1 line summary: when you travel from Europe to the US for several weeks, sign up foT AT&T’s prepaid phone plans and T-Mobile’s monthly WiFi plan. Then, pray for coverage!
Ok, I’m sitting in the train right now. Going from Chicago to Kansas City where I’m gonna meet Danny from the evoTeam. I’m actually writing this offline since there is no WiFi on the train. I’d almost say “of course”, but hey, this is the US! You would expect WiFi just about everywhere, wouldn’t you?
I’ve been disappointed by the internet connectivity last year in California. I am again this year in Chicago :P I mean, I stayed at the Sheraton twice, which was the official hotel for internet related conventions, and both times the connection was about the speed of ISDN. As if they had the whole hotel (‘bout 1600 rooms!!) hooked up on a single DSL connection. And you wanna know how much they charge for that? $11.95 per day!
Actually the best connection I got in Chicago was at the Red Roof Inn, which errs on the shady side of how Chicago hotels go, but it has just enough class to provide a T-Mobile hotspot. That costs $39.95 / mo and the catch is you have to call in when you want to cancel. Other than that, the speed was great and you can also use it at any other T-Mobile hotspot, including Starbucks.
Mind you, you can’t use it at Mc Donald’s which has AT&T hotspots and apparently AT&T and T-Mobile weren’t smart enough to come up with a roaming agreement. (Ok, let’s consider it to be just another good reason to stay away from Mc Donald’s :P)
Ironically, I am now a customer of AT&T too… for my mobile phone. I figured their pre-paid offer was a better deal for my 6 weeks in the US than T-Mobile’s… but wouldn’t it make a lot more sense if either of these companies offered a complete all-in-1 package to the international traveler? Pre-paid cell-phone + WiFi… how hard can that be?
Anyway, the cool thing about AT&T’s « Go Phone » offer is that if you recharge it with $100, you get to keep your number for 1 year even if you don’t use it. Very convenient when you come to the US once or twice a year and don’t want to get a new SIM card & number everytime you arrive.
Other than that, I pay $1 per day I use the phone and then 10 cents a minute. If I was roaming from my French provider I would be paying 2.50 € aminute… that’s… errr… at least 3.something dollars a minute.
Text messages (SMS) are 5 cents a piece. Even to international numbers.
The shady side of the story, of course, is coverage. I don’t know if any mobile phone carrier actually covers or roams all of the US, but I do know that this girl from Kansas, sitting next to me on the train, has had far less dropped calls than me since we left Chicago. She’s on Verizon.
The problem with Verizon though, is that it’s not GSM. So you don’t use SIM cards. You can’t use your European phone and worse… once you’re back home, you can’t check your voice mail anymore…
So there you have it: AT&T for cell, T-Mobile for Wi-Fi… Let’s see if they keep it happy all the way over to San Francisco.
Can I really end this post without a note on the iPhone? Yeah well… if I buy one here I have to sign a 24 month contract and won’t be able to use it back in France. Figured I’d just wait for the Euro version. But of course, I do hope that it will accept my AT&T SIM card when I come back! ;)