4G Mobile Hotspots

Category: Mobile , Networking

What exactly is a 4G mobile hotspot? I have a 4G phone and a wireless router at home. Am I correct in thinking that this device would somehow enable me to take my wireless internet connection with me when I leave the house?

How to Create a Wifi Hotspot Almost Anywhere

A mobile hotspot is simply a cellular data modem that is combined with a wireless router in a small, battery-powered device that fits in your pocket. Think of your home WiFi router and all the conveniences it enables. Now think of taking it with you on the road and using it wherever you can get cellular reception, even while you are in motion! With a 4G mobile hotspot device, you can exactly that.

Today, mobile hotspots support up to five simultaneously connected devices: laptops, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, printers, cameras, game consoles, or anything else that contains a WiFi adapter. The broadband speeds of 3G and 4G cellular data services enable multiple devices to communicate over the Internet simultaneously at useful speeds.

All of the Big 4 service providers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint) now offer 4G mobile hotspots. Here is a quick guide to the strongest points of each mobile hotspot.
4G Mobile Hotspot

For the fastest download speed in the most areas, the Samsung SCH-LC11 Mobile Hotspot on Verizon 4G LTE is the way to go. This combination hits an incredible 12 Mbps in many service areas. 3G download speeds, by comparison, average about 700 Kbps. Verizon's 4G LTE network is the fastest and most advanced in the United States right now; some say 4G LTE is the only "true" 4G technology available at this time. See my article Should You Buy a 4G Phone? for some details on how various carriers are muddying the "4G" waters.

The monthly cost of a data plan is a big factor with many users, especially now that unlimited data plans are a thing of the past. The cheapest 4G data plan currently available comes from T-Mobile: $30 per month for a measly 200 MB of data, or $40 per month for 2 GB. These plans include the T-Mobile ZTE-MF61 mobile hotspot device. Unless your data needs are really minimal, these cut-rate plans may disappoint you.

Caps and Coverages

When you hit your monthly cap, T-Mobile will throttle back your download speed to a crawl. Verizon and AT&T offer mid-range data plans of about $50 per month for up to 5 GB, plus $10 for every gigabyte or fraction thereof that you go over your plan each month. Sprint recently eliminated unlimited data plans for new customers. Now its 3G/4G data plans for mobile hotspots start at 6 GB for $50 per month, plus $0.05 per MB for overages.

Data coverage is a big issue with travelers, especially business users. 4G coverage is still rapidly changing, so it's impossible to say which carrier has the "best" 4G coverage. However, AT&T's 3G network is very comprehensive, and its MiFi 2372 mobile hotspot supports both 3G and 4G. So with tthis combo you can get 4G where it's available and be sure of at least 3G coverage nearly everywhere else.

One alternative to purchasing a 4G mobile hotspot device is to use a smartphone that has the mobile hotspot feature. Most newer Android-based phones have this feature. Verizon offers several 4G LTE smartphones that can create mobile hotspots, including the Droid Bionic, Motorola RAZR, and Samsung Charge. AT&T customers can do so with an HTC Inspire 4G or Motorola Atrix. Currently, there are no iPhones that offer 4G data connections. Despite any confusion caused by the name, neither the iPhone 4 or 4s models are 4G capable.

You might think that since you already pay for a cellular signal and 4G data plan, that you should be able to turn on your mobile hotspot at no additional charge. After all, you're just converting your cellular signal into a wifi signal and sharing it with other devices in your immediate vicinity. But that's not the case. Even if the additional data usage that happens over the shared wifi is within the limits of your plan, the mobile carriers will charge you between $20 and $30 per month to use this feature.

Whether you opt for the standalone mobile hotspot gadget, or use your smartphone, a 4G mobile hotspot is ideal for traveling families or business people who meet in places that lack WiFi, such as the floor of a trade show.

Do you use a mobile hotspot? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "4G Mobile Hotspots"

Posted by:

arthur
18 Nov 2011

I decided to get a 3g/4g data plan (no phone) with Sprint a while back (It is only a wifi hot spot.) It is unlimited for 4g and capped at 5 gig for 3g. I do pay 60 dollars a month for the service. I it is my only broadband access for the house, and I get to take it with me when I travel. What you are saying is true when you are using a phone as a hotspot, but I think there are different rules when you buy a pure data plan.


