Mobile wi-fi is the biggest innovation in mobile broadband in the last 2 years. It makes mobile broadband much more useful and easier to operate, but how many of you understand exactly what it is?
What is mobile wi-fi?
Mobile Wi-Fi is a mobile broadband modem combined with a wireless router in a pocket sized device, which allows you to share the 3G mobile broadband connection with up to 5 other Wi-Fi enabled devices. You can connect your iPad 2, laptop, Nintendo 3DS or even your iPod Touch to a Mobile Wifi router.
To explain what mobile Wi-Fi is – imagine you are in a ‘bubble’ that’s connected to the internet, and you have 4 other people who want to use the internet. They can access it by coming into your ‘bubble’, which has a radius of around 10 metres. This in technical terms is known as a ‘cloud’ as everyone under that cloud can connect to the mobile Wi-Fi device. So wherever you go, you have a permanent Wi-Fi hotspot, enabling instant internet access.
Another way to describe mobile wifi is it’s a bit like having a mini version of your home broadband wifi router that you carry around with you and which connects to the internet via 3G instead of your home phone line.
Most of the UK’s mobile operator’s offer mobile WiFi devices. Read our buyers guides:
What are the advantages of mobile wi-fi?
- You can use mobile Wi-Fi anywhere where there is 3G network coverage. So it is always important to check the 3G coverage in your area, or anywhere you are likely to use it. To do this you need to decide which network you want, and then check the coverage of that network. This means you could use it at your favourite coffee shop, on a train, at Grandma’s house or in a park!
- One big advantage of mobile wifi over a normal mobile broadband dongle is that you are able to connect multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices to it, wherever you are.
- You can also allow other people to connect to your mobile Wi-Fi connection just by typing in the Wifi password. A great way to imagine the benefits of mobile Wi-Fi is to imagine a family on a long road trip or a visit to a relatives house. All would get bored at some time, and would need to be entertained, so by having a mobile Wi-Fi device in the car, everyone’s internet needs can be met, creating a the perfect environment for a noisy and tired family.
- Because it connects to gadgets over Wifi works with devices that don’t have a USB connection and can’t be used with a mobile broadband dongle. You can use mobile wifi to connect your non-3G iPad, Nintendo DS, iPod Touch or any other such device to the internet.
- Mobile Wi-Fi is also great if you are working with your team in an office that doesn’t have internet access. All members can simply turn on their built-in wireless card and connect to the mobile Wi-Fi. You can also have multiple mobile Wi-Fi’s, if you have more then 5 people trying to use the internet.
- You could even replace your home broadband with this mobile Wi-Fi, and connect to it whenever you need it, which is great especially if you have strong coverage, and still be able to connect all your Wi-Fi enabled devices.
What are the disadvantages of mobile wi-fi?
- Mobile wifi routers are a little more expensive than standard dongles so if you really only intend connecting a single laptop to mobile broadband you’d be better off getting a mobile broadband dongle which is smaller, cheaper and doesn’t need to be charged up as it takes it’s power form your laptop.
- As with any mobile broadband connection the data limits are much stricter and smaller than a home broadband connection so it is important to remember to regularly check how much you have used so that you don’t go over your limit. Some providers have high charges for going outside your data allowance.
- For the above reason you shouldn’t rely on mobile broadband for streaming video and music as this will use up your data allowance much more quickly.
Is mobile wifi easy to use?
Mobile Wi-Fi is very easy to set up and very easy to use. All you have to do is switch it on and connect it to the chosen mobile broadband network. Once you have done this, your Wi-Fi enabled device, for example your laptop, will pick up the signal, and then you will need to enter in the password. After that you can use the internet as you wish. It’s that simple.
Is mobile wifi secure?
To ensure that not anyone can access your mobile Wi-Fi, the device is password protected, which will stop other people using the mobile Wi-Fi without your permission. Every time you want to connect a new device you will need to enter in the network key, but you will only need to do this once, as after that the mobile Wi-Fi will be picked up automatically.
Tips for choosing the right mobile wifi deal
- Mobile broadband coverage varies in every location and with every phone network. If you can’t get good coverage in the places you want to use it there is no point in getting mobile Wi-Fi or mobile broadband at all.
- It is important to choose the right mobile Wi-Fi tariff as you don’t want to be tied into a contract where the usage limit is not enough for you. Think carefully about how much data you think you may use and consider both pay as you go mobile wifi where you pay for the mobile wifi router upfront and buy data in advance versus mobile wifi on a contract where you get a cheap or free router but sign up to a 24 month contract.
- Consider starting on pay as you go and then if you find you’re using it a lot get a SIM Only mobile broadband deal if it is likely to save you money.
Check your Mobile Broadband Network Coverage here.
Several mobile phone networks offer Mobile Wifi devices. Read more about them in our Mobile WiFi Buyer’s Guides: