Author Topic: pay-as-you-go cellular wifi hotspot while travelling to Ottawa from US?  (Read 310 times)

bortman

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I live in the US and will be travelling to Ottawa Ontario periodically (~ a week at a time) over the next few years to help care for an ailing relative. I'll need to keep working while I'm away.

Previously, while on vacation there, I've just mooched wifi access to occasionally check in with work. This isn't a consistent or mobile option. And, I'm not comfortable visiting with friends/family and asking to connect to their wifi so I can work .. not very sociable.

Is there a good hotspot with pre-paid data option? Right now it looks like the best option is buying a $200 hotspot and paying for a month at a time.

http://www.fido.ca/consumer/mobile/lte-hotspots

My biggest concerns:
  • They won't let me sign up because I don't have a Canadian address or credit card
  • I'll pay too much for a service I won't use enough to justify the expense. Several years back when I bought a Petro Canada pre-paid phone I felt it was a little steep for the service it provided.

Also, I have an old Verizon Jetpack (Novatel MiFi 5510L) that is off contract. I'm wondering if I can get a local SIM and get it up and running on a pay-as-you-go service.

Any insights would be appreciated!

bortman

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Re: pay-as-you-go cellular wifi hotspot while travelling to Ottawa from US?
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2017, 11:04:11 AM »
After a bunch of research, I'm going to give GigSky a shot. They sell data-only (ie. no phone number or text) international SIMs and hotspots.

I bought the SIM for $4.99 on Amazon. It's normally $9.99 but they sent me a coupon code for 50% off when I gave them my email address.

GigSky sells data by region. For North America:

300 MB $10 1  day
500 MB $15 15 days
1 GB   $20 15 days
2 GB   $30 15 days


I'll probably go with 1 GB for 15 days. Check their website for other regions.

My plan is to try the SIM in the old Verizon Jetpack I mentioned earlier. But, JIC, I picked an unlocked Motorola Moto E4 from Walmart for $129 last night. I know that the phone supports GSM, and I'm 99% sure it supports CDMA.

I figure I can use the Moto E4 as a hotspot while in Ottawa -- everything I've read says I can -- and then later use it as a BYOD for Tracfone (my current provider) or if I switch to another provider. If the GigSky SIM doesn't work out I could buy a local SIM while I'm in Ottawa, or when traveling to other countries in the future.

BTW, at first blush, the Moto E4 seems like a great phone, especially compared to my 1st generation Moto E.

I didn't find anything on GigSky here in the forums, but I did notice some other international SIM providers mentioned, so I'll report back later with my experience.

bortman

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Re: pay-as-you-go cellular wifi hotspot while travelling to Ottawa from US?
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2017, 07:06:33 AM »
Here's an update:

I bought 2 GB of data for $30. I knew I'd only be in Canada for about a week, but I figured I'd use a lot of data because I planned to use the phone as a hotspot and tether to it from my laptop and other devices so I could work remotely. I also worried that I'd go over 1 GB and have to pay a premium to get more data .. stupid me.

Well, I couldn't get the hotspot functionality to work on my unlocked Moto E4, so I ended up using 523 MB of data. If I would have known that the hotspot functionality wouldn't work (GigSky told me it would) then I would have either bought a smaller data allotment. Some of the data I used was burned up while trying to get the hotspot to work on either end of the trip.

I have an ongoing support thread with GigSky about this and am still trying to get the issue resolved because I'd like to use the phone for upcoming trips. AFAIK, the problem isn't with the phone, but with the carrier where I activated my SIM card, which is AT&T.

Overall, I think the GigSky card/data is a good option for those using only a smart phone. In comparison to prices for local pay-as-you-go wireless providers, GigSky was the most reasonable for short trips like this.

Here's a summary of Canadian pre-paid options. The post is 2 years old, but from what I've seen the prices are still in the (expensive) ballpark:

https://travel.stackexchange.com/questions/43958/prepaid-sim-card-with-best-data-plan-in-canada

CowboyAndIndian

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Re: pay-as-you-go cellular wifi hotspot while travelling to Ottawa from US?
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2017, 07:16:26 AM »
Get Google FI.

