US Mobile is a telecom company, but they also recently launched a new wifi-only plan for just $10 a month. The plan covers millions of wifi hotspots around the world, and from what I’ve read, is a spectacular deal.
It appears that US Mobile is just selling a packaged white-label product. Other than billing, they don’t provide any of the access. Instead, you receive an iPass membership which allows you to access their network of hotspots. You can’t directly purchase an iPass membership. Most people who have an iPass membership obtain it through their company, who purchases the memberships in bulk.
The checkout process for this plan is very straightforward. You’re charged $10 for access on one device. Next, you activate your plan, and install the application on your device. Your account will tell you when your subscription will expire. It doesn’t auto renew, so you have to purchase another plan every 30 days. The IT is a little confusing, given that you don’t actually know whether your device will work until you connect to a valid hotspot.
Using the US Mobile Wifi Plan on Airlines
The most amazing thing about the plan is that it covers in-flight wifi for airlines that use Panasonic Avionics or Gogo Inflight for their onboard wifi connection. This coverage is what makes the plan a tremendous deal.
The plan gives you free internet domestically on Delta, American, Alaska, Virgin America, and Air Canada on their aircraft with Gogo. For comparison, an individual plan for one airline directly through Gogo is $49.95. A day pass is $19. Thus, you save even if flying once a month. That being said, it’s very easy to get free Gogo Wifi from various credit cards as well as with T-Mobile, so that’s important to keep in mind.
What I find insane is that the plan also covers international flights through Panasonic. Short of a few US credit cards offering a limited wi-fi rebate, you have to pay for access, which will run you at least $15. For those airlines that charge based on usage, like Etihad or Singapore Airlines, you’ll probably end up paying even more.
The plan says that you get unlimited usage, which is just mindboggling. A few years ago, there was this viral internet story about a guy who got charged $1200 in overage fees while using Singapore Airlines Wifi. With this plan, it seems that it would cost you nothing, since you have unlimited usage. All of this is just $10 a month.
Will the T-Mobile Wifi Plan Last?
At first, I thought this price was a mistake – that it was too good to be true. It still seems that way. However, having thought about the product more, I’d say maybe. Of course, I have no idea where this will actually go. I’d guess that it’ll last at least a few months. By then US Mobile will have the stats to enhance or revise their product. It’s also easy for them to cancel the plan because customers aren’t locked-in on a contract. You actively have to buy the plan every month to keep coverage.
For US Mobile and iPass, it’s likely a profitable operation. The marginal costs for an additional guest using an inflight connection is totally negligible. When you actually buy a plan onboard, their margin (excluding fixed installation costs) is probably close to 99%. US Mobile can’t be selling these plans at a loss, so they simply take our money and passes part of it to iPass. All of this costs them less than $10 per month.
The closest example I can think of is where qualifying AMEX customers get a free Boingo subscription with unlimited access. If you were to purchase a similar plan directly, it would cost you $39 without even unlimited usage. However, all of this doesn’t cost AMEX too much because it’s a free benefit and not all cardholders will activate it.
So theoretically, this plan could be profitable long term. The only obstacle that I can think of is if this plan gains enough mainstream attention, where people are cancelling their Gogo subscriptions and frequent travellers aren’t paying for in-flight internet any more because of this plan. It will be Gogo and Panasonic who will stop partnering with iPass, although that’s also dependent on the contract between those companies.
The US Mobile Wifi plan is an incredible deal. While I personally haven’t tried it out yet, I’ve had friends who have success using the plan already.
Even if you fly only a few times a year, I think it’s completely worth it.
To purchase the US Mobile Unlimited Wifi Plan, visit them here at their direct website.