A picture of me standing at a lectern, working on a laptop computer, on the stage of the FWD50 digital government conference

Hi! I’m Alistair. I write surprisingly useful books, run unexpectedly interesting events, & build things humans need for the future.

MIFI math: how I avoided spending $1,900 (and counting)

A few days ago I ranted a bit about the onerous rates of US data roaming for Canadians. I’ve heard dozens of horror stories about this since that post, including $30K bills for 2 days of use.

I bought a T-Mobile MIFI device for $125, and a 5GB SIM for $50. Right now, though, you can buy the MIFI online for $25, as they’re having a promotion.

I decided to do the math. I’ll have used this 5GB data plan for nearly a month, and according to T-Mobile’s (good, transparent) diagnostics, in that time I’ve used 1.9 GB of data. I’m getting roughly 4Mbps of data down—enough to watch a movie if I feel like it.

I then compared this to Rogers’ current US data roaming rates. They were a bit hard to find by searching on Google—the page that’s indexed by the search engine (http://www.rogers.com/web/content/wireless-network/wn_usdataroaming) is blank.

I eventually found the page by going to Rogers first, and grabbed the pricing plans listed there. Based on this math, I’d have spent over $1,900 without a roaming plan (using incredibly badly named “preferred” rate.)

Even with the most preferential plan, I’d have been able to buy two MIFI devices with data plans. And now that I have a MIFI, my data costs me around 12% of the Rogers rates. Oh, and I’ve still got a few days at SXSW and in NYC. So don’t quote me on that 12%—it’ll get even better before I’m done.

If this incenses you, you’re not alone. I wrote a bunch more about it in a previous post, but more than anything, I really want everyone to do this instead of consenting to the highway robbery that Canadian carriers get away with. It hurts Canadian business and holds back our technology growth, and it has to stop.

(Oh, and if you’re curious—no, I have nothing to do with T-Mobile. Use anyone’s MIFI. You can buy an unlocked one on Amazon pretty easily. T-Mobile just has the least locked-in contract of the US carriers.)






8 responses to “MIFI math: how I avoided spending $1,900 (and counting)”

  1. Hana Avatar

    Thanks for posting Alister – I’ve been ranting about this for the last few months.

    Have you seen freedompop.com?

    I haven’t used it but seems like a cool alternative.

    1. Alistair Avatar

      I hadn’t; it sounds interesting.

  2. Rob Avatar

    Alistair – how / where did you buy the MiFi and the data sim? At a T-Mobile store or online?

    Thanks for this!


    1. Alistair Avatar

      At a T-Mobile store.

  3. Compare Mifi Devices Avatar

    Mifi devices is the best thing to use….I have already using it.

  4. Chris Avatar

    Hello Alistair:

    Thanks for this great post! Do you have any advice for someone traveling from the US to Toronto for a few weeks? – What might be the best option? – To purchase a T-mobile mifi in the US and then purchase data sim at a T-mobile store in Toronto?

    1. Alistair Avatar

      I don’t know how the reverse works, but I don’t think there are any t-mobile stores in Toronto. You might check if one of the Canadian carriers has a no-contract offering but I doubt it. If they had this kind of flexibility I wouldn’t be complaining about them. 😉

  5. Susan Avatar

    I also want to do the reverse.. I have a verizon mifi with 5G usage for $50 per month but occasional want to use it in Canada without huge roaming fees…. anyone out there have an answer?