Can I use a prepaid SIM for data-only in a MiFi device

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I'm visiting Canada (AB & BC) for just over 2 weeks in June and want to avoid roaming charges on my UK iPhone. I've bought an unlocked TP-Link 4G MiFi device and am searching for the best provider to give most data coverage (3G/4G) in the mountains (we're driving from Calgary to Vancouver, the scenic route). I saw Koodo recommended on Tripadvisor and am wondering whether a prepaid Koodo SIM with data add-on would be the right option. I don't really need voice on this SIM as it won't be in a phone but am willing to pay some relatively small base charge for voice if I have to, in order to get a decent (eg. 1Gb) data allowance.

I may also get a card for an old Nokia phone so that we can make calls to reserve campsite spots. That would be voice-only. I presume that's straightforward enough, but we'd need to pay for a second SIM on this case.

Suggestions welcome. Thanks in anticipation. 

Jez
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Jeremy Donaldson

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Posted 2 years ago

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Chad Burr, Mobile Master

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You can't use koodo Sims on data only devices just yet but if your Nokia has the hotspot (Internet sharing), option, just use that instead of the mifi
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Chad Burr, Mobile Master

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Wow, learn something new daily.

Does your hotspot allow text messages to show on the display or something similar?
(Edited)
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Jeremy Donaldson

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Chad - I think I understand the issue, which is that you can't interact with (and setup) the service by text if you can't see the texts. I have a 4G router at home and it allows you to do this via a web page on its own internal web-based admin site, a bit like configuring your home broadband router.
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Chad Burr, Mobile Master

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So. I have zero clue how to configure a wifi hotspot Device since I've never used one.
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Jeremy Donaldson

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Pretty similar to a broadband router :)
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Ivan, Mobile Master

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I can read texts sent to number via app or by logging into the router gateway. The device shows a symbol when there are unread texts.
(Edited)
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Robert, Mobile Master

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Also, in order to buy prepaid you would need a base plan that includes texting. So basically it's base plan + data add on.
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Chad Burr, Mobile Master

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So basically you could achieve everything you want with a single phone and sim.
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Jeremy Donaldson

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Thanks. The Nokia is quite old and a very simple model (not a smartphone) without hotspot features so I can't see a way to combine the two at the moment. Am I missing something or is there a contradiction between Chad's and Ivan's replies? It looks like Ivan has this working in the way I would like to.
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BTW, which network(s) do Koodo SIMs work on? I hear Bell/Telus use the same infrastructure and have the best coverage in the mountains. It looks like Ivan's SIM is on Telus.
(Edited)
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Chad Burr, Mobile Master

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On non koodo unlocked devices the network may show as telus instead of koodo.
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Ivan, Mobile Master

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My SIM is Koodo. When I had a Fido SIM in the device, it showed Rogers (their parent company).
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rikkster, Mobile Master

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I would check the specifications for this device, Jeremy. If it's the LTE-Advanced Mobile Wi-Fi M7350, M7310 or M7300 model(s), the frequencies listed on the manufacturers spec sheet are not compatible with Koodo's frequencies. For LTE, Koodo uses 1700/2100 MHz or Band 4. 3G - 850/1900 MHz or Bands 5 and 2 respectively. Koodo does not operate a 2G GSM network. Which model do you have?

7350
http://www.tp-link.com/en/products/de...

7310
http://www.tp-link.com/en/products/de...

7300
http://www.tp-link.com/en/products/de...
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Chad Burr, Mobile Master

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Koodo uses band 4 which includes two bands so if you are only showing the the one frequency then your device doesn't have Band 4. So it wouldn't be compatible.

From the website, it would appear this device isn't compatiable at all.

(Edited)
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rikkster, Mobile Master

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I searched on TP Links' Canadian website and I get the same frequency specs for the M7350. Do you have a link to where it mentions the device is compatible with Koodo?
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I don't. Why would it need both bands in Band 4? Couldn't it just operate on either?

I'd be surprised if the #1 selling MiFi device on Amazon didn't operate on most networks...
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rikkster, Mobile Master

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It would depend on which Amazon site you were looking at. My guess is that you were viewing the device on Amazon UK. I couldn't find the device on Amazon Canada.

No. 1700 MHz is Band 4. Within the band, there are uplink and downlink frequencies sometimes written as 1700/2100 MHz. 1700 MHz being the uplink and 2100 MHz the downlink. The fact that Band 4 or 1700 MHz is absent from the device frequency listing, means that the device will not be able to access Koodo's LTE network. The device appears to be designed for operation in European and possibly Asian markets.
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Jeremy Donaldson

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Thanks. I've mailed their UK support to inquire about this. There is no regional compatibility information on the box but the spec sheet does say "Model and hardware version availability varies by region. Please refer to your TP-LINK regional website to determine product availability" so it seems they assume you always buy the device in the country in which you want to use it, which seems a little presumptuous. 
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OK so it sounds like a Koodo SIM would work for me. Question: if I don't go for the Canada-wide base plan, which region is covered? And does that apply only to voice calls anyway?
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David, Mobile Master

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Local voice calls in the geographic area surrounding your assigned phone number prefix, Canada-wide texting, Canada-wide data.

With the exception of the National Parks, where coverage is largely available only in and around the townsites, Koodo coverage is pretty solid on both Highway 1 and Highway 3.

Is it not possible to unlock your iPhone to insert a local SIM?
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Thanks. I've had my iPhone unlocked and was thinking of this approach but then calls and texts from the UK to my usual number won't get through. Also there are two of us with a UK iPhone so I was hoping to share the MiFi device for Internet access using one local SIM.

