An entire market for prepaid broadband has emerged in the past few years, but the market is extremely diverse and growing more so by the day. Understanding the different prepaid broadband options and how they may impact you is the starting point for an intelligent and informed decision. Here is what you need to know:
Prepaid Broadband Networks
You can break down the fundamental differences in prepaid broadband into a few different categories: metal wires, wireless, and fiber optic. Each type of broadband technology has its own merits and drawbacks, but knowing them could be the key to getting exactly what you want. There are many articles that discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of different broadband technologies, but a short overview is in order.
Metal wires are used by telecom giants and cable companies alike, and they are probably the most common type of broadband available in the United States. This has certainly been the case since the mid-1990s and is likely to remain that way for at least the near future, but there are plenty of challengers to DSL and cable modem-based broadband offerings. Metal wires have an existing infrastructure that is very difficult to compete with, and thus probably have the greatest number of carriers and payment plans, but they may not be quite as ready for the future as fiber optic based networks.
Wireless standards such as 3G, 4G, directional-radio, and even satellite based broadband offerings are all becoming more and more popular. Some of this popularity is due to the wide open areas that devices can receive and send data to/from, but the speeds and prices are becoming increasingly more competitive with wire-based technologies. The promise of wireless technologies is the ability to move about or be located far from a large city.
Fiber optics may be the future of broadband, but the cost of getting fiber to the home of customers has limited its access. As time goes on, prepaid fiber optic Internet access plans may be one of the largest growth segments in the market. Fiber optic promises incredibly fast broadband speeds at great prices without sacrificing environmental friendliness.
Prepaid Broadband Cycles vs. Units
Some prepaid broadband plans offer users access to high speed Internet data for a set period of time. Other prepaid broadband plans sell blocks of data, while yet others combine the two in a ‘whichever comes first’ type of agreement. While it is easy to understand the monthly cycles, it may be more difficult for some to monitor their data usage or understand what types of programs or websites consume more or less data than others. To add to the confusion, some carriers even offer multiple types of no contract high speed Internet access arrangements, so be sure to look around and ask plenty of questions.
Prepaid Broadband Payment Methods
Carriers know that making paying easy is a great way to increase revenues. With this in mind it is no wonder why prepaid broadband consumers can choose from a wide assortment of payment options depending on their carrier, such as: prepaid cards, Internet sites that take checking or savings accounts, online bill pay from credit or debit cards, in-store payments, payment at partner locations, and many more. Each carrier has their own options
Differences in Prepaid Broadband Subsidies
Most prepaid broadband carriers offer at least a few hardware choices. You should be very wary of these hardware choices because they may prove to be a double-edged sword. These modems or modem/router combos may be offered at a slight or even a significant discount because they are locked to a specific network. This means that if at some point in the future you decide to change service providers, the hardware is probably next to useless. The counterargument to that is that if you are sure that you will stick with a carrier for a few years, then the chances are that today’s hardware will be antiquated and may need to be replaced anyway…even if you stay with the same carrier!
An additional consideration is that most carriers offer only support for the hardware that they sell themselves. While a third party device that is not carrier locked is a great investment on the surface, it will require some measure of technical expertise in order to properly use.