US Mobile for low cost data access

OK, I finally decided to try a different provider for work. For our home, T-Mobile has just been awesome as a nationwide carrier, but for work, we can’t just use T-Mobile, we need Verizon coverage as well, in looking at the options, US Mobile is an MVNO that is backed by the Verizon when you are using their so-called Super LTE kit (eg 5G) and then there is regular LTE which is the T-mobile network. So depending on the SIM that you have, you are on two different networks. Theoretically, with an eSIM phone like the Google Pixel 5, you could activate the virtual SIM on Super LTE and then a real SIM with T-mobile, but it turns out the plans do not interact so that doesn’t buy you much.

This is not as elegant as Google Fi which uses a single SIM for both. What is really nice is the pricing, they have a pool plan (only on Super LTE/Verison), this lets you buy data at $2/GB (in comparison Google Fi is $10/GB).

There are some idiosyncratic things about using them, so here are some notes:

  1. I tried to get eSIM to work, but it just would not on my iPhone just kept on saying fail. I finally just orders a SIM Starter Kit. By the way if you do, then use their coupon code FREESHIP to get the $5 kit for free. Also, there is a referall program so you get something off if you use our code or enter VCWOYIT.
  2. But with the SIM, you basically insert and then it asks you for two things, the IMEI of the phone itself and the ICCID (aka SIM Card Number). On an Iphone, this is pretty mysterious how to get this all going and it is really confusing on dual sim devices like the Pixel 5 and the iPhone which is which, but with the Pixel 5, the first SIM is the physical one and the eSIM is the second.
  3. Then when you select what you want, with the T-mobile program, they don’t have pooling, so you just buy (with the make your own coverage thing) what you need. For instance if you just need a data plan, then you can click on that.
  4. If you want to enable tethering, then you need to do a chat with them and give them the second SIM Card Number (on the card, there is a slash and the digits behind it are what you need to activate hotspotting).

There are also a bunch of incantations you need to run after this:

  1. You may need to change the APN (this is the login for the actual network). On other plans this is just set for you. And on two devices, it just worked. I just got the default Verizon on T-mobile setup, but on one device, I had to change the APN name and bunch of URLs. And yes, it’s annoying the instructions are for Android 11 and don’t make sense for Android 12 ;-(
  2. Sometimes, it all just starts to work. With our iPhone it just activated and data started flowing, but with the Pixel 5, I had to reboot it, so try that if you can’t get data.
  3. It takes 20 minutes or so for the phone to activate (with T-mobile, I’m used to instant activation).

Overall cost

The punchline is that with our previous collection of demo phones, we used GoogleFi and ended up paying about $150 a month for four phones. With this plan, we are more like $50 for four phones. Which is great!

The difference between LTE and Super LTE

OK, this has been a little confusing but US Mobile actually runs two completely split networks. The so called LTE or GSM Network is backed by T-Mobile and runs in Band 4. The super LTE network backed by Verizon runs on Bands 4 and 16 and requires HD Voice (this is really voice over LTE I think). So when you get their SIM kit, you one of each card.

The main thing to know is that the Verizon network allows you to pool your data, messages and minutes so this is probably what you want to be on. It is $9/phone and then they share in a pool If you are just using them for data, it costs $2/GB which is a nice deal.

In fact, if you want to switch from the white SIM to their black SIM, you need to do a chat with them, they will give you an account and a PIN and then when you click on add a line, you actually do a number port from T-Mobile to Verizon. That’s pretty confusing, but their technical support is quite good.

I’m Rich & Co.

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