On June 10, Virgin Mobile entered the Web access business for laptops by introducing its first prepaid data access offering. For $150, you can buy a USB modem that lets your laptop surf the Web via a 3G network on the go.
Additional megabytes of usage can be added as often as needed with credit or debit cards. You simply buy Virgin Mobile Top-Up cards. A card worth $20 buys 250 Megabytes of data usage good for 30 days; that’s roughly 12 hours of web browsing. This is a fairly good deal: Verizon Wireless offers 250 Megabytes of monthly access, with a contract, for $40 a month.
But Virgin’s is not necessarily the best deal around for all wireless users. Cricket Wireless, for instance, peddles unlimited Web access on the go for $40 a month. Cricket’s offer might make more sense for heavy Web access consumers.
Existing service providers — fixed and mobile — have got to watch out. Personally, I don’t see why anyone would pay Verizon $40 a month for on-the-go access when they can get a better deal elsewhere, without a contract. While Verizon’s network is a lot more extensive, many Web access users nowadays are consumers who never leave their home area of coverage. Eventually, offers like Virgin’s should push down prices on Web access from all providers.