What's the best way to get mobile broadband with an Air? (No iphone, so no tethering)

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by bjjp2, Mar 17, 2011.

  1. bjjp2, Mar 17, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2011

    bjjp2 macrumors regular

    Jan 13, 2005
    Spoke to an Apple "genius" about this and he seemed completely confused and said you couldn't. What are the best options for this?

    Edit: I'm in the U.S.
  2. Sirolway macrumors 6502

    Jun 13, 2009

    In the UK I've bought a HuaWei MiFi device from Amazon, then a PAYG data tariff from 'Three' for £10 per month.

    Connects to the mobile 3G signal & gives you a personal (secure) WiFi hotspot for up to 5 devices. Works really well...
  3. Steve121178 macrumors 601


    Apr 13, 2010
    Bedfordshire, UK
  4. ZipZap macrumors 603

    Dec 14, 2007
    Jailbreak your iphone and use MyWi. Assumes you have an iphone of course.
  5. Panch0 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 23, 2010
    you have to pick a device and a plan that meets your needs.

    It seems like most carriers offer lower priced plans with the mobile hotspot devices (Verizon MiFi for example) than they do with their dedicated USB dongles. It seems like this has to do with target markets - the USB devices and plans are aimed at business travelers while the hotspots and plans are more consumer oriented.

    Hardware options:
    1) USB dongle
    2) Mobile Hotspot Device
    3) Smartphone that can act as a mobile Hotspot (many available, not just the iPhone)
    4) SmartPhone or maybe even dumbphone that can act as a modem over USB connection or bluetooth. This isn't always the same as the tethering plan and function as discussed in reference to the iPhone on AT&T.

    Personally, I prefer the dedicated or smartphone based HotSpot plans over the USB sticks, but that's just me. I use my iPhone for this on the rare occasion that I leave the WiFi blanket. I hate carrying extra stuff around, which drives my preference.

    There are cheap data plans available from most carriers, but they tend to have low data caps. You have to figure out who has good coverage in the areas that you need it, then figure out how much data you will need per month.
  6. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    You could just buy an iPhone. Otherwise I recommend the Virgin Mobile 3G MiFi. It is contract free and costs $40 per month for 5GB (used to be unlimited). I have had incredible coverage from VM as they run on the Sprint network.

    As much as I love MiFi, it isn't as convenient as using an iPhone via WiFi tethering as the iPhone is always in your pocket and charged... it all comes down to the money and data usage requirements.

    Good luck.
  7. gglockner macrumors 6502


    Nov 25, 2007
    Bellevue, WA
    Apple doesn't make a laptop with built-in 3G. That's different from Windows laptops, where many have an option for built-in 3G.

    Thus you have three options: tethering from a phone, a 3G dongle, or a mobile hotspot (like a MiFi). Which is going to be best will depend on how much you plan to use it and how often. Note that some 3G dongles may not support Mac OS X, a mobile hotspot has battery life issues, and tethering may drain your phone battery faster than you like.

    In the USA, some companies like Verizon and Virgin Mobile have pay-as-you-go mobile broadband. This is attractive if you only need it occasionally. Scottsdale's information is out-of-date - Virgin Mobile changed their pricing plans several times in the last few months, and it's no longer the great deal it used to be.

    Bottom line: in most cases, you pay dearly for the convenience - mobile broadband is generally much more expensive than home broadband, it's less reliable, and it's much slower.
  8. gglockner macrumors 6502


    Nov 25, 2007
    Bellevue, WA
    As of today, Virgin Mobile is $50 for 2.5 GB. It's still technically unlimited but they supposedly throttle you after 2.5 GB. They have eliminated the $20 and $30 plans, and the $10 plan now only includes 100MB.

    Coverage is pretty good in major cities and along the freeways. Not so good in rural locations.

    The MiFi is a nice device, but it's another toy that needs to be charged. Speaking of which, it doesn't play nice over USB: with some cables, it doesn't work at all, and with its own cable, it tries to tether itself to the computer. You can find a few 'charge only' cables from specialized vendors but they are overpriced.

    To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Virgin Mobile is the worst mobile broadband service in the USA, except compared to all other mobile broadband services.
  9. wdropo macrumors newbie

    Apr 22, 2004
    I have been using the Clear wireless 4g device. $199 then contract free for $45 month, unlimited. Device is less with a contract (I forget the details).

    Awesome device. Faster then the mifi from Verizon. This is a device that basically works on the Sprint network so if that net works for you, this will work fine. Also drops to 3g when no 4g.
  10. c0rruptd1 macrumors newbie

    Mar 17, 2011
    Most USB dongles should work, just check before you buy

    I have a 2010 MB Air and I've used several dongles with it. I recently had a Sprint U301 4g/3g that worked without any issues with Mac OS X. Ever since the personal hot spot feature was released on the iPhone, I switched to that to save money. If you are going to use it regularly and have 4g coverage in the areas where you normally would use it, Sprints 4g isn't bad. It will cost you about $60 per month and 4g speeds do vary by area (Philadelphia averaged around 5 mb/s and Baltimore 8 mb/s, but DC only 2-3 mb/s for me). AT&T will let you add tethering to your current contract for only $20 per month (or you can jailbreak your iPhone and get it free if one were so inclined to break their contract ;p), but your stuck with 3g only for the iPhone.

