What moblie service to get, part 2

Erik esw at alum.mit.edu
Sat Mar 10 00:47:47 CET 2007

I agree that this should be in a FAQ somewhere, because it's something
lots of US free-your-phone users need to know.  It isn't OpenMoko
specific, but definitely relevant.  I already wasted ^H^H^H^H^H^Hspent
some time looking in to this so I'll share what I've found:

1. I believe Cingular prepaid can do GPRS data.  This would normally
   be excellent news.  Except that its $0.01 per kbyte. [!!!]  If you
   get the max bitrate that works out to something like $4 per minute!
   So "spending minutes" to use data would be a bargain.

2. But I'm not holding my breath that I will be able to just spend
   voice minutes getting infrequent data access from a prepaid plan.
   A cellular telephone voice connection is extremly highly compressed
   in ways that sound ok for speach, but ways that mean very little
   data would get through if you tried to use standard modem codings.
   Plus, the little cpu in the thing couldn't really be expected to do
   the decoding.  Perhaps someone could do a great hack with a
   self-powered modem on the headphone port, looping back into the
   unit via a bluetooth-to-serial dongle.

3. Data plan it is.  You can't add a data plan to a prepaid card.  So
   either you have a prepaid voice card + data plan card, or you suck
   it up and sign up for a voice plan as well.

4. Cingular differentiates plans based on what kind of phone/interface
   device you have, and how you intend to use it.  The cheapest is
   smartphone, the next is pda, the next is laptop.  And to use one of
   their locked smartphones or pdas as a bluetooth modem you have to
   pay an expensive extra $$ per month "tether" fee.  My guess is that
   all data plans work in all unlocked devices... but maybe I'm wrong
   and theres a whitelist on the simcard.

5. It seems to be a grey area, using a phone that they don't provide.
   I can see a good argument for calling the OpenMoko a SmartPhone.
   Which is great 'cause theres a $20/month unlimited data plan for
   smartphones.  But there's no way to limit whether you can use it
   for tethered/laptop data access so who knows if they'd want to slap
   the tether fee on you. "just in case" fortunately I don't think
   they're that clue-full.

6. It seems that you can only order a plan [get a sim card] with a
   phone.  That's not such a financial problem if you're just getting
   a cheap voice plan, because there are lots of cheap/free after
   rebate voice phones you can get and not use.  But to order a data
   plan from Cingular [of any of the tweleve types] you have to order
   a phone that is valid for that plan.

7. So to get a SmartPhone unlimited plan [$20/month... unlimited data
   not bad imho] you'd have to also buy a smartphone. [$150]  There's
   a $100 rebate on the cheapest phone, but who knows if you'd
   actually get the rebate.  And who knows if it'd actually work in
   the neo.

8. I'm not even sure that you can have a data plan without a voice
   plan.  Seems like at the very least you might not get the
   smartphone rebate if you don't get the rebate.

Good luck, please share what else you find!  You are indeed not the
only one trying to figure all this out!


ps.  A reasonable default, if you need a phone right now, is to buy a
cheap prepaid phone and use that for the couple months until it
becomes more clear exactly what plans work with the neo in the US.
That way you're not locked in... and you have a sim that you can use
for voice testing at the very least with the neo.  That's what I'm
going to do when/if my 4year old phone [on sprint month-to-month/no
contract all its life] croaks before i get a phase 1!

More information about the community mailing list