Virgin debuts pay-as-you-go mobile broadband

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So, a 3G-enabled laptop wasn't in the cards at Apple's WWDC, and that new smart phone, sleek as it may be, just isn't going to cut it for finishing a paper or working on a presentation from the road. What do you, the mobile computer user, do? Search for a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi? Maybe not.

The mobile wing of Virgin, the company whose US airline just rolled out wireless internet on all its flights, has announced Broadband2Go pay-as-you-go wireless broadband.

After buying a $150 USB wireless modem (available exclusively from Best Buy), users can purchase chunks of access on Sprint's nationwide 3G wireless network. $60 gets you 1 gigabyte of data, which expires 1 month after purchase. Buy less ($10 for 100 megabytes) and the capacity expires faster – in 10 days.

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Unlike other mobile broadband plans and cards, Virgin's Broadband2Go doesn't require a credit check or contract. To keep track of usage, Virgin offers a real-time Web-based monitor. Reach your limit, and instead of incurring pricey overage charges, the system prompts you to "top-up" by purchasing more access.

The high initial price and expiration rules may present a barrier to some (why the need for expiration at all? We're not talking produce here) but the ease of access may outweigh that for people who need only occasional mobile broadband access. Road warriors, users looking to replace traditional broadband service, or people who live outside of Sprint's 3G coverage area should look elsewhere.

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