Posted by:

Wes
18 Nov 2011

Anyone have any experience with the republicwireless.com service.
Seems like it might be a way to reduce the high cost of data service from some of the other providers. I am with t-Mobile now and the $77 a month is getting to be a bit much if the $19 alternative really works. There is not mention of this service in the article so I am wondering what is up with it?


Posted by:

Nigel B
18 Nov 2011

If you have a smartphone that will work as a hotspot, then that is the place to start. AT&T charges me $10/mo to add the service to my iPhone4. Yes it is only 3G but it has several advantages.
1. No new hardware to buy (at $100 plus for 4G).
2. No new service contract to buy (at $50/mo).
3. No extra piece of hardware to carry around. Make that two pieces of hardware if you need a charger.

After trying out that solution for a while, you can decide whether getting more speed is worth the extra cost and hassle.


Posted by:

Charles Heineke
19 Nov 2011

Bob, Thanks for the info on 4G hotspots.

The article states: "The cheapest 4G data plan currently available comes from T-Mobile: $30 per month for a measly 200 MB of data, or $40 per month for 2 GB."

That refers only the the major, well-advertised providers. People need to know "the rest of the story", especially in these tough economic times.

Lightyear Wireless, sold only by distributors and using the Sprint nationwide 3G/4G network, has totally unlimited wireless service (NO Data Caps), currently in 75 cities, for only $69.99 per month. With taxes, the total is only about $75/month.

That's unlimited Talk, Text, and Data, for little more than some of the majors charge just for extra GB of data service, not counting their voice and text services. Since Lightyear doesn't spend some $7M per month on advertising, like the majors do, they can offer benefits the major can't. And that's terrific for consumers.


Posted by:

Mike
19 Nov 2011

I recently bought a prepaid T-mobile 4G hotspot to use for emergencies when my Verizon DSL goes down. There is NO monthly fee if you don't use it, you can buy a pass 1 week and 200mb of data for $10, a month and 1 GB for $30, or a month and 3 GB for $50. I live in a small town, but we get 4G most places and I've had 6 Mbps (measured on a laptop) speeds- 2x as fast as my DSL. I also use it to make my iPod Touch mobile. Pretty skimpy on the data plan, but very good for emergencies or for when you can't get free wifi in a hotel, etc. It cost $99 from Amazon. Thanks for listing many other options Bob.


Posted by:

W Mercer
19 Nov 2011

I have been using an iPhone with Verizon for my Internet Svc for several years now. My home area does not have 4G available. I don't know what I've been missing when I travel. I got in when unlimited hot spot was available and can keep it "forever". I use the hot spot for iPod, iPhone and netbook. I have recently added a notebook loaned for specific business use. My phone will support 5 devices. I am happy with my service.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
19 Nov 2011

Bob, I am not sure where you are getting your information, about Data Plans for 4G Smartphones. You stated that T-Mobile has the cheapest charges, for Data Plans for 4G phones. I am an AT&T customer, who has a HTC Inspire 4G phone and I only pay $15 a month for 200MB. The 2GB plan is $25 a month. There are 2 - 4GB plans for Smartphone Tethering, $45 and $60 a month.

I only need the 200MB plan. I don't use Wi-Fi Hotspots, since I can readily save money on downloading, by using my own wireless router, at home. Of course, there is some downloading when I am using my phone, outside of my home. My outside usage is extremely limited and usually only when I am checking my banking account or get an occasional picture or two or three, from family.

It seems, as though all of the Wireless Phone providers try to stay competitive, by keeping their plan charges, within a comfortable range of each other. Oh, there are the 'Specials', especially for 'new' accounts and for 'upgrades' for the existing member, but overall, extra charges are a way of life, for profits.

I live in an area, where 4G is 'iffy' at best, if not simply a figment of everyone's imagination. I am retired, on a fixed income, so my needs are not like those who truly NEED their Smartphone, to communicate professional or business needs. The rest are a mix of those who love having 'gadgets' or love to constantly communicate or the ones who truly 'hate' technology, but have to use it. I fall into the ones who love having 'gadgets'.

