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THOUGHT: Yes - AT&T's Prepaid plans work fine for Mobile Data
Posted by Arne Hess - on Friday, 18.04.08 - 02:02:47 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 25319x
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Well, some days ago, I've blamed the U.S. carrriers for not offering any prepaid data enabled SIMs for inbound roamers and it turns out, I was wrong. Well, it wasn't just me who was wrong but basically the sales person at AT&T had no clue what he is selling. My fellow MVP and friend Mike Temporale just told me 2 days ago that he is using an AT&T SIM card if he is in the U.S. and that this SIM works perfect for data as well.
As you might can imagine, I was somewhat irritated but he showed me and indeed he was accessing Smartphone Thoughts without any problems, straight from his Windows Mobile smartphone. Furthermore he told me that it doesn't matters which plan you use, either the US$ 100 for one year or the US$ 0.25 per day, both would work.

Since the MVP Summit ended today and I have some time, I've decided to visit AT&T again, not asking for a data enabled SIM card but just picking a prepaid SIM straight and after I've figured out which APN I have to use, I made it working. You have to use AT&T's MEdia Net APN and ev2en if this is said to be an WAP APN only, it works fine. I already got HTTP, POP3, IMAP4, Windows Live Messenger and even Remote Terminal Client and my SlingBox working. Basically every Internet service works, even if Web/Port 80 traffic goes through AT&T's proxy server.

So I'm currently sitting in one of my favorite Starbucks here in downtown Seattle, enjoying a fresh coffe and writing this posting from my HTC Shift. Since I will be back in the U.S., the invest wasn't that bad, even if I bought it 4 days later then initially planned. Man, that sucks if sale guys don't know what they are selling. Maybe someone in charge of sales read this? Hopefully someone does and tells the salesguys on the next sales meeting that visitors are a serious revenue stream they shouldn't give wrong information! At least I've paid US$ 100 in advance which isn't a bad ARPU anyway.

Cheers ~ Arne


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Posted by Dave on 18.04.08 - 03:03:22


I read this article and was suprised that prepaid will work.

I am in Canada and called AT&T to find out the cost is 1 cent per KB.

That means 1 MB would be over $100, is this what you found to be the case when purchasing prepaid card?

Did you burn through the $ 100 card in one day?


Posted by Dave on 18.04.08 - 03:08:49


I goofed.

It would be approx $ 10/MB for data.

Thats still really expensive, I have $ 15/month unlimited data on HTC Touch in Canada and $ 8/MB for US roaming.

I am looking for an data service for my HTC Advantage 7501. The only GSM carrier in Canada (Rogers Wireless) charges a fortune for data.


Posted by Arne Hess on 18.04.08 - 16:55:01

Dave, you are absolutely right- it stays expensive and I said it so many times in the past: mobile data is still expensive, in most cases but if it comes to mobile data in international roaming, it's just insane!
Generally, the AT&T MEdia Net deal isn't good at all since AT&T charges US$ 0.01 per 1 KB as I finally found out too. This makes the MB roughly US$ 10, as you already mentioned.
However, my carrier charges me something about 12 Euro per MB. Since the Euro is that strong at the moment, we cannot compare Euro and US$ 1:1 but as a matter of fact, AT&T's 10 bucks costs me 6.20 Euro "only", which is half of what my carrier charges me. At the end, I saved 50 %. This doesn't makes it better - no question but it has an other advantage. At the end of the trip, I will not get a "bill shock", when I'm back at home and receiving my invoice. With a prepaid card, this cannot happen. The only shock I get there is that the prepaid money is already gone, which it is -in this case nearly.
Wasn't a good idea at all to use the AT&T SIM in my HTC Shift but well, I finally know what it costs and how it works. smile

Posted by heliod on 18.04.08 - 19:54:45


As one of the guys that confirmed to you that it works, I can now, from the lounge of Newark Liberty International Airpot (waiting to fly home), give you more details.

I decided I would invest those first $25 that I invested in the SIM on science, trying to understand their model.

the fact is that the model is different than in Europe, in which you buy a $x prepaid card that includes 100MB of internet. Here you buy a $x card and every service used (voice, SMS or internet) is subtracted from that value at high prices. Some examples:

loading google's first page: 6 cents.
staying online on IM (Live Messenger) for two hours without writing to anyone: 1.5 dollars
a 5-minutes long talk with VOIP: 11.5 dollars.

I haven't tried push mail, but you can imagine to what I would get.

So you guys can see that there is a solution, but the price is far from being accessible to everyone.


Posted by Mike Temporale on 20.04.08 - 18:23:01

Hey Arne,

I wanted to follow up with you on this in Seattle but didn't get a chance.  Glad to hear it's working for you.  True, it's not cheap, but there's nothing that can be done about that - at least not without a contract.

As a side note, make note of the zip code where you bought the SIM along with the address of the store.  This is what they would have used to fill in the customer details and you will need that to refill your card from outside the country. (they ask for your address and dont' really understand that it's not yours but the stores.)

Also, you can sign into their website and supply an email address where they will email you when your card is getting close to expiring.  But be careful, the email comes about 3 weeks before the end.  When it's about to expire, you can add more money and that will extend the life and add to the current balance of the card and ultimately keeping the same number.

All in all, it's a pretty nice setup - just not really cheap.



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