How does a mobile hotspot work?
A mobile hotspot device works like a portable modem and router. It captures available mobile data and broadcasts the internet connection to multiple devices. You need to have a cellular data plan to use a mobile hotspot.
When do I need a mobile hotspot?
You need a mobile hotspot when you want a reliable internet connection that can travel with you. Mobile hotspot devices are popular with business travelers because many companies reimburse for mobile hotspot service but not mobile phone expenses. RVers and people with vacation homes also rely on mobile hotspots to stay connected. Remote worksites use portable hotspots to connect up to 20 employees with one device.
Can I use my mobile phone as a hotspot instead of getting a mobile hotspot device?
You can use your mobile phone as a hotspot if you turn on the hotspot feature. (Check out this article for more details: Should You Use Your Mobile Phone for Home Internet?) It’s not a free-for-all: mobile providers restrict the amount of data you can use while hotspotting, but it can work for some people.
If you travel only occasionally, you might not need a separate mobile hotspot device—using your cellphone’s hotspot may be all you need. But if you work on the road or take road trips in your RV every weekend, we recommend getting a mobile hotspot device and a flexible data plan.
Can I use a mobile hotspot in backcountry areas?
A mobile hotspot won’t work in backcountry areas unless you have a cellphone signal. Some hotspots have antenna ports, such as the NETGEAR Nighthawk. It’s possible to boost service and strengthen a weak signal by attaching an extender or antenna to your mobile hotspot, but you can boost service only if you have a signal in the first place. For more information, check out the Portable Internet Guide.
How much is a mobile hotspot?
Mobile hotspot devices range in price from about $50 to $350. Data fees are billed separately, starting around $10 per month.
How can I use a mobile hotspot without paying for a data plan every month?
You can avoid paying for a data plan every month by getting a prepaid or pay-as-you-go data plan. Some plans offer data by the gig, by the day, or by the month. Some devices can even be rented on a daily basis like the Skyroam Mobile Hotspot, which gives you the use of the device and unlimited data for $8.99 per day.
Where can I get an unlimited mobile hotspot plan?
Sprint offers an unlimited hotspot plan—but before you get too excited let’s explain what “unlimited” means. You’ll get a metered amount of full speed data, and then your data will be slowed to 2 G speeds (remember the early 2000’s, when you had a flip phone you used for calls and text messages?). Once you hit the data threshold, and your data slows to these speeds, you’ll still get to use an unlimited amount of data but it will be really slow..
If you’re looking for unlimited mobile hotspot data, you’ll come across several plans that are marketed as unlimited, but this just means that after you’ve used up your monthly data allotment, you can still use reduced-speed data until the next billing cycle.
Which mobile hotspots have the best battery life?
The Sprint MiFi 8000 and the NETGEAR Nighthawk mobile hotspots have the best battery life—up to 24 hours on one charge. Some portable Wi-Fi devices have a battery life of 8 hours or less, which often isn’t practical for full-time travelers and road warriors. A few devices (like the NETGEAR Nighthawk) give you the option of plugging into the wall or using battery power, which is helpful while traveling or when using a mobile hotspot for home internet.
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