    The MiFi's are nice also, and require no bulky usb dongle. They rely on their own battery source, so you may find yourself still plugging it in to USB to charge. They also offer the added convenience of having multiple devices online simultaneously and work well with the iPad wifi version.
  11. gboswellsac macrumors member

    Apr 3, 2010
    San Antonio TX
    Were you able to get decent 4G with U301? I could on my M$ laptops but on the MBP low speeds and minimal 4G coverage. I had Sprint look at it and I reloaded latest drivers still terrible use. Tried somebody else's mobile hot spot and works as well as U301 on XP/Win7 box. I'm going to wait for Verizon 3G/4G mobile hotspot. If it every ships..... Sprint blamed the OS X for U301 problems and we all know not the issue...
  12. Scuba-EMT macrumors regular


    Apr 19, 2010
    Solomons Island, MD
    Verizon 4G USB

    I have been using a Verizon LG VL600 USB Modem with my MBA 13" Ultimate. I have had very good luck in luck even in rural areas. On 3G I have been averaging ~2MBs. There is a trick to this modem on a Mac though, call into Tech support and have them give you the configuration password for your modem. This will allow you to choose LTE, 4G, 3G or EVD in the modem's internal configuration file. You will get faster speeds, fewer dropped connections, and better battery life. Just my nickels worth.
  13. kappaknight macrumors 68000


    Mar 5, 2009
    Where are you in the US? Is 4G available in your city? If you're going to pay a ton for the connection, might as well get a 4G device over a 3G device.
  14. Bob Coxner macrumors 6502a

    Mar 24, 2011
    The LG Optimus V is available on Virgin Mobile and can tether without being rooted. $149, although it sometimes goes on sale for $129. Runs Android 2.2 and is a very nice phone. You can get it at Radio Shack, Target, some Walmarts, Virgin Mobile online and Best Buy (although Best Buy currently has it for $199).

    Then you can sign up for Virgin Mobile's Beyond Talk plan at $25 a month (no contract). 300 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited 3G data. (You do get throttled after 10gb) The data comes via Sprint towers, so check Sprint coverage in your area first.

    Unlimited 3G data for $25 a month can't be beat with a stick.
  15. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    Do they have a wifi hotspot device like Virgin or just USB devices?
  16. dmunz macrumors regular

    Aug 24, 2010
    You're getting 4G AND 3G for $45? I had the 4G @ $45 deal and they wanted an extra $20 per month to add 3G.

  17. BeyondtheTech macrumors 68020


    Jun 20, 2007
    Here are your options:
    • add tethering to your iPhone 4 for an additional $20 a month, losing any unlimited plan you have, and being metered after 4GB. You can connect either via USB, Bluetooth, and now Wi-Fi via Personal Hotspot in iOS 4.3.
    • jailbreak your device and purchase MyWi or TetherMe for a one-time purchase of up to $20. You may be contacted by AT&T if they detect the usage and get forced into a tethering plan.
    • get a developer to build a copy of iProxy for you. Price may vary from free to whatever. Proxy tethering has its limitations, such as either requiring additional software for other applications to work over a proxy, and a multi-step process for getting it started each time you need it.
    • purchase a UMTS Mi-Fi device on eBay or other seller for up to $250, such as the Novatel 2372. From there, you can insert your iPhone's SIM or micro-SIM with adapter into the device and it will act as an access point for all your nearby Wi-Fi-enabled devices.
    • purchase an AT&T-branded Mi-Fi device or USB modem, either on contract, or straight out from them or on eBay. You can insert your iPhone's SIM or micro-SIM with adapter, but do not use it continuously for long periods of time (i.e. days at a time), or AT&T may notice the IMEI of the device (they know their own devices) and change your plan accordingly.

    Other than a non-branded AT&T UMTS Mi-Fi device such as the Novatel 2372, I have tried all of the steps, and the best/cheapest solution was getting an AT&T USB modem for myself on eBay. I was lucky enough to find someone selling an AT&T USBConnect Velocity (Option iCON 461) for $20 shipped. With a micro-SIM adapter, I'm able to use my iPhone 4's micro-SIM card and my grandfathered unlimited plan and surf as necessary. I simply forward the calls to my Google Voice number that I can receive within the web browser, or a Skype-In number.
  18. christophermdia macrumors 6502a


    Sep 28, 2008
    I have iphone tethering with AT&T but I also have a Verizon MiFi, I have a 3GB plan for $35 but I get a company discount which brings it down to $28/mo. With overages being $10/GB. This is by far the best option I have found out there.....this gives me coverage literally everywhere with the best speeds anywhere.
  19. bjjp2, Mar 24, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2011

    bjjp2 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 13, 2005

    Also, I'm not seeing any 4G mobile hotspot devices available yet.

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