You not only have a cell phone in the US, but you will have Cellular  data and calling in Canada (and a lot of other countries) for $10/GB.

I used the data services in India/Italy, but have not visited Canada since I got Google FI. I have not used the calling features in India since it is quite pricey, but available in case of emergency. I use the data service to make calls using Viber/WhatsApp etc.

You also pay only for data that you use.

(Both of us will get $20 if you use my referral code https://g.co/fi/r/0FC1DN )


elaine amj

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Re: pay-as-you-go cellular wifi hotspot while travelling to Ottawa from US?
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2017, 07:55:26 AM »
Get Google FI.

You not only have a cell phone in the US, but you will have Cellular  data and calling in Canada (and a lot of other countries) for $10/GB.

I used the data services in India/Italy, but have not visited Canada since I got Google FI. I have not used the calling features in India since it is quite pricey, but available in case of emergency. I use the data service to make calls using Viber/WhatsApp etc.

You also pay only for data that you use.

(Both of us will get $20 if you use my referral code https://g.co/fi/r/0FC1DN )
Don't u need specific phones to use Google FI? If I recall correctly, it doesn't work on Iphones etc?

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CowboyAndIndian

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Re: pay-as-you-go cellular wifi hotspot while travelling to Ottawa from US?
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2017, 08:00:27 AM »
Get Google FI.

You not only have a cell phone in the US, but you will have Cellular  data and calling in Canada (and a lot of other countries) for $10/GB.

I used the data services in India/Italy, but have not visited Canada since I got Google FI. I have not used the calling features in India since it is quite pricey, but available in case of emergency. I use the data service to make calls using Viber/WhatsApp etc.

You also pay only for data that you use.

(Both of us will get $20 if you use my referral code https://g.co/fi/r/0FC1DN )
Don't u need specific phones to use Google FI? If I recall correctly, it doesn't work on Iphones etc?

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That is correct.  Any of the google phones are capable of running Google FI (nexus, etc) and I vaguely remember that there was a Motorola in the list.

bortman

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Re: pay-as-you-go cellular wifi hotspot while travelling to Ottawa from US?
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2017, 08:00:59 AM »
I looked at Google Fi, but the need for an expensive phone that is compatible with the service is what turned me off. How do I get only a Google Fi SIM card? I couldn't figure this out prior to my trip.

https://support.google.com/fi/answer/6224695#supported_model

Unlocked Pixels are pricey, and I've read and heard about problems with some of the Nexus and Pixel models.

If Fi provided a SIM option that I *knew* would work with my Moto E4 then I'd get on board. From what I read in the links below I'd be limited to T-mobile only. That's not a problem, just worth mentioning here.

https://www.reddit.com/r/ProjectFi/comments/6r2pun/using_moto_e4_on_project_fi/?st=j9pqbc2z&sh=93d4c361

https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!msg/project-fi/GEA7HgErYzI/fpOitKGDAwAJ


bortman

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Re: pay-as-you-go cellular wifi hotspot while travelling to Ottawa from US?
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2017, 08:11:44 AM »
I was an early adopter of Google Voice and Hangouts, and for that reason Google Fi is appealing. However, the $20/mo minimum "Google Fi Basics" line charge has to be considered.

I'm with Tracfone in the US. I get 240 voice, data, texts -- with my Tracfone-locked triple 'minutes' phone Moto E 1st gen -- for $9.99/mo. Tracfone doesn't work outside of the US.

I'll end my Tracfone service once I find a good alternative.

Daley

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Re: pay-as-you-go cellular wifi hotspot while travelling to Ottawa from US?
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2017, 08:59:53 AM »
There's a lot of moving parts going on here, and I suspect that there is an option that can be found that simplifies things for you across the board given a few more details on usage expectations.

In the mean time, however, let me present you with a mobile data provider worth looking into - Mellenicom. They're basically a T-Mo business wholesaler, and they offer international data roaming. Give them a call and explain what you're needing to do. Might be a good fit.

KnowRoaming might also be worth giving a gander and being aware of, as well as OneSimCard and WorldSIM. They may provide you with some potential options that could roll up both your US and Canadian mobile and data services all in one package, or at least add on international roaming options to a domestic MVNO of your choice. It's also worth noting that incoming texts and sometimes talk minutes with these carriers are free, so factor that in your price calculations. Don't know for certain without greater details.

Regarding GoogleFi, alternatives to Tracfone, hardware costs, etc. One thing to do is not be so short sighted that you don't calculate lifetime costs with alternatives. Equipment, monthly fees, all of it should be priced out over the next X years you'll be needing to do this with all your potential solutions.

Not much, but it's a start, and a few more options to consider.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2017, 09:03:41 AM by I.P. Daley »
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

bortman

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Re: pay-as-you-go cellular wifi hotspot while travelling to Ottawa from US?
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2017, 05:48:54 PM »
@I.P. Daley, I can get by with data only, only because I've bought into Google Voice & Hangouts.

A non-video Hangout (i.e. a phone call) consumes ~0.67 MB/minute, and Google Voice texts use about 1 MB per 100 text messages.

How Much Cellular Data Does Google Voice and Hangouts Use?
hangouts data usage

Comparing GigSky's data rates to the providers you listed:

GigSky
2 GB $0.015/MB
1 GB $0.02/MB
500 MB $0.03/MB

KnowRoaming $0.15/MB

OneSimCard $0.01 - $0.05 / MB, depending on plan (I think I have this right, but the plan-SIM combos are very confusing)

WorldSIM $0.13 / MB

Mellenicom is not really pay-as-you-go, but at $20/mo for 2 GB that's $0.01 / MB

Mellenicom doesn't explicitly say that they support my phone. I'll give a call when I get a chance.

As you said, there are a lot of moving parts, but the GigSky option seems like the best one for my needs. I think I'm better off sticking with two separate phones for now .. my crumby Tracfone Moto E for US, and and my unlocked Moto E4 for as-needed international travel.

rpr

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Re: pay-as-you-go cellular wifi hotspot while travelling to Ottawa from US?
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2017, 06:12:04 PM »
What is it about the US and Canada that makes getting affordable data plans for travelers almost impossible! I had the same problem when traveling to Canada a few months ago. Could not get a local SIM as we did not have a local address. Managed mostly with WI-Fi. Was forced to sporadically use data roaming for Maps/directions which ended up being somewhat expensive.

Thanks so much for this. I will try GigSky next time.

In contrast, it is so easy when traveling to both Europe and Asia.  SIMs are cheap. Just show your passport at so many places and you can buy one for your unlocked phone. In Barcelona, a 1 GB data for 30 days was 10 Euros. In Taiwan, 15USD got unlimited 4G data for week.

elaine amj

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Re: pay-as-you-go cellular wifi hotspot while travelling to Ottawa from US?
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2017, 04:02:35 PM »
What is it about the US and Canada that makes getting affordable data plans for travelers almost impossible! I had the same problem when traveling to Canada a few months ago. Could not get a local SIM as we did not have a local address. Managed mostly with WI-Fi. Was forced to sporadically use data roaming for Maps/directions which ended up being somewhat expensive.

Thanks so much for this. I will try GigSky next time.

In contrast, it is so easy when traveling to both Europe and Asia.  SIMs are cheap. Just show your passport at so many places and you can buy one for your unlocked phone. In Barcelona, a 1 GB data for 30 days was 10 Euros. In Taiwan, 15USD got unlimited 4G data for week.
Canada just has crappy, super expensive cellphone plans :(

US is not so bad for travelers.

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My journal: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/realigning-spending-to-match-our-future-goals-a-canadian-journey/

Camp Mustache Canada 2017 was everything I dreamed of and more. Super excited that Camp Mustache Canada 2018 is now a thing!