Since posting a few previous articles on mobile broadband, a few people contacted me for an update on how the providers compare. With Imagine launching their LTE fixed wireless broadband service earlier in 2016, both Vodafone and Eir have silently added larger 100+GB 4G mobile broadband plans, making for a more usable alternative to slow DSL, satellite and congested fixed wireless connections. I’ll also cover a few prepay options.
This article is broken down into the following sections:
- Trial Runs – How to test before you commit
- Caution – Don’t assume Vodafone 4G is the fastest
- Vodafone – How to get up to 250GB or a shorter 12 month contract
- Eir (Meteor network) – 250GB plan on a 1 or 12 month contract
- Three – Unlimited (750GB fair use) plan
- Rural WiFi (Three network) – 100GB, 250GB and Unlimited plans
- Prepay options
Before deciding on any service, I strongly recommend checking the coverage for the particular network. For all three networks, a good way to start is to get a lend of a phone for each network and walk around the house including the loft if possible to find the spot with the strongest 4G signal. Then run a speed test such as with Ookla’s speed test app or testmy.net. This test is best performed in the evening around 9pm or when the Internet will most likely be used.
For the Vodafone network, I recommend using their speed test Net Perform, which is available on iTunes and the Google Play store. Unlike other speed testing Apps and websites, Net Perform’s data usage does not consume the data allowance on Vodafone. This is particularly useful on small data plans as Ookla’s speed test App typically consumes 100MB per test on a 4G connection. Like Ookla, Net Perform measures the uplink, downlink and the ping (latency) as shown on the right. It also maintains a speed test history.
For the Vodafone and Eir (Meteor) networks, the test results give a rough indication of what can be achieved with a dedicated router. For the Three network, I recommend getting the lend of a router and Three broadband SIM if at all possible.
The Three network shapes traffic differently between handsets and broadband devices and appears to limit the range of how far the broadband device will operate from a mast. Based on my experience, broadband devices generally get considerably faster data speeds than mobile handsets on the Three network, particularly in a strong signal area. However, I also have been in an area where mobile handsets work fine the Three network with both 3G and 4G, yet broadband devices are unable to register with the network with a Three Mobile broadband SIM.
If the phone does not switch to 4G mode inside, I recommend trying to force the phone into LTE mode to see whether it can pick up even 1 bar of usable reception. Desktop broadband routers such as the Huawei B593-22s have antennas far more sensitive than those in handsets. As a result, a 1 bar 4G phone signal will usually mean a moderate 4G signal on a dedicated router or stronger with an outdoor antenna.
See my other articles for router and antenna advice:
ComReg has a SiteViewer website that shows the locations of the mobile operator cellular masts across Ireland, which includes the operator names and connection type (GSM=2G, UMTS=3G and LTE=4G):
Despite all the hype over Vodafone’s performance, don’t assume Vodafone will perform better even when right next to a 4G Vodafone mast. For example, from my testing along various points between Kilcar and Letterkenny, I was surprised at the different speeds I got between Three and Vodafone. Over this period in 2017, the Three network was barely usable in the evenings along this route. These tests were run on a HTC U11 phone with the Ookla Speedtest app. The first where on the Vodafone network and the second set was after I ported to Three prepay.
Although I ran both tests on a Sunday, ideally, I should have run them at similar times. However, even with running the Vodafone tests earlier in the day, Three performed better in the majority of the tests. The grey and blue shading indicates 4G and 4G+, respectively. The green indicates which network performed better in each test result.
I plan rerunning the download tests with TestMy at a later stage. Ookla’s speedtest is a capacity tester by saturating the connection with lots of connections to the test server. TestMy tests with a single TCP connection, which would indicate the maximum transfer rate when downloading a large file or streaming, such as IPTV. This article goes into more detail.
Although Three has better 4G(+) coverage around us, Vodafone has better 3G coverage. For example, I had 4G coverage on Three most of the way between Donegal and Ballybofey, whereas Vodafone dropped to 3G outside Donegal and didn’t pick up 4G again until entering Ballybofey. Between Killybegs and Mountcharles, Vodafone maintained at least 3G coverage, while Three fell to 2G (Edge) in a few areas. Eir is even worse, for example, Eir does not even have 3G coverage most of the way between Donegal and Ballybofey.
There are many other parts of the country where Three is barely usable after 6pm, such as parts of Dublin. Basically, don’t blindly sign up to a contract just because a friend in another area is showing off very fast speed tests on the same network at their end. As wireless is a shared system, there can be a massive change in performance over the contract duration. For example, if a sales representative for Three manages to sign up a few dozen people in a particular area to Three broadband, there’s no doubt there will be a sharp drop in the peak time throughput on the mast serving the area.
Vodafone has by far the most widespread 4G coverage in Ireland and even has 3G in many areas not covered by any other network. With their mediocre data bundles on both prepay and contract mobile phone plans and the most expensive mobile broadband plans, it is no surprise that people are showing off impressive 4G speed tests due to their lighter network load. (See update below)
Vodafone’s largest mobile broadband offering is 150GB/month, extendible to 250GB with an add-on. Up until recently, the 150GB plan was only available by purchasing their 50GB/month plan, followed by a €10 add-on to increase the limit to 150GB. Vodafone now sell the 150GB package with its Vodafone B528 4G+ Router. The price is €45/month with a 24-month contract. They provide the router for free with the contract.
Vodafone recently changed their SIM only contract lengths to 12 months (available on this page) and to between 18 and 24 months depending on the device choice. Their Vodafone B3500 appears to be a rebadged Huawei B315 desktop router. Unfortunately, the 50GB and 150GB plans are no longer available SIM only through their website.
The Vodafone B528 is a rebadged Huawei B528. It features LTE Category 6 support (4G+ capable), Gigabit Ethernet port, 802.11ac (5Ghz Wi-Fi) and a VoIP telephone port. For those with a weak signal signal, it has two TS9 antenna connectors. See this page on 4gltemall for a review of it and detailed specification on this router.
Vodafone now automatically caps the connection on their 150GB plan, preventing accidental excess usage (unlike Three). According to Vodafone, once the connection drops at the usage limit, the customer can call Vodafone to extend the limit. The customer can buy a one-off 10GB extension for €15 or extend the monthly limit by 100GB for €10/extra. The 100GB add-on takes effect from the next billing cycle (see update below).
With the smaller and older plans, there are mixed reports on their forums about whether they can stop the user going over the limit. Excess usage is charged at 0.02c/MB (€20/GB).
From what I have heard, Vodafone currently only provides 4G+ (LTE Advanced) access with mobile phone plans only. When using a 4G+ capable router such as the Vodafone B528, it may connect using one band only, usually the higher capacity band in a 4G+ coverage area. This should still provide up to 150Mbps of bandwidth depending on the signal strength and network load.
Update 23rd January 2018: The Vodafone reps have given mixed information about how the 100GB add-on works. In the past, they said it adds 100GB one-off for the remainder of the current month, while more recently they said it takes effect from the next billing cycle.
Update 24th May 2018: There are many users reporting performance issues with Vodafone’s B528 router, mainly DNS look-ups. I recommend checking this thread on boards for any updates before signing up to the 150GB plan. So far no one has mentioned about any issue with using the broadband SIM with another router.
Eir owns the former Meteor network, which operates independent of Three and Vodafone masts. What they don’t mention on their website is that they have a 250GB mobile broadband plan. They now call this eir Wireless Broadband. Up until August 2018, was available as an alternative to DSL as a home phone and broadband package. Now they offer it independently, but by request such as with their chat service.
Their standalone 4G mobile broadband plan is €52.99/month for 250GB with a €49.99 activation fee. The router costs €49 on a 12 month contract or €149 on a rolling 30 day contract. Prior to August 2018, they had a 100GB plan for €45/month, which they have since discontinued. The 250GB plan was reduced from €60 for new customers.
Based on their 50GB bill pay plan, it is very likely they offer the same Huawei B528 router on the 250GB plan. This router is the same model that Vodafone provides, which is 4G+ capable and has two TS9 antenna ports.
Eir’s excess usage is 0.002c/MB (€2/GB) for going over the 100GB or 250GB limit. Further info can be found on page 4 of this price plan.
Note from 17th Jan. ’17: I visited a couple who were able to avail of the Eir 4G mobile broadband. In order to avail of Eir’s mobile broadband service at the time, they had to move their telephone provider back to Eir and were offered a bundle of 100GB mobile broadband data and anytime Ireland and UK inc. Mobile calls for €60 per month on a 12 month contract from what I recall them mentioning.
The router they were provided is a Huawei B315 and is configured with the Meteor broadband APN (broadband.mymeteor.ie). The speed was very impressive for the time of evening, but then again they are in a rural area, so the cell tower they are picking up is lightly loaded. The speed test on the right was Monday evening about 8:30pm.
Update 17th May ’19: Back in August 2018 dropped the price of the 250GB plan to €52.99/month and discontinued the 100GB plan. They now call this their eir Wireless Broadband plan, which I only found out after a helpful comment Michael posted below. Going by the revised price plan, they no longer mention any phone bundle, so it no longer appears necessary to port a landline to Eir to avail of the 250GB broadband plan.
Three has recently added an unlimited broadband (750GB fair usage) to its range for €30/month. This is either available SIM only or with a Huawei B525 router on an 18 month minimum contract. Their Huawei B525 router includes two rabbit ear antennas. Over the 18 month period, it actually works out cheaper than buying the B525 router separately while using a prepay phone SIM in the router for AYCE data. Unlike that unofficial method, Three will provide technical support and there is also a 14 day cooling off period when ordering the broadband package online.
The 30GB, 60GB, 100GB and 250GB broadband plans are no longer listed on any of its device or SIM only plans. Customers on those plans can upgrade to the 750GB plan within the last three months of their contract. Only the tiny 3GB plan is available SIM only for new customers. At €16/month, I strongly recommend choosing another provider such as Eir’s prepay mobile broadband.
For those that need a public IP address such as for port forwarding, change the router’s APN to “3internet”. The router may need to be rebooted for the public IP address to be assigned. If the IP address shown on the router’s status page starts with ’10.x.x.x’ or ‘100.x.x.x’, then it is a private IP address and port forwarding will unlikely work. Occasionally the router may get assigned a private IP address even with the 3internet APN. Should this happen, restart the router and it will usually pick up a public IP address again.
Based on my poor experience with Three’s Technical support (see below) and what I’ve heard from others, I recommend going the SIM only (which requires buying the router) or considering the Rural Wi-Fi alternative below. For the router, I suggest going for the Huawei E5186s-22, which costs around £80. Like the newer B525, it is 4G+ capable, has gigabit LAN ports, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and two SMA antenna ports. By going SIM only, this avoids the risk of being stuck in a long contract should the service severely deteriorate after a few months.
Warning: Three has the most severe excess usage charge of 0.05c/MB (€50/GB) and they do not provide any capability of preventing the user going over their limit. This also applies to their new “unlimited” / 750GB broadband offering in addition to their earlier broadband plans.
Traffic shaping: Three enforces traffic shaping on its network, particularly during peak periods and with its rural masts. See this article for a traffic shaping demo, compared side-by-side with other networks.
As a quick example, compare the above right speed test against the following file download from Heanet, both tests performed one after the other during peak time. 435KB/s is only 3.48Mbps. The bottleneck is certainly not at Heanet’s end!
From my own testing, Three applies the same traffic shaping to their broadband contract customers as they do with their prepay phone customers. This includes prioritisation of certain services such as YouTube and some CDNs such as Cloudflare and Google. On the other hand, the connection appears to be more stable than using a phone SIM and they will provide technical support. The unlimited broadband contract also includes a free Huawei B525 router, useful for those who don’t already own a suitable router or would like to upgrade theirs.
Update 7th March 2018: It appears that Three was traffic shaping in the UK also. Three (and Vodafone) in the UK are to be investigated by Ofcom, the UK telecoms watchdog. They are accused of slowing down certain types of traffic, including data roaming.
On the plus side (for me), Three has upgraded the mast in my area, providing a substantial improvement in the 4G speed I get here, even peak time. For anyone that had bad performance before with Three, it’s certainly worth giving them another test run such as with a prepay SIM. I did not expect this to happen given our rural location and no sign of 4G from Eir/Vodafone yet around here.
Update 27th March 2018: As of Friday, 23rd March 2018, my Three internet connection started going up and down in a loop. It appears that Three installed a new mast in a distance that my router keeps trying to switch to. Each time the router shows it’s on cell ID 471047, the connection drops as the cell is likely beyond the range limit. A continuous ping test clearly illustrates the issue:
After escalating the issue with Three, they could not find any fault with my service and that I’m getting good speed. They don’t seem to care about my connection stability, as long as the speed is higher than 0.5Mbps when it’s up. Despite sending them numerous screenshots including the above ping test, they insist that my connection is fine.
So far, I have been able to get around this issue by positioning a dense obstacle in line-of-sight of that new mast. My signal has taken a hit as it’s difficult to block the mast without partially blocking the local mast as there’s about a 30 degree angle between the two. I plan posting an update later once I get hold of some new band 20 directional antennas, as this would make a good isolation test on directivity.
Update 9th April 2018: I have two new Wittenberg LAT 22 antennas set up and these are doing a great job at at isolating the local mast. Better signal readings, more consistent throughput and no more drop-outs. I plan posting more about these in a new article when I get time. Please note that these LAT22’s are band 20 only.
Update 1st October 2018: Someone contacted me to mention that Three’s unlimited plan is now available SIM only on a 30-day rolling contract.
Despite its name, Rural WiFi is actually a Three/Vodafone reseller and are a partner of Fleetconnect, the provider of Wi-Fi services on public transport such as Bus Eireann, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail.
They provide a choice of three packages – 100GB, 250GB and unlimited data, all on an 18 month contract. Their plans are priced at €48, €58 and €65, respectively. However, they usually discount these prices anywhere from a few months to the contract duration, varying up/down a few Euro depending on their promotion (see note below). They include a 30 day guarantee, twice as long as the standard 14 day cooling off period. They loan a mains operated desktop router on a returnable €65 deposit for the duration of their service, plus €15 for next day shipping.
They appear to use the Three network directly for the 250GB and unlimited plans and Vodafone for the small 100GB plan. Going by feedback and posts I came across on Boards.ie, they use a variety of routers. These include the Teltonika RUT950, D-Link DWR-953 and TP-Link TL-MR6400. Earlier customers received the D-Link DWR-921. Their customer service is reportedly a lot better than Three and Vodafone’s own broadband plans and their data speeds are also reportedly better than Three. I still have yet to hear anyone complain about their customer service.
One Rural Wi-Fi customer contacted me to say that Rural Wi-Fi does not have excess data usage charges. I have also seen a few people mention the same on the forums. The connection drops once they use up the data allowance. Rural Wi-Fi provides the option to upgrade their subscription (e.g. 250GB to unlimited) to increase the allowance.
Note: Unlike the other providers, Rural Wi-Fi regularly makes drastic changes to its promotional pricing. For example, they usually vary the promotional discount and duration every few weeks. As a result, if the offer does not seem that good at present, check back a week or two later.
Current pricing and further information on Rural WiFi are available on their official website.
All three major providers offer prepay plans which are worth considering before entering a lengthy contract. This can be useful if it is difficult to get a lend of a phone or broadband SIM for a certain network. The obvious catch is that the user needs to obtain a suitable router to try the SIM in.
My recommendation is to get a Huawei B593s-22 second hand off eBay, which is typically priced around €60 to €80 including delivery. Although this router lacks the LTE Advanced capability of some newer routers, it reportedly provides the best internal antenna sensitivity of any desktop 4G router making it better suited for those in weak signal areas, especially where the user wants to avoid or cannot install an outdoor antenna. The B593s-22 also has a high resale value where the user can recover most of the cost if they go with a contract plan that includes a free or discounted router.
SIM card note: Each network now issues a trio SIM card regardless of its intended use. This is a modular SIM card that splits apart to fit mini, micro and nano SIM slots. Most routers require a mini size SIM. If you accidentally split the SIM apart, these pieces snap together again. This can also be useful to swap a SIM back and forth between a router and a phone that require difference size SIM cards.
The following options below are a few prepay plans worth considering for those who do not want to sign up to any contract.
Vodafone’s largest prepay mobile broadband bundle is 20GB for €20 each 4 weeks. However, this should be sufficient for testing the network before signing up to a lengthy contract. Vodafone is the only network that officially supports phone and mobile broadband use with the one SIM card. Just order a Vodafone SIM (new number option) from their website or buy a Vodafone SIM instore. The SIM costs €10, but this will be given back as €10 credit once the user registers for My Vodafone.
