Macmost Now 2: MacBook Mobile Access

Gary Rosenzweig looks at the options for hooking your MacBook up to the net through Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile. You can use Express34 cards or USB devices to get access almost anywhere in the U.S.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.
If you're like me, you carry your MacBook everywhere and you're used to having wireless access to the internet at home and at work. But outside of that, it is hard to get a wifi hotspot somewhere or at least something you can rely on. And, sometimes public wifi hotspots can be dangerous.
So, is there a way to get access on your MacBook through some other wireless network? It turns out there is. You can basically use one of the major networks like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon to get access over a mobile phone network. They all have data plans but all of their information is really geared towards PC users. So, it is hard as a Mac user to figure out what would work for you and what wouldn't.
Let's take a look at the different options. One of the main things you have to consider is the fact that MacBooks don't have any card slots so a standard card that you can get for wireless access for your laptop wouldn't work at all in your MacBook. You need something that connects via USB. MacBook Pro has a card slot but it is not a typical card slot. It's an Express 34 slot which is a new type of slot but a lot of the phone companies are behind the times and so often the old standard cards wouldn't work at all.
So, let's take a look at the options on the four major carriers in the United States.
Let's start with Verizon. Verizon offers a plan for unlimited access for $60 a month but first you have to get a card. Cards range from $100-$150 after various rebates and discounts. You can get both an Express 34 card (which you can see here) which will work in your MacBook Pro, or you can get a USB connector that will work in either a MacBook or MacBook Pro. So, check with Verizon by calling them or go online to their website.
Sprint also has a $60 unlimited plan. They also have a $40 plan that limits you to 40 megabytes a month which isn't very much if you're going to surf the web and they have a pay as you go plan for $0.03 a meg. They offer both an Express 34 card for your MacBook Pro and a USB adaptor. You can get these for about $30-$130 after all the various rebates and things like that. So, check the Sprint website, go to a Sprint store, or call them up to find out more.
AT&T also has a $60 a month unlimited data plan for laptops. They have got an express 34 card that is not guaranteed to work for Macs although it should but they say to get customer support from the manufacturer not from them. So you may want to check before you go with this plan. They also have a USB card as well. The Express 34 is about $150 and $50 for the USB card. AT&T site tells you to go to sierrawireless.com for more support. When I went there, there were a lot of options there for various cards and providers. So, you may want to check that site out too. It could be helpful.
Now T-Mobile was the most disappointing out of the four major carriers. They didn't have either an Express 34 card or a USB adaptor. So, in order to use their data plan, which is only $50 a month, you have to actually go with the old style card. But these don't work in either the MacBook or the MacBook Pro. However, we found out that there are adapters that will take this old card and adapt it to a USB device. You have to get drivers for that USB device that work on Mac so some more research maybe needed here.
Now with all of these, you have to take a few things into consideration. First, that the real prices are much more expensive for all of the cards and you have to get rebates and discounts to bring it down. Second thing is that there were shipping costs of course and also, there were plan lengths. You had to go for at least one or two years and mostly, two years for these plans in order to get these prices. If terminated early, there were termination fees. So, there are all sorts of things to keep in mind before accessing it. You want to check these prices because they change very often. So, unless you're watching this just after I publish it, chances are these prices may change but it will give you an idea of what's out there.
All in all, this is a good option if you travel a lot or maybe you want to have an alternative to home DSL or something. One of the advantages of all these systems is of course the data is more private. It is a little bit more encrypted directly to one of these carriers. So, using a public wifi spot, always leave you open unless you take a lot of precautions and there's a potential that you can lose some of your data or that it can be stolen by somebody such as passwords or something like that. Public wifi spots can be dangerous. Using one of these cards is a good way to be safe and to make sure that you have access whether there's a public wifi spot or not.
This topic by the way was suggested by a question we got at Questions at MacMost.com. So, if you've got a question about something related to Macs, iPods, or iPhones, and you want us to research it and maybe do an episode about it, just email me at questions (-at-) macmost.com.
Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig.