Whether you want to update your Insta on the go or need to keep in touch with the office, losing your internet signal can be very frustrating.
But it’s annoying (and can be unsafe) to rely on public Wi-Fi signals in every coffee shop you visit, and sometimes when traveling to remote locations, public connections are just not available.
Instead, you can invest in a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot to ensure safe, secure, and reliable internet access anywhere you go. Here’s what you need to consider when choosing the best one for you.
What Is a Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot?
A Wi-Fi hotspot is a battery-powered wireless router that travels with you. Designed to be compact and lightweight enough to slip into your purse or pocket, a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot device brings the internet to your phone, tablet, or laptop, no matter where in the world it finds you.
These gadgets are a big bonus for anyone traveling away from public Wi-Fi or those looking for a secure connection. A bit like a cellular device, your Wi-Fi hotspot provides access to invisible signals in the sky, all of which can help you to upload pics or receive your emails on the move.
You will need to pay for the data you use, which can be done in the form of packages or day passes that offer unlimited access for a set period of time.
Bottom Line: Using 3G or 4G (and maybe even 5G in the coming months), these smart little devices emit a reliable and incredibly useful Wi-Fi signal that you can hook your favorite gadgets and devices to while away from home.
Things to Look For in a Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot
Most batteries will run happily for between 5-6 hours at a time. If you are traveling somewhere with easy access to electricity, you should be able to charge overnight to ensure your hotspot works when you need it for your daily adventures. If you spend a disproportionately large amount of time online, you may want to look at a device that offers a longer battery life.
Size and Weight
Your Wi-Fi hotspot should be small enough to be carried everywhere with you. After all, if it’s not entirely portable, what exactly is the point? Slimline, lightweight, and often smaller than the smartphone you are trying to connect to, these devices are compact and clever.
Because some mobile internet providers are better than others, the coverage you receive from any Wi-Fi hotspot can also vary. For example, 2.4GHz gives coverage at a more extended range but will transmit the data at a much slower speed. A 5GHz band, on the other hand, will provide less range with data transmitted at a much faster speed.
Though they may be small, they are still mighty, and most hotspot devices will have a built-in display. At the very least, the display should indicate remaining battery life and current Wi-Fi signal strength. Others may offer bonus features like SMS messages or touch screen modes.
Some portable Wi-Fi hotspots come with the capability to read MicroSD memory cards, which can be used to store and access files from your laptop or home computer. You can also share your stored files with the people who use your network when you want them to have access.
MicroSD memory cards are not typically included with the purchase of a Wi-Fi hotspot, but they are a useful addition that allows you to send and receive SMS messages and save images, music, and other data-heavy files.
Frequencies Explained: The Difference Between GSM and CDMA
Mobile data is delivered using 1 of 2 types of cellular signals in different countries and regions around the world. These cellular standards allow for communication between individuals; without them, we would not be able to keep in touch on such a global scale.
Known as GSM and CDMA, each standard converts both incoming and outgoing radio waves in entirely different ways. Before you buy a hotspot, you need to understand its function and where you’ll be able to use it.
Global System for Mobile Communication is used in most countries around the world. In the U.S., only AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. GSM uses Time Division Multiple Access (or TDMA), which allocates time slots to multiple conversation streams and alters how phones transmit their information. Doing this requires a SIM card (or “subscriber identification module” card).
It is the SIM card that holds all the information you need to make calls, use mobile internet, and store your contacts. The SIM card tells the device what services you have access to and is vital for GSM communications on the go.
CDMA is used in countries including Russia and the U.S. (Sprint, Verizon, and US Cellular), and it grants users full access to a wide spectrum of bandwidth, meaning more users can connect at any one time. It also encodes each signal, meaning that every conversation remains protected and filtered.
CDMA does not rely on SIM cards as the device has the technology built into it from the carriers’ networks. This once meant that if you wanted to change carriers, you would need to buy a new device altogether. These days though, many CDMA devices offer the capability to use a SIM card too, especially for those on LTE networks.
Bottom Line: Different countries (and different carriers) use different technologies. In the U.S., Sprint, Verizon, and US Cellular use CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. When it comes to purchasing a hotspot, make sure you understand what type you’re buying, what countries it will work in, and what providers it will function with.
The Best Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots for Travel
Keep in Touch Wherever You Are Using the GlocalMe 4G LTE Network
GlocalMe G3 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot
With a global SIM-free connection, you can quickly and easily access the internet without worrying about a local SIM card or roaming charges. The 4G LTE high-speed network connects up to 5 devices at a time. Enjoy 50Mbps upload speeds and an innovative GlocalMe app that uses a dedicated security protocol to ensure your Wi-Fi connection is always safe.
You can also easily manage your data usage from anywhere in the world. With an initial 1GB of data included to see you on your way, you can easily top up your data using the GlocalMe app, which is specifically designed to work in a variety of different countries and regions.
Bottom Line: With 2 SIM card slots and the ability to connect to unlocked Wi-Fi hotspots wherever you are, the G3 will provide you with up to 15 hours of nonstop usage from a single charge.