When registering for MyVodafone, it will ask whether the SIM will go into a phone or a data device. The user can later change this setting. Be sure to use the correct APN for the corresponding bundle, as explained in this article. While Three and Eir (Meteor) phone SIMs work in data devices (see below), they do not officially support such usage.
The Vodafone X (student) plans offers the largest data bundles with prepay on the Vodafone network, intended for handset use. These plans target students, however, they have since relaxed the sign-up requirements. New and existing Vodafone prepay customers can avail of a Vodafone X plan by sending an SMS “music”, “weekend” or “sport” for the corresponding plan to 50222, then top up by €20 to pay to activate it.
The Vodafone X WEEKEND plan offers 25GB for €20 per 4 week interval, plus unlimited weekend data (20GB fair use each weekend). Tethering reportedly works, however, Vodafone branded phones such as the Smart Ultra prevents tethering with the live APN. Attempting to tether with the ‘hs’ or ‘isp’ APN will incur out-of-bundle charges. Another workaround would be to place the SIM in a router and set the APN to live.vodafone.ie. If the router has a telephone socket (e.g. Huawei B525), plug a corded telephone into the router’s telephone socket to make/receive calls using the voice minutes.
Note: It can take a day for 4G to activate on a new Vodafone prepay account. Their support chat service can usually override this. Vodafone also has a known issue where 4G can randomly deactivate, which requires contacting their support to reactivate.
Going by numerous reports in the Boards.ie midband forum, many have been using Three’s prepay phone SIM as their main home Internet connection, some for years. Three prepay phone SIMs provide “All you can eat” data without having to do anything other than operate the SIM in a phone handset for its first use and top it up by €20 each 28 day cycle.
Although not supported or permitted according to Three, they do not actively prevent such usage at this time. However, they do appear to randomly block the connection. When this happens, Internet connectivity drops even when the router is rebooted or still shows a connection. When this happens, the SIM is generally only temporarily blocked. When the router is switched off for roughly 5 minutes, the SIM will work again.
From my own testing, Three no longer gives network priority to their official broadband SIMs like they did in the past. On the other hand, Three will not provide support if there is any technical issue as they can identify the device the SIM is placed in. Three also has a much larger fair usage allowance of 750GB compared to the 60GB/cycle with a phone SIM. This means there is a greater likelihood of Three throttling the connection for excessive usage with a phone SIM.
The official fair usage limit on prepay phone SIMs is 60GB/cycle after which Three may throttle the service, so it is unlikely users will run into any issue if they keep their 4 week usage below this. I have not come across anyone on Boards mentioning they were cut off for excess usage, but heard a few that were throttled to 1Mbps temporarily after very heavy usage.
Beware: Do not attempt to use any bill pay phone SIM for tethering or use in a modem. There have been reports of users running up very large bills in excess of €1000 for tethering. This is especially the case with business, iPhone and former O2 plans.
Traffic shaping: Three applies extensive traffic prioritisation and throttling to its AYCE service during peak time periods. Speed tests are practically meaningless as a result other than for off-peak testing to check the equipment / antenna. From my own testing, YouTube is clearly prioritised and often has no problem streaming at 1080p in my area. Downloads on the other hand are heavily throttled to as low as 500Kbps (64KB/s). For example, various speed tests such as Ookla, Fast.com and TestMy report 500Kbps to 2Mbps, while the ‘Stats for Nerds’ in YouTube can hit as high as 30Mbps right after the speed test.
Three Visitor SIM: Three has introduced a Visitor prepay SIM, intended for tourists. Unlike Three’s regular prepay SIM, the Visitor SIM clearly states it provides a 60GB allowance with each €20 top-up. For comparison, the regular prepay SIM provides All You Can Eat data (60GB fair use, 2TB hard limit) with each €20 top-up. It is quite possible that the visitor SIM does not enforce a maximum roaming duration period limit other than a 5GB EU data allowance.
Eir (Meteor) prepay
Early in 2017, Meteor (now Eir) increased their prepay Mobile Broadband plan bundles which make them better value than using their prepay phone SIMs for broadband. These bundles are €20 for 15GB of data and €30 for 50GB of data, both with a 30 day limit. The 50GB plan can be renewed the moment it runs out by just buying another 50GB add-on.
