's true, this is a potential workaround (it's a portable cell connection, but it's delivered via wifi).
 

barefeats

macrumors 65816
Jul 6, 2000
1,055
17
I use the Sprint 4G Overdrive portable hotspot "hockey puck" for wireless broadband when no WiFi avail. It is supposed to have its own GPS chip but I'm not sure if that is accessible or helpful.
 

funkateer

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 29, 2010
27
0
In my setup, there's no GPS. It does do maps and location finding by using the pre-GPS trick of triangulating cell towers. If GPS is really important to you on the iPad, this might not be the way to go. I have a iPhone 3GS, which gives me enough portable GPS action.
 

coelacanth

macrumors 6502
Jul 19, 2004
434
1
This is interesting indeed. Thanks for sharing.

I love the idea of Mifi because when I need 3G connection other than iPhone, I often need it for my MBP, not so much for iPad. But the 2 years contract and $40 or $60 were putting me off.

With your solution, I can get the mobile router and model a bit over $200 and keep the pair just in case I need connection on the road. And I of course I get to choose which device(s) I want to go online with, including iPad.

Questions:

How easily/quickly can you activate/add data plan on the virgin modem?

How's the battery life on the router using this combination? Looks like you need to plug the usb modem to laptop to activate the modem. Will you be able add prepaid charge only with iPad+CradlePoint+Virgin modem?
 

jaeguyoon

macrumors regular
Apr 20, 2010
129
0
I use the Sprint 4G Overdrive portable hotspot "hockey puck" for wireless broadband when no WiFi avail. It is supposed to have its own GPS chip but I'm not sure if that is accessible or helpful.
yea I was hoping the GPS in the overdrive allow me to locate myself using it....oh well.....
 

funkateer

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 29, 2010
27
0
I haven't topped up the Sprint/Virgin charge via iPad, or for that matter on any computer yet. Supposedly the way this works is, when you run out of available data, you'll automatically get kicked over to a Sprint/Virgin web page that will prompt you to buy more. Since everything else has worked okay on the iPad so far, I assume this will work on it too.

The Cradlepoint router has, I think, about a 2-3 hour battery. If that's not enough, on this model it's possible to buy additional internal batteries (about the size of a matchbox) to swap out. And of course there's a wall plug that you can carry around if you need it. It appears to me that when it's plugged in and in the on position, it runs but doesn't charge the battery...battery charging seems to only happen when it's in off position.

Pre-iPad, my usage of the Sprint/Virgin card, and the AT&T card I had before, was really low. I expect my usage to spike considerably with all the streaming options now. I think it'll take a few months for me to figure out what monthly data plan will really make sense. I'm glad Sprint provides some options there.

Though I should mention...when I called AT&T to cancel my cell card plan that cost about $60 a month, they tried to woo me back with something that I'd never heard of...a $30/month plan for 250 mb. Which would have been nice to know a while back, as I rarely hit that mark, but it's still more than the Sprint/Virgin plan ($20 for 300 mb). FYI for anyone still doing this with AT&T.

Hey, who wants to buy an AT&T 881 USB card from me?

<crickets>
 

barefeats

macrumors 65816
Jul 6, 2000
1,055
17
yea I was hoping the GPS in the overdrive allow me to locate myself using it....oh well.....
I discovered how to use the Overdrive's GPS. Using Safari, I enter the Overdrive's IP address (192.168.0.1). If I have activated the GPS, I just click "Map Me" and it shows me my exact location using maps.google.com or mapquest or Bing or Yahoo.

We don't need no stinkin 3G iPad!
 

bidwalj

macrumors 65816
Feb 16, 2007
1,036
112
I done this as well since my work provides me with a sprint USB card. This router also works with any cell phone as well if you have the tether option.
 

MikhailT

macrumors 601
Nov 12, 2007
4,393
972
Variations of this have probably been discussed, but I just wanted to report my experience....

I got a wifi 64gb iPad today. I decided to not get the AT&T 3G built in, even though the data deal isn't too bad. Instead, I'm using a Cradlepoint PHS 300 portable router, combined with a Virgin Broadband 2 Go USB stick. Pleased to report that it's working great with the iPad. Download speeds depend on where you are, of course...I've been testing this in a pretty bad signal area...but even in a weak area, I'm downloading comics (KICK ASS!) and streaming Netflix with only slight hiccups on either.

I was a little surprised that I had no trouble setting it up for iPad....it just picks it up as a wifi signal, I have to login through the Cradlepoint site that comes up automatically (as with any device). When I set this up to use with a Mac Air and Pro, I had to install other drivers via USB, and I was worried there might be a driver problem with the iPad. Nope. Whew. Really nice to be able to use other devices on the go at the same time.

I wound up buying the router and the Virgin card...which allows incremental data buys depending on what you need (prices between $20 and $60)...so I could ditch my AT&T cell card (which was a flat $60 a month, and I never wound up coming close to the 5G limit....I'm usually near a wifi signal).

One warning, though. I bought the Cradlepoint router from Woot a couple of months ago. To use it with a Virgin Broadband 2 Go card, which accesses the Sprint network, you have to download the latest firmware for the Cradlepoint. When I first got the Sprint card, it wouldn't work at all with the Cradlepoint....and when I called Sprint and Virgin about it, they said NO portable router would work with the card. Not true. All you have to do is get the latest Cradlepoint firmware, and it works like a charm.

The Cradlepoint router and the Virgin card are two small extra things to carry, but I emphasize small (basically a thumbdrive and a router that's smaller than, say, a DVD case), and I liked the flexibility in pricing and multiple device use enough to go this route instead of built in AT&T.

Sorry if this is a dupe, I'm a latecomer here and don't know how many of you have tried this...just wanted to report my version of this workaround works just fine.
Can you post a pic of all of them together, just curious the size of them all combined.
 

jaeguyoon

macrumors regular
Apr 20, 2010
129
0
I discovered how to use the Overdrive's GPS. Using Safari, I enter the Overdrive's IP address (192.168.0.1). If I have activated the GPS, I just click "Map Me" and it shows me my exact location using maps.google.com or mapquest or Bing or Yahoo.

We don't need no stinkin 3G iPad!
Nice!!!!! but then it wouldn't be following me when I start driving right? oh well, Ireally don't need GPS anyways, I have navi in my car and an iPhone. But thanks for that lil tip!
 

Capt T

macrumors 6502a
Mar 20, 2010
968
250
I decided to go with that same setup. I have been using it for a few weeks. As far as pay as you go. They have the best options with the Virgin (sprint network) cards.

the PHS300 is just a little bigger than the iPhone 3GS it is about as thick as a DS light if that helps. I have a Tom Bihn bag for my iPad and there is a pocket it fits in perfectly and can leave it in my bag when using. It is about 30 or 40 feet real distance from it for use. super light. You can also get an external battery from the 3G store that will work with it and give an extra 6 hours or something. I am seeing what I need first, if I can get by with the battery or want a second internal or the external. The amount of time you will get on it depends on how much you are pulling and what area you are in for how much power your usb card needs.

I like it so far. I needed something for both the iPad and the laptop but didn't want to pay a monthly plan because some months I don't need 3g.
 

funkateer

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 29, 2010
27
0




Quality of photos sux, but you get the idea of relative size/thickness. If you have a case with any kind of side pocket, it can carry this stuff. An extra battery is the size of a matchbox. The Virgin card, as you see, is the size of a thumbdrive (and I hadn't mentioned one of the side benefits of the card -- it has a slot for a microSD card, so it actually does work as a storage thumbdrive -- I've got 2gb on mine)

I didn't include the Cradlepoint charging plug...it's actually kind of clunky and I don't carry it if I can help it.

As far as battery life, I've never gone to the end of the line on my battery yet...never used it for more than two hours, so I can't really confirm what the full life is.
 

macinside

macrumors member
Apr 17, 2010
42
0
Aren't you going to pay crazy rates to stream netflix? Virgin mobile only gives you 500mb for every $60 you spend.

I recently switched from Virgin to Sprint Overdrive for a cross country motor coach trip with several friends, who each had a mabcbook. I also recently got an ipad. For the same monthly fee, I get 5gb (10 times Virgin) on 3G and unlimited on megafast 4g for up to 5 simultaneous devices.

The 4g is most impressive, btw. Makes the At&t plan I have on the iPad look lie utter crap. Then again, even sprint and virgin 3G are usually superior to AT&T, too. I was hoping the iPad 3G plan would be better than it is. It's not only slow, but they also severely limit the type and quality of content you can access. I guess this just proves how shabby AT&T is.

Overdrive, though, I can easily recommend as as next step upgrade for you.
 

funkateer

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 29, 2010
27
0
http://www.virginmobileusa.com/mobile-broadband

You're not correct about pricing. The top price for Virgin, $60, gets you 5gb, which seems to be a standard top rate. The main reason I went with this pay as you go plan is that it's not necessarily a flat $60. I've initially gone with the $20/300 MB plan because I never exceeded that level of use with the AT&T $60 plan, which meant I was spending a lot of money for nothing.

The iPad may change my mobile habits, but there are enough tiers of pricing in the Virgin plan that I'll be able to adjust from month to month. And yeah, all the new streaming options (Netflix, ABC, Air Video) just might kick me back up to 5g/$60 territory in no time. I just like having the choice of pricing here.
 

tivoboy

macrumors 68040
May 15, 2005
3,136
214
anyone

you can use the cradlepoint with any portable broadband providor, there are some out there with 40$ unlimited and sprint for 50$ is also unlimited. The newer cradlepoint routers will do 4G and can then use some of the 40$ 4G unlimited from companies like sprint.
 

Bulldog3777

macrumors 6502
Apr 2, 2009
326
7
Cradlepoint

http://www.virginmobileusa.com/mobile-broadband

You're not correct about pricing. The top price for Virgin, $60, gets you 5gb, which seems to be a standard top rate. The main reason I went with this pay as you go plan is that it's not necessarily a flat $60. I've initially gone with the $20/300 MB plan because I never exceeded that level of use with the AT&T $60 plan, which meant I was spending a lot of money for nothing.

The iPad may change my mobile habits, but there are enough tiers of pricing in the Virgin plan that I'll be able to adjust from month to month. And yeah, all the new streaming options (Netflix, ABC, Air Video) just might kick me back up to 5g/$60 territory in no time. I just like having the choice of pricing here.
I have the Virgin Mobile USB adapter \. Does it make a difference if I end up with version 1 instead of version 2 Cradlepoint??
 

barefeats

macrumors 65816
Jul 6, 2000
1,055
17
I learned recently that the Clear One portable hotspot is built by Cradlepoint. It's different from the Sprint Overdrive in that it requires a USB 4G modem to work. The Overdrive's modem in built-in.

I also learned that the Clear One does NOT have GPS. The Overdrive does.

Lastly, it's a shame that the Clear One is limited to 6Mbps. When I connected the 4G modem from Clear directly to the MBP, it gets 9.5Mbps. I asked Clear about the limit. They shrugged and said, "That's the spec Clear gave to Clearpoint."
 

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