4G Mobile Hotspots
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 18 Nov 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- 4G Mobile Hotspots (Posted: 18 Nov 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved