Virgin Mobile offers $20/month for 500 MB of data, or 1 GB if you refill at Walmart

This contract-free, mobile broadband option can help you get work done online, while on the road.

Your smartphone and tablet may have built-in 3G/4G and Wi-Fi connectivity but when you have serious work to do on the road, and there is no available Wi-Fi network anywhere, you laptop needs to be able to connect to the nearest cellular tower for Web access. While all major telecoms are selling USB devices and wireless modems (to create Mi-Fis) alongside smartphones to address this growing market, most require long term contracts that just don't make sense for the occasional road warrior.

Virgin Mobile USA just announced a new $20 per month, contract-free mobile broadband plan called Broadband2Go that is good for 500 MB at 3G speeds. Or, if you refill your account through Walmart.com, your $20 will buy 1 GB of data for 30 days. Previously, Virgin Mobile only offered a $10 for 100 MB that expires in 10 days, or an unlimited option for $50. So this new $20 alternative (especially for 1 GB of data) gives those who require temporary mobile broadband access a viable option beyond contract-only plans.

Obviously, this type of pre-paid data plan is not for everyone, but according to Virgin Mobile USA's Product Manager Sean Yelle:

We found there are a substantial number of customers who want a monthly plan, but don’t need unlimited data. The addition of our new $20/500MB plan, paired with no annual contracts, provides customers an affordable option for broadband access, allowing them to pay only for the service they need, when they need it.

The only catch is that you need to equip your device with one of the following proprietary Virgin Mobile hardware before you can start using Broadband2Go:

  • The Ovation™ MC760 USB device: USB device that connects to a single personal computer or laptop, $79.99.
  • The MiFi® 2200, an Intelligent Mobile Hotspot: A wireless modem that allows up to five users at a time to connect using a variety of Wi-Fi enabled devices, $149.99.
  • The ZTE PEELTM 3200: Connects to your iPod Touch® (second and third generations) for access to the Internet, email, music, $99.99. The exclusive broadband plan for the PEEL 3200 offers users 500MB of data for $20/month.

Have any of you tried Virgin Mobile's Broadband2go service? Were you able to get your work done or was the network too slow to be of any use? Let us know in the comments.

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