Where To Buy A Mobile Hotspot
I'm that 5G guy. I've actually been here for every "G." I've reviewed well over a thousand products during 18 years working full-time at PCMag.com, including every generation of the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S. I also write a weekly newsletter, Fully Mobilized, where I obsess about phones and networks.
where to buy a mobile hotspot
Hotspots can connect more than just laptops to the web. They also work with a tablet, a camera, and pretty much any other Wi-Fi-enabled device. They support more devices at one time than your phone's hotspot mode, don't drain your phone's battery, and can hook up with the better antennas from your phone. Your company might even cover its service plan.
Along with the three major carriers, you can get hotspots from Boost (T-Mobile), Cricket (AT&T), H2O (AT&T), Karma (T-Mobile), Metro (T-Mobile), Net10 (Verizon), and Simple Mobile (T-Mobile), along with other minor players.
Hotspot plans change all the time. On AT&T and Verizon, your best bet is to add your hotspot line to your existing carrier's phone plan, as a separate line. That gets you the most data for your dollar. If you add a hotspot onto an "unlimited" phone plan, you get up to 50GB of high-speed data with Verizon, up to 40GB of data with AT&T, and 40GB with T-Mobile. After that, the carriers deprioritize your data or throttle it unpredictably. (T-Mobile's Magenta Max plan says it has truly unlimited data, but it isn't designed for use on dedicated hotspot devices and so you may get cut off unexpectedly.) You can find more details on the carriers' constantly changing hotspot plans at RVMobileInternet.com(Opens in a new window).
The median US home broadband subscriber uses more than 355GB of data per month(Opens in a new window), mostly because of video streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix. All of those Zoom calls for work and school are likely to eat up a data cap quickly, as well. So, if your needs don't involve video or music streaming, a wireless hotspot may be a viable alternative for your home. But if they do, you are going to quickly run up against those data bucket limits.
There is such a thing as wireless home internet, however, and it's differently from hotspots. It relies on larger, less portable routers that generally stay in one location. Recent wireless-internet plans are more likely to have truly unlimited data than hotspot plans. AT&T(Opens in a new window), T-Mobile, and Verizon(Opens in a new window) all sell wireless home internet in various parts of the country, along with a wide range of smaller, local wireless internet service providers (WISPs).
The three big carriers have been frantically upgrading their networks recently, and in many cases, network capabilities have now outstripped the quality of older hotspots running on them. That means recent phones will get better speeds than older hotspots do.
Quality 5G hotspots such as the Verizon Orbic Speed 5G UW Mobile Hotspot and Netgear M5 use the Qualcomm X55 modem. That's two generations behind the latest phones, but it's the best you can get right now.
The best 4G hotspots, including the MiFi 8000 and MiFi 8800L, use the Qualcomm X20 or X24 modems. Other hotspots out there, including everything the virtual carriers currently sell, use three- or four-year-old modems that have lower speeds and worse signal strength than the best new phones. That means you may get 5Mbps to 10Mbps whereas your phone gets 25Mbps to 30Mbps, for instance.
Many high-quality hotspots have TS9 external antenna ports to help you improve your signal using inexpensive antennas you can purchase online. TS9 is a standard, and these antennas cost much less than a cellular signal booster does. Unfortunately, 5G hotspots that support millimeter-wave generally don't have external antenna ports.
Make sure your hotspot supports 5GHz Wi-Fi, which is typically faster and less congested than 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. Some hotspots also support guest networks and access controls, such as MAC filtering and time-based access controls. Those features are on pretty much all dedicated routers nowadays, but you can't take them for granted on mobile hotspots.
You can use hotspots with big batteries as power banks to charge your phone or hotspots with microSD card slots as tiny servers to share media over Wi-Fi. That said, we've never found a real use for that media server functionality.
We really like the displays on the front of many current hotspots. They often report the strength of your signal, your hotspot's name, data usage statistics, and the network password right on the device.
If you decide to make the jump, hotspots and cellular modems aren't the only options. Smartphones have a Wi-Fi hotspot mode, and if you have a 5G phone, you might get better performance in that mode than you would with a 4G hotspot. That said, phones support fewer devices at once, have fewer network management features, and can run out of battery quite quickly.
One of the only good unlocked hotspots with international bands available in the US is the Netgear M5, but it's quite expensive. If you plan to buy a local SIM to take advantage of much lower local data rates, you may want to buy a cheap Android phone abroad and use it as a hotspot, instead.
The Inseego MiFi X Pro 5G is pretty high-powered mobile spot for T-Mobile that supports 5G and Wi-Fi 6. It has a 2.4-inch touch display with an intuitive interface and a built-in 5,050mAH rechargable battery that should last you at least several hours of connectivity. It can connect up to 32 devices.
The Franklin T10 is a great budget-friendly hotspot for T-Mobile subscribers. It has a pretty easy-to-navigate touchscreen display, a solid battery life (thanks to a built-in 3,000mAh battery ), and it's capable of connecting up to 15 devices at once. The caveat is that it's not as powerful or fast as other more expensive options. It also maxes out at 4G connectivity and support for Wi-Fi 5.
Wireless broadband connection isn't cheap. It'll cost you a lot more per megabyte than standard DSL or cable. However, when you're traveling to foreign places, away from the people you know, Internet becomes vital - like air, and finding a reliable and affordable mobile data provider can make all the difference in the world.
Plans vary from $24 per GB of high-speed mobile data valid for a full year with Keepgo, to $120 (or more) for that same 1GB valid for thirty days with AT&T. Of course you could purchase a local SIM card but that's rarely a good deal because 9 out of 10 times your data will expire after about 2 weeks and you will get to use only a small percentage of your allocated balance. So if you travel more than 2-3 times a year, local SIM cards are not for you.
Before you pick a mobile modem, think about how many devices you need to connect. Is high speed imperative? What could be potential interference? What about the easy of setup, limits, duration of use, coverage, hardware flexibility?
USB sticks provide the fastest connection and are much more portable than WiFi hotspots. They go perfectly with a single notebook. Generally, they require you to download special drivers and connection software onto your PC for the USB stick to work. However, USB sticks lost their popularity so, we will focus on WiFi hotspots.
The majority of the "palm-sized" mobile hotspots can only provide only a few WiFi connections simultaneously. The MiFi, for instance, only allows five connections, while Keepgo WiFi hotspot can easily maintain up to 15 connections. The smallest and the most lightweight WiFi hotspot delivers high speed 4G Internet connection in 100+ countries, without throttling down internet speed or filtering traffic.
Some gadgets roam, and some don't. Some of them can offer only one speed, others can provide two speeds. A device with one speed can only use what the device supports, while the dual-speed mobile hotspots will utilize the fastest connection speed available from the cell site. But, if a certain device supports only high speed - what is sometimes known as "4G" - and you've got no high-speed cell sites around, then there will simply be no connection.
One downside of mobile hotspots is the absence of an Ethernet port. An Ethernet port for a wired connection can save you a lot of nerve and frustration when you've got interference to the WiFi and hardware incompatibility between your WiFi devices.
If you decide to go down that road, cellular modems and mobile hotspots are not the only available choices. Most modern smartphones have "wireless hotspot" modes that enable connection to other mobile devices via WiFi. The majority of high-end wireless data plans today allow using hotspots, but, if you're taking a trip abroad and have your smartphone locked to the carrier, then tethering on your "home" data plan will cost you a pretty penny.
Generally, tethering from your phone is a great solution for occasional use, but since it tends to deplete you phone battery, it is not an ideal solution. Most phones can connect up to five gadgets, while hotspots can link up as many as fifteen, and they provide better support for VPN and port forwarding.
It is important to use your mobile data wisely when browsing the Internet via mobile hotspot. Avoid streaming videos when you can. Video requires so much traffic that it will rapidly eat up your mobile data and leave you with no service or unexpected expense. If the speed is too slow, try using compression software with your browser. If you want to further improve the speed and preserve your data, switch off graphics in your browser (if you don't need them, of course).
Mobile hotspots are great in terms of security. Generally they are much more secure than public WiFi connection. These days, many travelers opt for personal mobile hotspot devices, occasionally at slower speeds, but less vulnerable to the outside thread. Turning encryption on will keep the leaches at bay. 041b061a72