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When I search Google, I'm getting a lot of articles dated around 2012 about LTE not working in Europe. I don't think that's the situation anymore, but I'm not well-versed in phone technology (e.g. CDMA vs. GSM, if that's even relevant here) and having trouble with the research.

I'm looking to be able to connect my laptop to a 4G LTE or similar network, with full coverage anywhere in Berlin and other major cities, reasonable coverage elsewhere, for a reasonable price. I think my options are basically

  • to use a mobile hotspot option through my current provider, Verizon, whether via phone or via Jetpack, with a global data plan, or
  • to use a mobile hotspot option through a German provider, but given a stay of 1 month, how do I get around device contracts (if things are set up similarly in Germany)? Can I simply provide my own device and pay for a plan for 1 month?

Is one of these ways clearly more cost-effective? I anticipate I'd use somewhere between 800 and 1600 MB of data over a month, depending on how easily I can find free WiFi.

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    Hi Andrew. It is extremely common in Germany to just buy a SIM card with no strings attached and plug it into your brought-along device. Overall cost may be like 20-30 US Dollars. However, it is important to check in advance if your device is working in Germany. Can you check if a) you have a device that works with SIM cards (so that you can plug in a German one), and b) which frequencies it supports? The US has different LTE frequencies than Europe. – DCTLib Jun 12 '15 at 8:52
  • As DCTLib says. Last time I visited Germany for a week, I picked up a PAYG (non-contract) SIM at the nearest supermarket/grocery store and used it in my unlocked phone. These days you could probably buy a cheap unlocked Android phone for $30 or so in Germany if your existing phone isn't suitable. – RedGrittyBrick Jun 12 '15 at 15:34
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According to the Verizon Trip Planer they don't offer LTE roaming to Germany for all devices I checked. You can use that tool to look up coverage and plans based on your devices.

Even if this were working, the plans seem more expensive than what you can get in Germany. All networks now provide LTE coverage but you need an unlocked device which works with the German frequencies (this data can be looked up if searching for the device's data sheet – most LTE devices sold in recent years should work). The frequencies are 800 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, and 2600 MHz but not all networks use all of those frequencies everywhere. Alternatively you can get a cheap LTE data stick for your laptop in Germany when getting a plan.

You can check coverage for the networks on their maps (order based on my personal experience from best to worst):

  • Telekom
  • Vodafone
  • O2
  • E-Plus – doesn't have an LTE coverage map but it's the newest and smallest LTE network

The last two just started to combine their UMTS networks but you can't use the other's LTE network.

Those networks also offer their data services through a variety of resellers. However, almost all specifically exclude LTE.

Only prepaid services seem reasonable for your use case. The only such service that offers LTE I know of is Vodafone CallYa.

Also all E-Plus prepaid plans include LTE up until the end of the year. Some of the more popular are

For some but not all customers (including me) LTE works at Congstar (Telekom network).

You should be able to get those Prepaid SIM cards in some German shops but the availability differs depending on the specific offer. This is easier than getting them via postal service.

Those are all real LTE services. I think in the US they market HSPA+ (with up to 42 MBit/s down) also as LTE. That is much more readily available in Germany but I have not much knowledge about that.

  • Most devices sold by Verizon don't have the right LTE bands for Europe. (Apple devices being the big exception.) So you'd need a new device anyway. And Verizon is the most expensive US mobile provider, mainly because they have much better coverage especially in rural areas. – Michael Hampton Jun 13 '15 at 1:15

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