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Prepaid Cell Data Plans (was: Mobile Tor stuff)

Thus spake 7v5w7go9ub0o (7v5w7go9ub0o@xxxxxxxxx):

> Thank you for the informative reply. I'm quite clueless about the
> mobile/cell world and these are very useful links.
> I presently carry a TracFone for emergencies, a small camera for photos,
> and use a laptop at wifi hotspots for telephone and net use - a lot of
> "stuff".
> My goal is to consolidate all of that into a powerful, Linux
> cell phone that I can maintain on my desktop (ubuntu or meego) - as I
> maintain my laptop (Gentoo) now. The x86 moorestown seems a powerful
> chip; meego is open source; I'm guessing that moorestown and meego will
> go into the next high-end Nokia.
> I'd look for an open(?) phone with a good camera and not use it for cell
> phoning (or perhaps get a limited monthly T-mobile plan when I'm on the
> road). Add micro or wireless-usb, and I could occasionally add a folding
> keyboard.
> (thoughts about the above welcomed)

FYI, things are starting to open up as far as getting pseudonymous
access to these networks as well. I've actually done a lot of research
into this area recently, and the findings are rather promising.

Virgin Mobile has a rather nice USB dongle that will get you 4Mbit
down/1Mbit up, and it works right out of the box on Linux with modern
versions of NetworkManager (though I think you need to add $$ to the
device via a Windows or Mac machine first):


Little pricey for the data, but if you just buy a $10 card and hold on
to it, it can come in extremely handy in emergency situations where
you really need network access and can't find any wifi. Should be
quick enough to use skype, too.

Also, both AT&T and T-mobile now offer prepaid data plans that you can
walk into any store and buy with cash, though you have to know what to
ask for. Both have old-style prepaid plans that are not possible to
get with data, and new-style ones that can get data. Often their sales
people don't know about the new data plans, and can forget to properly
add data to your account, but you can do that yourself later by
logging in to your account via the web (via Tor of course :), if you
buy the right plan to start with.

T-Mobile has 3 prepaid plans: "Pay as you go", "Pay by the day", and
"Flexpay". The first two are garbage and cannot have data service. The
flexpay, however, actually comes with *unlimited* data access and tons
of minutes for $60/mo, and is refillable by cards you can buy in any
grocery store (or via prepaid credit cards):


I believe you can actually even get a cheaper flexpay plan and add
unlimited data as a $10 or $15 option. Great for use with an open
firmware and usb tethering!

Or, if you prefer to send all of your data to the NSA[1,2], AT&T now has
"GoPhone" prepaid plans that you can add data as a $5/1MB or $20/100MB
option. Obviously not as great of a deal as the T-Mobile plan, but
useful if your phone does not have the T-Mobile 3G bands (like the
iPhone). Note that most android phones do NOT have AT&T 3G bands yet,
but the Nexus One does have the hardware for these bands, and Google
has applied to the FCC for their use:


I think several other carriers are also offering prepaid data, but
most of those are non-GSM and non-SIM card based, so you can't really
use some of the more flexible smartphones like the android or the

Anyways, I thought I should report on all this research. I've been
waiting so long for the day when I could walk into a store, give
someone some money (hell, any amount!) and get data access. You have
no idea how many times I've walked into stores prior to this year and
tried to give someone a bunch of cash, only to have them tell me my
money was no good there because I wouldn't let them xerox my ID, run
my SSN and sign a contract.

Apparently 17% of the US market has now gone prepaid, too. I guess I
wasn't the only one fed up with contracts and the "papers please!"
mentality of the major carriers:


Perhaps we've finally arrived at the turning of the tide?

1. http://www.eff.org/issues/nsa-spying
2. http://archives.seul.org/or/dev/Sep-2008/msg00016.html

Mike Perry
Mad Computer Scientist
fscked.org evil labs

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