While we’re still waiting on an official announcement, there’s enough information out there now to describe Microsoft’s plans to provide SIM cards and as-you-go cellular data plans to Windows 10 users.
“We want to promote the adoption of cellular connectivity on Windows tablets and laptops to complement classic Wi-Fi connectivity and make it easier for consumers to connect to the internet, anywhere, anytime,” Microsoft corporate VP Eric Lockard says. “The Transatel SIM 901 solution helps us reach this objective in multiple markets through a single interface. In just a few clicks, consumers will be able to easily buy pre-paid data plans on supported Windows 10 devices.”
Here’s what we know so far.
It’s for Windows 10 PCs only. Thanks to a new Cellular Data app—a companion, of sorts, to the Microsoft Wi-Fi app–for Windows 10 PCs (including tablets, but not phones) will be able to find and connect to Microsoft-branded cellular data networks.
It will require a Microsoft SIM card. Microsoft is partnering with a firm called Transatel to provide its customers with a Microsoft-branded SIM card that will be required for this service. Transatel is a “mobile virtual network enabler and aggregator,” meaning that it allows companies like Microsoft to act as MVNOs. It is therefore a reseller of bandwidth, a middleman between Microsoft and the actual wireless carriers.’
Your PC needs a SIM slot. I assume this is obvious, but your PC needs to have a SIM slot for this to work. Most PCs do not have this feature.
There are pre-paid plans, but no commitments. According to a FAQ document that accompanies the Cellular Data app, there are no long-term contracts. Instead, Microsoft will offer prepaid plans with no contracts or recurring charges. You make a a one-time purchase for the amount of data and time that’s specified for the plan. (Your paid cellular data plan starts right after you buy it. It ends when you’ve used the amount of data you bought or when the specified amount of time expires—whichever comes first, Microsoft says.)
It’s seamless. The best bit, in a way, is how easy this is, and it will work exactly like it does for the Microsoft Wi-Fi app: “You pay for cellular data using the same payment information you use to buy apps in Windows Store. There’s no need to dig out your wallet or enter your credit card information on a website.”
It is limited to just three countries at first. Cellular data plans will be available in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States only at first.
You cannot roam. As the FAQ notes, the cellular data plan is valid in the country where you bought it. The plan doesn’t have roaming, so it won’t work if you travel to another country and try to use it there.
Connection speeds up to LTE. Obviously, your connection speed will vary by provider and location. “You might get 3G or 4G connection speeds,” Microsoft says.
There are still so many questions, of course. I hope to see an official Microsoft announcement soon, but I suppose we could wait as long as Mobile World Congress, which starts in late February.