Update 22nd March 2018: Eir recently reduced the expiry of its 50GB data bundle from 180 days down to just 30 days, even for existing customers. Once the existing 180 day bundle runs out, the largest bundles available expire after 30 days.
Note: For a few weeks after Eir shutdown the Meteor website, the largest prepay mobile broadband bundle they listed was 7.5GB for €20. According to Eir, the 50GB prepay bundle is available to affected customers by request by calling their customer care team on 1905. Prepay broadband SIM cards with 15GB/50GB bundles are available again on this Eir webpage. Prepay broadband customers that have a SIM card with the former Meteor branding are unaffected.
Minimum top-up interval warning
A top-up is necessary at least every 6 months to keep the SIM active. For example, if the SIM will be for backup, top it up by €5 each 5-6 months. Should an outage occur, top it up by the value to bring the credit up to €30 and purchase the 50GB add-on.
For those that still have an active 180 day pass
If your usage is light enough such that the 180 day pass lasts the full 180 days, be sure to top-up by €30 before it expires. When my 180 day pass expired on me, it initially brought up the webpage to say that my pass expired and then the signal disappeared.
Initially I thought it was just a coincidence that the network went down. However, when the signal was still down a day later, I contacted Meteor support. The agent told me that my SIM was deactivated as it had not received a top-up in 6 months. This is not surprising given that this coincides with the length of the 180 day pass. So I had to send a €30 top-up to the SIM # (I could have told the agent my voucher # if I had one) and then the agent reactivated the SIM.
Eir (Meteor) Simplicity plans
Previously when Meteor charged €20 for 7.5GB of prepay mobile broadband, I suggested using a Meteor simplicity phone plan for data. This is still very useful when using the SIM also for phone calls, YouTube or social media which doesn’t count towards your data allowance:
Although not officially supported by Eir, their prepay phone SIMs will work in a router using the APN ‘data.mymeteor.ie’. This can be a useful way of making use of their 20GB 4G prepay simplicity plan for €20/28-day interval
or even the cheaper 7.5GB 3G simplicity plan for €10/month.
To avail of the plan, the user needs to send the SMS ’10 data’ to 50104 for their 10GB 3G plan (see note below) or ’20 calls and data’ to 50104 for their 20GB 4G plan before applying the first top-up. After this, the user just needs to top up the SIM each 28 day cycle to keep the plan active.
For users in a strong Eir 4G signal area, a worthwhile suggestion is to switch their mobile phone plan to Eir for the €20 calls & 20GB plan as this way they can make use of the unlimited calls and use the data between their handset and for tethering. This is also a great way to supplement another limited broadband plan. For example, if a user is on one of Three’s mobile broadband plans and struggles with speed in the evening, they could tether from their Eir handset in the evening when they need the speed.
If the data plan runs out, Eir cuts off the data connection and presents a landing webpage with a choice of options. The €5 booster option provides an extra 500MB (=1c/MB or €10/GB). Do not choose the ‘Out of bundle’ option!
Their largest prepay data plan with a phone SIM is €40/28-day period for 35GB of data, which is a combination of the 20GB with calls plan for €20/28-day period and a recurring 15GB bundle for a further €20/28-day period. The 15GB recurring bundle is available in ‘My Eir’ and as an option on the landing page that appears when the user uses up their main data bundle.
For those heavy into social media, it is worth noting that Eir’s €20 (and €30) simplicity plans include unlimited (60GB) of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Whatsapp usage, including video content hosted on these social networks.
Note: Eir (Meteor) no longer advertises the €10 data plan, so that option may no longer work. Previously if the user sent the SMS ’10 data’ 50104 with a phone SIM, they got 7.5GB for 30 days (now 28 days) and the connection was limited to 3G only. This data plan did not include unlimited social media or YouTube.
Opel OnStar in-car Wi-Fi
Opel provides in-car Wi-Fi on Opel cars that come with its OnStar service. It is basically a mobile broadband router built-in to the car. Opel uses the Vodafone 4G network and users can fully utilise the data plans across most of Europe.
OnStar currently provides a 3GB trial plan, which lasts up to 90 days. While 90 days may seem like a decent trial, a trip with a few kids using Tablets will gobble that up on a single journey! That was the first impression I heard from someone who just bought a new Opel Crossland X.
