The free aspect of the new NetZero 4G Mobile Broadband service is a mere 200 megabytes per month — enough to check email or surf the Web a few times or watch perhaps as much as a half hour of streaming video, but not much else.
But unlike many broadband plans, NetZero doesn’t require a contract. Data plans start at $9.95 per month for 500 megabytes or a more expensive $50 per month plan gets you up to 4GB. You can upgrade at any time and any of the plans delivers 4G service with download speeds of up to 10Mbps and upload speeds of up to 1.5Mbps.
An additional, one time expense is purchase of a hotspot device. The NetZero 4G HotSpot ($99.95) simultaneously supports up to eight Wi-Fi-enabled devices, including iPads and other tablets, within a 150-foot range. The NetZero 4G Stick ($49.95) supports a single laptop or netbook via a USB port.
Along with the flexibility of creating a mobile hotspot from anywhere where NetZero offers coverage, the company is touted the security of its hotspot versus what it says are less secure public hotspots like coffee shops, airports and hotels.
“Unlike public Wi-Fi networks, where credit card numbers and other personal information may be exposed to hackers and data thieves, theNetZero 4G Mobile Broadband service delivers a protected, private Internet connection anytime, anywhere within its coverage area,” United Online, the company behind NetZero, said in a release.
Another unique aspect of the NetZero 4G Mobile Broadband service is that it lets customers switch the speed of their service to conserve how much data they use. NetZero says subscribers can set their service at any time at either LightSpeed (with download speeds up to 1Mbps, or WarpSpeed (download speeds of up to 10Mbps) to maximize their data consumption.
Verizon already offers a mobile hotspot option with the new iPad; AT&T does not.