I really do love my 4G phone. I can do so many things with it, check on prices while I am shopping or check my bank balance or send a picture. My husband can keep in touch with me, while I am doing errors and shopping. He has multiple medical issues and my 4G phone allows me freedom, to do necessary personal business, while he feels safe in the knowledge that he can almost always reach me, in an emergency.


Posted by:

thomasmoccio
19 Nov 2011

yes i have this it is great, i have my evo 4g on one side of my belt and my ipod on the other. and i stream my music while i walk to work every morning. it cost me an extra 29.95 a month, but its worth it.


Posted by:

ManoaHi
21 Nov 2011

For me, I use a Clear Spot 4G Apollo hotspot. I bought the router for $100 and pay $45/month for unlimited data. Since I purchased the hotspot, I don't have a 2 year plan, I pay month to month and if I cancel, I don't have any early termination fee. You can lease the hotspot, but you have to sign a 2 year contract, and if you want to terminate, you have the hefty termination fee. This has been a really great option for me since in addition to my laptops, I have a iPhone 4S, Nook Tablet, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and it allows up to 8 concurrent users. My children have iPod Touches so we can all share the hotspot (have Wi-Fi at home via other router - so this hotspot only for use away from home - I use at work to stay off of corporate network - for security of firm not because I want to sneak anything). Last week I downloaded some video and so far, I have 10Gb this month. For the major 4 providers, I would have paid a lot. Since I use this rather heavily, with all my devices, this is really excellent. This is using WiMax so the data rates are quite good. Now the downside: Clear is not in the best of financial condition and the WiMax cells were done by Clear and Sprint. Sprint seems to be doing some new 4G (LTE) installations without Clear, so Clear's partner is building competing network and Clear doesn't have financials able to expand the network on their own. But with my downloads, if I had done this with the big 4, I would have paid more for my Clear Spot 4G Apollo hotspot so even if they go out of business, I already have had a nice run of use.


Posted by:

Trishan Sen
18 Feb 2012

Dear Mr. Bob and all members of this android forum. I am a physician in Banladesh (a small developing country in South Asia. For a long time I have been addicted to different cell phones. As I couldn't afford expensive cell phones I used to collect normal phones and have a collection of over 40 phones which I am donating to poor people to start their own mobile credit recharge bussiness. Recently I have saved some money and bought an iPad and a HTC inspire. As my iPad is only wifi so I bought the htc to use its hotspot so that I can use my iPad everywhere. But the phone I bought is a AT&T unlocked phone so I can't find a way to use its wifi hotspot. But now without it my iPad which I bought after saving for more than a year and love it after my profession would just be a show piece in my house. I would be extremely grateful to anyone who knows a way to use the hotspot application without having an AT&T plan. I m not trying to do anything illegal here I guess as there is no way of getting a service provider with this facility. Please help me if anyone can as I put almost all my five years savings on these two products and over here except personal hotspot made by using traditional router I can't find a single place with with wifi hotspot. Beeing really disappointed after trying more than a week everything I can get my hands on the web just to make it work but the result is zero. I hope you will understand how I m feeling for my foolish decision. Sincerely, Dr. Trishan Sen.


Posted by:

Carl Smith
23 Mar 2012

I purchased a hot spot device from 'Data Jack' it's cost was close to $90 dollars . They have three monthly plans , no contracts or termination fees .
I chose the second 500 mb plan for $19.95 All the info is on their web site . This is my first encounter with a 'hot spot' and I 'am very pleased with Data Jack. I am getting a I Pad 2 as a gift and it will be great for downloading from Apple and Amazon . Dr. Sen ...Data Jack may be available in your country as "Novatel" (company name ) is world wide . good luck! ..Bob , your site is awesome !


Posted by:

Jose Nadales
13 Sep 2013

NEWS— However, if anyone can pay their mobile bill monthly. They can pay by simple Page plus wireless mobile. Simple mobile payment is very easy and secure (International). Unlimited talk, worldwide text and data — with great coverage. So it is good for us.


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