Maybe Koodo isn't right for me then. Sigh. Back to square one.
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This is an awesomely responsive forum BTW!! :D
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Update on this - I've had a reply from TP-Link confirming that the M7350 won't work well (at all?) on 4G in Canada, but they say it should work fine on 3G.

3G: DC-HSPA+/HSPA/UMTS B1/B8 (2100/900MHz)

In reality, how much 4G coverage are we likely to get outside of the main cities? Would 3G generally be the best available anyway?

In the UK I can often get 10Mb/sec on 3G. Would that be the case in Canada?
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Chad Burr, Mobile Master

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But not with koodo. Koodo uses 850/1900 in the 3G band. I'm not sure who would use those frequencies in Canada
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Ivan, Mobile Master

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Nobody in Canada uses 900/2100. My UK Vodafone hotspot works here because it has 3G 850/900/2100.
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Ivan - why do you need all 3 frequencies? The M7350 says it works on 850MHz, although that's listed under EDGE/GPRS/GSM then lists 900 and 2100 under DC-HSPA+ (3G I believe). So is it really different?
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Goran, Mobile Master

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Yes it is really different. The technologies are different with each network type and not (backwards) compatible with one another. If a frequency is set for use on one network standard but not another, it just will not work because that's how the device was built. Only Rogers in Canada has a 2G(edge/gprs/gsm) network which is practically unusable for data in 2016 outside of messaging and GPS. So you could potentially use it on Rogers but no other network. That's the other reason it won't work even if it didn’t matter with Koodo because the 3G/4G (HSPA+) frequencies are not compatible.
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Thanks - yes I kinda figured that out after I'd sent my last reply. OK, I think this device is dead in the water for me. I'll send it back and think again.
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The device will not work at all on 3G. Koodo, which is a subsidiary of TELUS, operates on UMTS/HSPA frequencies of 850/1900 MHz, or B5/B2. The same can be said for Bell and Rogers which are Canada's other predominant carriers.

Carriers in Canada proclaim that 97% of the 'population' has wireless coverage. In terms of geographic coverage, current digital network coverage is close to 1.3 million square kilometres, representing about 14% of Canada’s total land area. These figures are from an older report, the numbers have probably increased marginally from 2006 to present day. The point is that Canada is a massive country and does not have 100% wireless coverage, geographically.

10 MB/s equals 80 Mbps is pretty good. Most speed tests I've seen for Koodo 3G are somewhere around 22 Mbps or 2.75 MB/s. Location, type of phone or device used and cell coverage are all factors that may enhance or degrade performance.
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Rikkster - thanks. I meant 10Mb/s not 10MB/sec (sadly!). Looks like I need to send the device back to Amazon and reconsider my options...
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Like this? Goran? Sounds like a good idea, although I guess the signal reception may not be quite as good as a dedicated MiFi device. But for us it could solve the problem and also give us a phone we could call and make RV site bookings on...

http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-CA/product/motorola-telus-motorola-moto-e-8gb-black-prepaid-moto-e/10383277...
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Goran, Mobile Master

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A yes that is the one. It should do fine for signal reception still. Motorola products in general are very good for reception. Yes you could then make phone calls as well and you'd have a convenient backup phone should whatever you currently use breakdown. Motorola unlock codes can be bought for 3-5CAD as well off of eBay. Motorola also just released android 6.0.1 for it as well so it'll be quite usable for a long time.
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Awesome! So all I need with this is a Koodo pre-paid SIM with the requisite data bolt-on, presumably?

Is there a Canadian retailer I could get them both from at the same time?

I could, I guess, order online for delivery to my starting location (a Calgary hotel) on the day we arrive, although that's a little risky...
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Goran, Mobile Master

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You can go to the nearest Bestbuy location and you can get both done quickly. They also set up mobile services in their store locations, should you be concerned about shipping to a hotel.
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Ivan, Mobile Master

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It depends which signal you're talking about. A dedicated hotspot device will usually create a better local network for multiple connections (but if you're only using two phones, I doubt that this will affect you). But there's no reason for it to have a better cellular antenna than a phone.
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rikkster, Mobile Master

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The specs for the ZTE MF60 show 3G (UMTS) frequencies of 900/2100 MHz (Dual Band). I did find a model from Huawei: Huawei E5776s-32

http://www.store4g.com/huawei-e5776/

Network specs:

4G LTE CAT 4 FDD 800/900/1800/2100/2600 MHz (LTE B1 B3 B7 B8 B20)
3G HSDPA/HSUPA/UMTS/WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100 MHz (WCDMA B1 B2 B5 B8)
2G GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz

3G mode only and it doesn't mention whether the device is unlocked. I could not find a similar device that offered 4G that would work here in Canada. The Huawei is rather pricey. I agree with others that a cheap prepaid phone might be the better alternative. The Moto E would work and would allow you to set up a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, which would then allow you to share data across other devices.

https://motorola-global-portal.custhe...
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Ivan, Mobile Master

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http://www.amazon.com/ZTE-MF60-Hotspot-worldwide-T-Mobile/dp/B005IDLYK4

Quad band. They do call it "Global Mobile Hotspot."
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Also, if you are planning to use your phone as a GPS, I recommend installing a mapping application with maps on the phone, rather than Apple or Google Maps which rely on cellular downloads of maps. I use Copilot Live, and others on this forum have recommended Here Maps in the past.
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Ivan, Mobile Master

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Second for here. Can't beat free + offline.
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Yes, I have Copilot for the same reason, although I had to download all 2Gb of North America maps just to get 2 Canadian states... someone else recommended Pocket Earth (about GBP 4) which I've now downloaded onto my UK iPhone and iPad Mini including maps for AB and BC, which looks promising. I'm just figuring out how to use it.
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Here maps will let you download just BC + AB.
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Copilot allows me to download a 327 MB Canada maps file.
(Edited)

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