Rapid Download Speeds and Super-Fast Internet on the Go
Huawei E5577Cs-321 4G LTE Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot
Huawei’s Wi-FI hotspot is both affordable and reliable — and it’s good enough to give some of the more prominent brand alternatives a real run for their money.
This hotspot offers rapid download speeds of up to 150 Mbps 4G LTE and 43.2 Mbps 3G download, connection for up to 10 Wi-Fi enabled devices, 6 hours of working time, and a whopping 300 hours of standby time.
Bottom Line: The TFT-LCD screen with 2D Barcode secure connection is easy to use, and the device itself is unlocked for all networks — you can even choose your SIM card if you want to.
Best for Professionals Who Need to Keep Connected
Huawei E5330Bs-2 3G Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot
This high-speed mobile hotspot and multi-mode wireless terminal is for use in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Venezuela (Digital only).
The hotspot offers 10 Wi-Fi connections at a time, and the unlocked carrier connection means you can use 3G signals from any provider. Controllable via the innovative Huawei Hi-Link app, you can enjoy uploads and connectivity for up to 5-6 hours using the 1500 mAh battery.
Bottom Line: While this device model will not work in the Americas or the United States, it is an affordable solution for those traveling to other parts of the world.
Global Data Roaming and Mobile Coverage in Over 100 Countries
Keepgo Global Lifetime 4G/LTE Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot for Europe, Asia, & the Americas
The Keepgo MiFi device includes a pay-as-you-go SIM card that comes complete with 1GB of global data roaming, and extra data can easily be obtained on the go.
This Wi-Fi hotspot can connect up to 10 Wi-Fi enabled devices at a time. Offering mobile internet coverage in 105 different countries, you can enjoy up to 6 hours of battery time and over 300 hours of standby time on 1 charge.
Bottom Line: You’ll appreciate this device’s instant online activation that will have you browsing straight out of the box.
A Powerful Global WI-Fi Hotspot for Use in Over 130 Countries
Skyroam Solis: Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot & Power Bank
The Skyroam Solis is a powerful global Wi-Fi hotspot with super-fast 4G LTE speeds that can be used in over 130 different countries and shared to 5 connections. Sleek and stylish, the simple orange disc can be stored in your carry-on luggage and will be easy to find when you get there.
By far, the most impressive feature of this particular model is the whopping 16 hours of battery life. Unlimited data can be purchased for as little as $9 per day.
Bottom Line: All-in-all, this is a tremendous little Wi-Fi hotspot for your next adventure.
Compact and Capable Offering 10 Hours of Battery Life
Netgear Unite Express 4G LTE Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot
This slim 4G LTE-capable device provides super-fast internet and as much as 10 hours of battery life on a single charge to as many as 10 Wi-Fi devices on the go.
Super easy to use, the color LCD screen shows you all the network info you need, as well as displaying battery life and connectivity levels.
Bottom Line: Made by one of the most trusted names in communications, the Unite Express is a reliable Wi-Fi hotspot for travelers looking for longer battery life.
Refurbished Skyroam: Super-Fast Connectivity for Rock Bottom Prices
Skyroam Mobile Hotspot: Global Wi-Fi
Painstakingly inspected and tested, this fully certified model looks and works like new. The Skyroam App makes it super easy to purchase unlimited data wherever you may be, and data passes start from as little as $8 per day, making your mobile internet more affordable than ever before.
You can connect up to 5 different devices with up to 5 hours of battery life on a single charge. Skyroam’s virtual SIM automatically connects you to the best local carrier data as you travel from country to country.
Bottom Line: Pay less for your mobile internet with a refurbished model from Skyroam.
Connect 10 Wi-Fi Enabled Devices With This Verizon Jetpack
Verizon MiFi Jetpack 4620L
Brought to you by the communication experts at Verizon, this MiFi Jetpack offers superior connectivity and speedy internet access virtually anywhere in the world. With the ability to connect up to 10 WiFi-enabled devices in 4G and up to 5 devices in 3G, this is one of the most effective LTE hotspot devices on the market.
Compatible with all major operating systems including Windows, Mac OSX, Android, and iOS, you can quickly and easily connect your phone, tablet, or laptop. The interactive OLED display shows you when you are connected, as well as the connection status and how many users are connected. It can even alert you when you receive a new SMS message.
Bottom Line: With up to 5 hours of usage available from a single charge, this impressive MiFi mobile Wi-Fi device is one of the most effective LTE hotspot devices on the market.
With a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, you are no longer at the mercy of unsecured, cumbersome, and often super-slow public Wi-Fi signals when you take to the road. Your very own Wi-Fi allows you to download data, upload images, and keep in touch with civilization, no matter how far away you go.
Before you commit to a connection, look for a mobile Wi-Fi device that is compact and portable with a large enough battery to last you all day. Your new Wi-Fi hotspot should also be simple to use, easy to connect to, and ideally able to offer a connection to several different devices (especially if you’re traveling with friends).
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