Recently, the new Virgin Mobile Overdrive Pro 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot piqued our interest , so we decided to look into it and figured a hand's on review was in order. Made by Sierra Wireless, this 4G mobile hotspot is part of the new line of mobile "Broadband -2-Go" solutions offered by Virgin. This Overdrive hotspot is like the others in that it gives you 3G and 4G data downloads while on the move, while acting as the central gateway to the internet for all your WiFi enabled devices.
Virgin Mobile has always been a viable contender - quite often even when up against the big national providers. When Virgin started out nearly 10 years ago, they were seemingly street brawling against all the other "pay per minute" prepaid carriers like Trac-Fone and Net10 with a bevy of el-Cheapo mobile handsets. There was not too much opportunity for them to rise above all the noise. In the last year or two, Virgin Mobile has truly reinvented themselves, offering top tier smartphones, all on "no-contract" and relatively inexpensive monthly plans. They even offer the heaviest hitter of them all - the iPhone 4S as prepaid monthly.
Good news for Virgin mobile hotspot and mobile broadband customers: Ever since they upped their ante in the smartphone game, Virgin has offered aggressive mobile broadband options that are not just for budget customers but for anyone wanting the best bang for their buck. Their new Overdrive Pro 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot makes Verizon Prepay hotspots an enticing alternative in the hotspot market as well.
You may not have realized it, but Virgin Mobile is actually owned by Sprint ( purchased in 2009 for $484M ).
Sprint is trying hard to NOT make that association evident, probably since they don't want to "cheapen" their bread-and-butter product, that being term contract subscribers for their smartphone and mobile hotspots. It looks like Sprint wants their Virgin Mobile brand to "own" the lower tier monthly customer niche - so far, it looks like they may be on track to doing that.
Virgin basically has two mobile broadband monthly data plans that are tiered on their 3G service. But here's the real icing on the cake: Both of Virgin Mobile's 3G Monthly plans include Unlimited 4G !!?!
- $35.00 a month for 2 GB of 3G data
- $55.00 a month for 5GB of 3G data
This is a big wow! Other companies like AT&T and Verizon Wireless are having the unlimited data plans they offer discontinued or severely restricted, much to their customers chagrin. You might me think "ah ha! Sprint!, they offer unlimited data over 3G and 4G, right ???" For smartphones like the iPhone and Sprint Galaxy, Sprint does indeed give unlimited data usage. But for Mobile Hotspot subscribers, that's no longer the case. Sprint ended "unlimited data" for hotspots back in October 2011.
Think you might want to try using your rooted Android smartphone or Jailbroken iPhone 4S on Sprint's network using one of the many apps that stealthly transforms your smartphone into a virtual mobile hotspot to take advantage of one of the last remnants of "unlimited data"?...think again - In June 2012, Sprint announced they have deployed new technology to aggressively detect phone-tethering data freeloaders who are running "illegal" mobile hotspots.
The bottom line of all this is that up until now, unlimited data over a mobile hotspot has been an extremely rare bird to spot, up until now that is - thanks to Virgin Mobile.
Because Virgin Mobile operates on the Sprint 3G and 4G Wimax networks, this offers good 3G coverage thanks to Sprint's very robust 3G infrastructure, and 4G coverage that’s as good as it gets, at least for right now. Virgin Mobile definitely deserves some praise in going the other way, offering unlimited 4G, when just about every other competitor is moving in the oposite direction, removing unlimited data options. Even though Richard Branson doesn't run the show at Virgin Mobile USA anymore, I bet he would be proud of their marketing savvy and aggressive niche carving!
The Virgin Mobile Overdrive Pro: What you get.
Opening the rather staid box, you get the Overdrive hotspot, at a little less than 3”x 3”. This is one of the only "Square" shaped hotspots, and thus bigger than the popular MiFi 2200 mobile hotspot. You get a USB cord and an instruction manual. Practically every mobile hotspot we test comes with a fully charged battery, but for some reason the Virgin Overdrive's battery was about 75% discharged. It took about 3 hour to fully charge the Overdrive, using USB. The included battery is rated at 1800 Mah capacity, that Virgin claims to last about 4 to 5 hours with network use, and 36 hours on standby. In MobileHotspot.com formal testing using the more rigorous LAPTOP battery stress task, we got 3 hours 51 minutes. In more subjective, "real world" test usage, our Overdrive Pro ran between 4 and 4 1/2 hours while connected to 3G.
After you get it up and running, access it by connecting with a Wi-Fi enable device, then set your location. This basically amounts to picking home, business or network options. Then, enter then network hyperlink, build yourself an administrator profile, make a connection password and you’re good to go. All devices that hook up to it will have to provide the WiFi password - no different than any other WiFi network.
You can hook as many as eight Wi-Fi devices up to the Virgin Overdrive Mobile Hotspot at any one time and you can store data in a shared storage place on the Overdrive's onboad SD memory . The OLED display shows your the signal strength, whether you’re connected to 3G or 4G, your data usage, number of connected users and the time.
The competition in the hotspot market is already tough. Most of the bigger companies have already carved themselves out a market niche, mostly along the same lines that they have divided up their cell phone customers. Verizon has taken the high road on their mobile broadband products like the Jetpack hotspot, and they legitimately have largest LTE 4G network to back it all up - all great news, but the downside is 2 year contracts and expensive data plans without any previsions for users who need or want unlimited data. Sprint, AT&T and (especially) T-Mobile are up to two years behind Verizon on buidling out a nationwide 4G LTE network.
Where other carriers are waiting for their LTE to reach critical mass, Virgin is gaining customers 4G mobile broadband customers right now.
- Prepaid Mobile Broadband that give you data rates and limits like the big contract player do, such as Verizon ($50 for 5GB) - but with contracts
- Unlimited uploads and downloads using 4G over the nationwide WiMax 4G network.
- Virgin Mobile uses the World Class Sprint 3G and 4G WiMax networks that offer download speeds up to 10 Mbps.
- Top rated mobile hotspot device, the Sierra Overdrive: Stable, good battery life, lots of features, very easy to use.
- After 10GB of 4G downloads/uploads, Virgin Mobile has the right to reduce speed of 4G downloads by up to 50%
- No incremental "data overage" rates on 3G as it exists on most other carriers. When you 3G limit is consumed, you'd need to "top off", paying the monthly fee again.
- WiMax 4G is not available everywhere, nor will it likely be built out aggressively in the future (Sprint's mainly investing in the 4G LTE)
- Hotspot user needs to be aware of 3G use in order to keep within monthly limits.
Pre-paid mobile broadband with unlimited data is a definitely a tasty meal at the all-you-can-eat buffet: The prospects of getting a moderate amount of 3G for $35 to $55 per month is inline with Virgin's competitors, but the fact that there is absolutely no contract commitment AND you get get unlimited 4G is what seals the deal.. The Virgin Mobile Overdrive Pro 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot is a tried-and-true device that it will stand on its own up to the competitors hardware like the Novatel MiFi. So again, Virgin Mobile is no longer a second tier choice. It’s a viable first choice in a very competitive mobile broadband market. Offering unlimited 4G is a bonus for the real active users, Skype and Facetime chatters, bigtime down-loaders, you-tube watchers and lets not forget all those business users.
Category: Mobile Hotspot News