Vodafone operates a separate prepay service for in-car Wi-Fi than it offers directly to consumers. They call it their “Internet in the Car” service, which has different data rates to their regular prepay mobile broadband plans. They operate out of the UK based on speaking with someone who had to contact their technical support.
Their data plans are as follows, based on Opel OnStar’s pricing:
- 1GB for €5, lasts 24 hours
- 5GB for €15 (€3/GB), lasts 28 days (4 weeks)
- 10GB for €20 (€2/GB), lasts 28 days (4 weeks)
- 100GB for €125 (€1.25/GB), lasts 365 days (1 year)
It is possible to queue up to three bundles in addition to the active bundle. According to Opel, one must have an active OnStar subscription (€10/month or €100/year) before they can purchase Wi-Fi data.
Regardless of the usage, I suggest going for the 100GB bundle as this will work out the cheapest in the long run. With very light usage, this works out at €10.50/month for roughly 8GB a month over the year, in addition to the OnStar subscription.
For heavy data users, I strongly recommend getting a mobile broadband hotspot and checking the Three prepay and Eir prepay sections above. With a hotspot, 100GB (two 50GB bundles) on Eir prepay broadband costs just €60. That is half the price of OnStar Wi-Fi, does not require an OnStar subscription and will work in any car! 😉
- 8th June 2017 – Added note about minimum top-up interval on Meteor
- 23rd June 2017 – Three reportedly apples traffic shaping to broadband SIMs.
- 28th June 2017 – Revised Meteor section – €10 data plan discontinued
- 18th July 2017 – Revised Meteor broadband on renewing the 50GB bundle.
- 21st July 2017 – Added Vodafone prepay broadband.
- 24th July 2017 – Added note above Meteor renaming to Eir.
- 2nd August 2017 – Added note about Three Visitor prepay SIM
- 5th August 2017 – Clarified how to get a Vodafone prepay broadband SIM.
- 5th September 2017 – Added section on Opel OnStar.
- 8th September 2017 – Eir drops the Meteor branding along with the 15GB/50GB prepay broadband bundles on their website.
- 18th September 2017 – Revised the Meteor prepay broadband section with the new Eir branding and added a note about Vodafone’s Net Perform App.
- 27th September 2017 – Eir now lists the 15GB and 50GB prepay broadband bundles.
- 6th October 2017 – Vodafone drops the price of their 150GB 4G package. 50GB package no longer available.
- 25th October 2017 – Revised the Rural Wi-Fi section about the usage limit and router offering.
- 16th November 2017 – Vodafone now offer a 100GB add-on with its 150GB plan.
- 4th November 2017 – Added note about Vodafone 4G+.
- 10th January 2018 – Updated Rural Wi-Fi with 12 month contract pricing.
- 16th January 2018 – Added Three’s new 750GB promotional plan.
- 23rd January 2018 – Revised Vodafone section.
- 22nd February 2018 – Added note about recent Vodafone performance issues.
- 27th February 2018 – Revised the Three broadband sections.
- 7th March 2018 – Vodafone performance issues appear to be fixed. Added update to Three broadband section.
- 22nd March 2018 – Revised Eir prepay broadband – They reduced the 180 day 50GB pass to just 30 days.
- 27th March 2018 – Added update of my recent experience with Three.
- 9th April 2018 – Updated Rural Wi-Fi with rough pricing as they keep altering their prices.
- 24th May 2018 – Various Vodafone users are running into issues with Vodafone’s B528 router again. Moved obsolete iD Mobile section and Eir 180 day plan advice to Archive.
- 4th June 2018 – Added a caution about assuming Vodafone is the fastest. It’s certainly not the case around Co. Donegal!
- 21st August 2018 – Revised the Vodafone prepay section now that Vodafone relaxed the Vodafone X sign-up requirements.
- 1st October 2018 – Three’s unlimited plan is now available SIM only
- 21st November 2018 – Rural Wi-Fi’s 100GB plan uses the Vodafone network. Eir simplicity prepay now offers 20GB per 28-day invertval.
- 17th May 2019 – Eir dropped the 100GB plan and reduced the 250GB plan price. They now offer it indepedent of a phone service.
- 9th June 2019 – Vodafone recently increased its 28-day prepay broadband from 7.5GB to 20GB and its Vodafone X weekend to 25GB.