Looking for current advise on how to stay mobile in the US


Asking for advise for which prepaid card or other option to get; while the questions seems specific to me, other international visitors will appreciate your answers as well, especially since the T-Mobile prepaid does block premium SMS = twitter.

I am thrilled to finally be sure to say: Yes, I am going to Vegas and Austin, thanks to Microsoft. (More news on that and my thoughts about that later.) Now, the usual problem arises: Which prepaid to get or which other solution to look at?

The problem:
As you might know (or not), getting a sim in the US with any kind of data possibility seems impossible without a SSN or getting a 24 month contract. Available prepaid cards don’t do data. Which is bad for a mobile lifestyle where you depend on being connected to the net. My world is connected and does not care about roaming.

What do I want to do
While Mix08 will have a dedicated BlogZone and I expect the wifi there to be working, Sxsw will be a mess. Either way, I would like to be independent in regards to simple things like mobile twitter and mail access, plus calling national and international numbers without getting broke. In a perfect world I have some hundred MB for sending videos from the events direct to online.

What am I looking for
Ideally I would like a prepaid card with data allowance on it, knowing that is not possible I do look for a prepaid which I can manage to keep after the events to have a constant number for the US without needing too much money to top it up or use a number like skype with call forwarding. If there is a chance to get a data sim, please let me know.

Why T-Mobile sadly does not work
Any news if that has changed? So last time I decided “no problem, I will go SMS” and got myself the T-Mobile prepaid because it has the option to top up with 100 dollars and it would be valid a year, so I could keep the number and do not need to spam my friends as soon as I am over there with a new number.

Imagine my chagrin when I had to learn that I neither could send nor receive a twitter sms with that! I can receive SMS for free on my german mobile number …

So, suggestions needed

  • Any option for foreigners out there for data?
  • Is there a site where I could easily compare the major prepaid cards in regards to conditions to learn about topping up and such?
  • Any news on T-Mobile card working with twitter now`?
  • Are there cheaper options than skype for forwarding calls?


10 Responses to “Looking for current advise on how to stay mobile in the US”

  1. rox says:

    You might check the tmobile status on the twitter blog; I recall something recently denying the block or some other sort of work around.

  2. Scott says:

    You have utopian dreams for travelling… a world with zero travel time, without language barriers and timezones, and now cheap mobile usage worldwide. Why not wish for 30°C and sunny every day as well? :-)

    Last month when I was unexpectedly in the States I looked at US prepaid plans. Costs and terms were pretty much the same for all of them. I went with TracFone http://www.tracfone.com/ since they have wider coverage outside of metro areas and the account can be managed online. You can even change your home area code online. If I read the conditions right, if your number gets deactivated you can reactivate within 12 months and keep the same number.

    As for a review of prepaid plans, CNET http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-3504_7-6260217-1.html seems to be a good place to start, although they don’t mention points important to international users. Of course, all the plans seem ridiculously complicated and expensive to anyone used to European plans. :-)

    AFAIK, the Twitter outage on T-Mobile lasted only a couple of days and was immediately fixed.

  3. Zé Nuno says:

    Normally i do my forwarding using Voipcheap.com that uses SIP, but as i don’t travel to usa i also don’t know how to solve the mobile data… but here in the netherlands if you need a temporary sim with data is also not so easy and normally expensive.
    I will be watching your post to see if i also can learn how to have mobile data on usa on the cheap.
    I also add that i think t-mobile/twitter is already solved and should be working.

  4. Nicole says:

    @rox and ze I have to look into that a bit more because otherwise it is useless.

    Scott: here you are mistaken! I *hate* warm weather! :)) Also with Amerika one has to take into account that their definition of mobile coverage is ehm funny. At least I stay usually in major cities. ;)

    And thanks for the link, that is a great starting point. ;)

  5. Scott says:

    Nicole: If I were wishing for *warm* weather, I’d wish for 40°C, not 30°C. :-)

    I need rural coverage because that’s where my parents live. The nearest GSM tower is 50 miles away. There’s just too much empty space in the US for there to be good coverage everywhere.

    (Did I mention to you that when my brother was in the hospital, there were a couple of Dräger instruments keeping track of his vital signs? I thought of you when I noticed them.)

  6. Can’t help. I was looking for one and never found it. I also looked in the UK and could’t get one as well, so not that common yet around here. With regards to Scott’s comment, I found US data plans to be far cheaper than UK ones, with no limits, so prefer them. But SXSW wifi tends to be Ok, or has the last few times I’ve been. So was Mix the first time; not sure if either of them will be up for all the video that’s likely to be happening this year though.

  7. Nicole says:

    *sigh* I will have to rely on the wifi then. For the inbetween short mail check that should be okay and iirc I at least have wifi in the hotel for free or so.

    I wanted to leave the laptop behind, so the blogger room might not be enough for me but perhaps I can find some helping hands. ;)

    @scott i saw a map of the coverage plus it cracks me up every time when I read “least dropped calls” – the US is so behind on mobil, a strange feeling. ;)

  8. BloggingTom says:

    Nicole, if you stay at the Venetian: The hotel offers internet access for $9.95/day in the room too. Well, not free, but better than nothing ;-) See you there…

  9. Nicole says:

    BloggingTom you do not know if that works everywhere in the venetian? ;)

    Additional links:

    and twitter does not seem to be working on t-mobile

  10. BloggingTom says:

    Well, i’m not sure. The Venetian FAQ just says

    High-speed Internet access is available in all of The Venetian’s suites, as are all connection cables for your laptop computer.

    As you, i hope it will work in other areas too ;-)