Our first starter guide will be about U.S. data. This will include everything from modems that I have personally tested and experienced, to data plan breakdowns. However, keep in mind that U.S. carriers like to switch available data plans (both contract and prepaid) annually most of the time. Sometimes, you could remain on them if you are grandfathered into retired plans, but when this has happened, I experienced performance issues and was forced to upgrade.
Disclaimer: Not all modems will be compatible with every data plan. The specific and stringent combinations I employ should prove effective for your use. My selections are not the exclusive ones that could work; there may exist approximately 100 distinct combinations of data plans and modems. However, the ones I have opted to adhere to have demonstrated their effectiveness throughout 2023. This post primarily caters to residents rather than tourists. Tourists, if you are in contact with U.S.-based IRL streamers and feel at ease, consider reaching out to them to inquire about obtaining a SIM card for your usage during your visit to the U.S. Trust me, this will result in substantial savings on data expenses. Tourists have limited options, mainly revolving around prepaid data plans. Plan ahead for this, as SIM cards generally take about 5-7 business days on average to arrive at your destination.
For the entirety of 2023, I have been using only 2 connections in the US. For most situations requiring urban live streaming, 2 connections are sufficient, except during events like conventions. If you need to live stream in a convention, I highly recommend having 4 connections.
I originally used AT&T Unlimited Prepaid ($50/mo. with autopay) for 2022, but I began experiencing issues for which I had only 2 options to attempt. I could either cancel the prepaid plan and create a brand new customer account with AT&T Prepaid, or I could upgrade it to a contract data plan. Even by canceling the AT&T prepaid plan and starting a new account, there was still a chance that the problems would persist (not working). To minimize the risk of failure, I decided to switch to the contract data plan, which would also elevate my priority higher than that of a prepaid plan anyway.
Avoid modems using 3G and 4G to reduce issues. Use modems with 5G support. Even though I use USB MC800 which I do not see as 5G supported, they are currently one of the best for USB dongle modems at the price point. Eventually they will not work due to constant changes in the mobile market.
When activating any non-hotspot plan sims you will need an unlocked smartphone in most cases, and it must be a modern phone (last 2-3 years) in order to activate on visible and AT&T’s network and then to work on your hotspot modem.
Prepaid vs. Contract
U.S. IRL streamers should stick to using unlimited data plans. It’s advisable to steer clear of “Hotspot Data” whenever possible, as it tends to be excessively priced. The disparities between prepaid and contract plans essentially revolve around priority levels for data usage. Prepaid plans generally occupy the lower end of the priority spectrum, while contract plans offer multiple tiers of priority, contingent on the specific contract data plan you opt for.
“Premium” data plans or business data plans typically enjoy the highest priority, which you should consider using if feasible in order to enhance your priority status. However, this isn’t imperative unless you find yourself streaming from congested cell towers.
Avoid Wireless Internet
When you believe that wireless internet would simplify matters, it often doesn’t. If you genuinely require wireless internet, consider it as a final resort, an emergency solution, or your fourth and last connection option. At present, I utilize my M2000 and USB MC800 connected through USB cables to my Belabox. This setup allows me to maintain my standard capped bitrate (6500-7000). When opting to use wireless as the only 1 or secondary internet connection you are introducing more possibilities of instability with your bitrate. Of course it varies on many factors such as the physical environment around you, but as well wireless / frequency traffic can likely cause interference. To reduce instability from this, it is best to stay wired as much as humanly possible.
Future guides you should keep in mind is my COMPLETE DATA GUIDE. This will include a complete setup guide on Inseego M2000 and Inseego USB MC800.
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