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Making Sense of Cellular Data Upgrades for the Coronavirus Pandemic

If you’re in the United States, your cellular carrier is likely providing more data for free during the coronavirus pandemic, but it can be hard to know how much or what you have to do, if anything, to claim it. Tech journalism veteran Rob Pegoraro has done the yeoman’s work of documenting those data upgrades. He covers both the big four carriers (really three now that T-Mobile has purchased Sprint) and also prepaid and niche carriers like Google Fi and Straight Talk. I’ve used almost no cellular data in isolation, but if you’re burning through it, perhaps because it’s a better option than broadband for some reason, check out Rob’s guide to make sure you’re getting all you’re entitled to.

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Comments About Making Sense of Cellular Data Upgrades for the Coronavirus Pandemic

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  1. I’ve got something like that going on with Verizon. Which is very ironic because, as a result of the pandemic, we’re staying home and using Wi-Fi (to our cable modem) most of the time. Our use of wireless Internet bandwidth is less, not more!

  2. Same here. I used most of my mobile data when commuting to/from work. Now that I’m at home all the time, all my iPhone data essentially goes over my home wifi. I suspect my Gigabit fiber at home is seeing quite the bandwidth increase. I have no real data though because I believe I cannot actually monitor that anywhere. The contract is unlimited anyway.

  3. I wonder why the article only talks about hotspot data?

    I have a grandfathered t-mobile prepay account (5 GB before it throttles), and I was surprised when they extended their 60 day unlimited non-hotspot LTE data to me a few days after they announced it for regular accounts. It’s been really useful for work, since I have slow DSL at home.

    I was able to download a couple of virtual machines for testing that would have taken about a week each on my DSL, and apple combo updates for my test setups,. It’s a little awkward since I have to download to the phone then transfer to the mac, but compared to not being able to do it at all, it’s been great. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to upload big things, so the bootable Catalina installer image I set up for someone never got there. Uploads start out ok, but within a few minutes they throttle to slower than my DSL, then fail completely.

    The extra data runs out in a couple of days, and I haven’t heard anything about an extension.

  4. The whole hotspot data as a separate charge or limit seems to be solely a US phenomenon. Crazy. One of the interesting things during our lockdown has been the discovery that a lot of my colleagues have no phone lines at home. Just cellular data. They stream their Netflix and Zooms etc via their phones as hotspots.

    We have unlimited data on all our mobiles in this house with varying levels of phone/texts but never considered this. The potential speeds on fibre are much higher.

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