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Walmart, TruConnect Team Up For Prepaid 3G MiFi Service

We're living in a wireless world, but unless your Ultrabook, MacBook or tablet has a built-in cellular modem, you're bound just as closely to a working Wi-Fi signal as you used to be to an Ethernet connection. To make matters worse, the tethering options and hotspot devices offered by the major carriers typically require you to subscribe to expensive, long-term contracts that you may not want or need.

Enter Walmart and TruConnect Mobile: the two companies recently announced a partnership to offer a prepaid mobile 3G broadband service in Walmart stores around the country, centered around a MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. The data allotment you buy never expires and options start at $10, but you'll want to read the fine print to see if the new Internet on the Go service fits your needs.

First, your prepaid data never expires, but only as long as you use the service at least once per year. That shouldn't be a problem for most buyers, but it's worth mentioning.

Also note that Internet to Go uses Sprint's 3G network rather than 4G connectivity. That makes it slower than the fastest cellular broadband options, but TruConnect claims the network covers 97 percent of the U.S.

Internet to Go's contract-free megabytes don't come cheap, either; that $10 nets 100MB of data, while $25 and $45 options up the cap to 500MB and 1GB, respectively. Automatic refills are available online for $20 for 450MB, as well.

Of course, those relatively high data prices bring flexibility along with them, and if you don't plan on using much mobile data then Internet on the Go could actually wind up being cheaper than the hotspot plans offered by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. "There are no contracts, no activation fees, no monthly bills, no bundled data plans and no overage charges," TruConnect's press release notes.

Neither the press release nor the Internet on the Go website note the retail cost of the service's mobile hotspot device itself, which is only available in Walmart's retail stores. Many cellular carriers offer a self-branded version of the MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot for around $99, however, including TruConnect itself; we'd expect the Internet on the Go Mifi hotspot's pricing to be in a similar price range. It'll be able to support up to five simultaneous devices via Wi-Fi.

Would you pay more for prepaid 3G broadband that offers greater flexibility, or are you holding out for 4G speeds?

Via Engadget