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Tuesday, 09 March 2010

Portable WiFi: Internet Access On The Go

Many of our readers are always on the go, making 3G or 4G mobile broadband a great fit for their internet needs. For those that require mobile internet connectivity for more than just a single computer or device, we often hear questions about how to get truly portable WiFi. With a mobile hotspot, you can access the internet almost anywhere you go, just as long as there is a cellular signal. Unlike a 3G or 4G device that is directly connected to your computer, with a mobile broadband WiFi hotspot several people can get online to check their email, watch YouTube videos, checking social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, or even have a video chat conference - all at the same time! The possibilities are endless. Whether you're an average consumer who wants to entertain yourself and the family while traveling or a business professional who must be able to stay in contact with clients at all times, a portable mobile broadband WiFi hotspot will allow you to keep all your devices online anywhere you go.

The most popular options for portable WiFi are the Novatel MiFi (Verizon or Sprint 3G) and Sierra Overdrive (Sprint 3G/4G), as these devices contain both the modem and wireless router capabilities in one ultra portable device, but these are not the only options! Read on to compare the various options for portable WiFi:

Sierra 3G/4G Overdrive:


The Sierra Overdrive is an all-in-one 3G/4G mobile hotspot available from Sprint. It's the first 3G/4G hotspot available and provides mobile broadband connectivity to up to 5 users via WiFi.

Carriers Supported: Sprint

3G/4G Compatibility: Works with Sprint 3G & 4G Networks

WiFi Range: up to 150 feet (maximum of five simultaneous WiFi connections [Pepwave Surf Mini can be used if you need to connect more than 5 users])

Battery Life: About 3 hours depending on usage (an external battery is also available for more battery time)

Pro's: Convenient; affordable; 3G & 4G capabilities; LCD screen that shows battery meter, signal strength, 3G/4G network connectivity and more; audible indicators for various alerts; MicroSD card for shared network storage; "rubber feet" on the bottom of the unit that keep the unit from sliding around on your vehicle's dashboard, etc.

Con's: Locked to Sprint; no ethernet port for hard-wired connections (add the Pepwave Surf Mini for ethernet capability); no antenna port for connecting an antenna directly to the device to improve signal strength (if you need to improve signal strength you will need to use a wireless repeater system like the Wilson Ceulluar SignalBoost with Cradle, but these will only boost the 3G signal - there are no signal-boosting products currently available for boosting the 4G signal).

Read more about the Sierra Overdrive 3G/4G Hotspot


Novatel MiFi 2200:


The Novatel MiFi 2200 is an all-in-one 3G mobile hotspot available from Sprint or Verizon. It's the tiniest option available and provides mobile broadband connectivity to up to 5 users via WiFi.

Carriers Supported: Sprint, Verizon

3G/4G Compatibility: Works with Sprint or Verizon 3G Only

WiFi Range: Up to 30 feet (maximum of five simultaneous WiFi connections [Pepwave Surf Mini can be used if you need to connect more than 5 users])

Battery Life: 2-4 hours depending on usage (an external battery is also available for more battery time)

Pro's: Convenient, affordable, very tiny/portable

Con's: Limited WiFi range (add the Pepwave Surf Mini for extra range); locked to Sprint or Verizon; no ethernet port for hard-wired connections (add the Pepwave Surf Mini for ethernet capability); no antenna port for connecting an antenna directly to the device to improve signal strength (if you need to improve signal strength you will need to use a wireless repeater system like the Wilson Ceulluar SignalBoost with Cradle).

Read more about the MiFi 2200 Hotspot


PHS300 + 3G or 3G/4G Aircard:



The PHS300 is a portable mobile broadband router with a 2-3 hour rechargeable battery that allows you to connect your 3G or 4G aircard for internet access. We recommend using the Sprint 598U if you only need 3G and would like to be able to use an antenna to improve signal quality. If you are looking to use Sprint's 4G service, then the Sprint U301 3G/4G Hybrid card is also a good choice, as it will allow you to have the fastest mobile broadband available anywhere you go using your PHS300 router.

Carriers Supported: Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, Alltel, CLEAR, and more (see PHS300 Device Chart for supported carriers and devices).

3G/4G Compatibility: Works with 3G and 4G modems from many carriers (see above)

WiFi Range: 30-80ft through walls, much greater unobstructed.

Battery Life: 2-3 Hours. 3Gstore.com sells additional PHS300 Internal Replacement Batteries and external battery packs for more battery life.

Pro's: The freedom of being able to switch carriers if needed; works with 3G and 4G aircards from a huge variety of carriers (and Cradlepoint releases firmware updates often that allow it to be used with even more devices).

Con's: Not quite as small as the MiFi or Overdrive; no ethernet port for hard-wired connections (add the Pepwave Surf Mini for ethernet capability).

Read more about the PHS300 Router


Other Cradlepoint Router + External Battery Pack + 3G or 3G/4G Aircard:



If you need more advanced features on the go, such as the ability to use multiple data cards from different carriers (AKA load balancing), ethernet connectivity, or more WiFi range, you can use another Cradlepoint router with an external battery pack to provide up to 16 hours of portable WiFi. Not sure which Cradlepoint router would be best for your application? Compare them here: Which Router Is Best For Me? For more information on the available battery packs, check out this article: Tekkeon Battery Packs For Cradlepoint Routers Comparison.

Carriers Supported: Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, Alltel, CLEAR, and more (see Router Compatibility Chart for supported carriers and devices).

3G/4G Compatibility: CTR350 is 3G only; others support both 3G and 4G

WiFi Range: Varies depending on model. CTR350 & CTR500 = 50-80 ft. MBR900/MBR1000/MBR1200 = 100-200ft.

Battery Life: Varies depending on model of router and external battery pack. For more information see external battery pack information.

Pro's: The freedom of being able to switch carriers if needed; works with 3G and 4G aircards from a huge variety of carriers (and Cradlepoint releases firmware updates often that allow the routers to be used with even more devices); ethernet connectivity; maximum battery life; good WiFi range.

Con's: Not an all-in-one solution; more bulky components.


Not sure which portable WiFi option is best for you? Contact the mobile broadband experts at 3Gstore to discuss your needs! 


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 10 March 2010 )
 
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