5 Great Wi-Fi Hotspots for Every Type of Traveller
A mobile hotspot, in layman’s terms, is a portable device that allows a number of other devices (such as laptops, smartphones, tablets) to connect wirelessly to the internet, which it does by sharing the 3G or 4G LTE signals from your cellular provider. If you have cell service, you can have bandwidth to share.
So why get a mobile hotspot? Naturally, they’re not for all. A smartphone is enough for most means of connectivity, or, if your data plan allows for “tethering” — connecting your smartphone directly to another device to take advantage of its cellular signal — you can use your phone as a mobile hotspot. However, there are drawbacks to this, such as your phone’s battery will deplete quickly and you, most likely, won’t be able to make calls or receive calls. (The hotspot will interrupt the cellular connection.)
But, if your laptop needs internet access (or multiple people or devices do) and it needs to stay connected in the fastest way possible, a mobile hotspot is an easy and reliable way of acquiring data. As for which mobile hotspot to buy, that depends on the type of traveler you are and the cell service you use.
Verizon Jetpack AC791L
Best for the National Traveler: For wireless service providers, speed and reliability are king. And according to recent studies by J.D. Power and RootMetrics, Verizon is the best you can get in the States (although AT&T isn’t far behind). The Jetpack AC791L is an upgraded version of Verizon’s Jetpack 6620L. It boasts 20+ hours of battery life and is able to connect 15 devices to a wi-fi signal at once. And, the Jetpack also works as a charger for your smartphone, so it’s a nice base station if you’re in a wi-fi-less spot, like, say, a cross-country road trip across America.
Best for the Urban Traveler: AT&T offers two main mobile hotspots: the Velocity and the Unite Pro. We recommend the former, as the Velocity is more affordable (by almost $200) and, unless you need to connect 15 devices at one time, it’s perfectly capable to cover your personal wi-fi needs. The Velocity has an easy-to-navigate touchscreen, which helps users monitor their data usage, but because of this, however, its battery life (10 hours) isn’t that robust. In recent years AT&T has become known for its superior wireless coverage in large metro areas, and even though it appears Verizon has caught up, AT&T still had superior coverage in the Southeast and Texas, according to PC Mag. So if you frequent those areas, or often find yourself among skyscrapers, the Velocity is a good bet.
Best for the Infrequent Traveler: An alternative to purchasing a mobile hotspot is to simply turn your smartphone into one. To do this, you’ll most likely need to upgrade your data plan so that it allows for tethering (allowing your smartphone to share its signal with another device). While most cellular service providers have an unlimited data plan, they usually don’t account for tethering, which means you’ll get charged if you consume over a certain amount of data. Once you’ve checked with your service provider and are comfortable with your plan, turning your smartphone into a hotspot is simple — you just follow a few instructions.
To turn your iPhone into a hotspot, follow these instructions.
Android users can also turn their smartphones into a mobile hotspot, but it varies depending on the device. For more information read this article by PC Mag.
Best for the Roaming Nomad: For those who almost never need a hotspot, there’s Karma Go. Unlike the hotspots by Verizon and AT&T, Karma Go offers a “pay-as-you-go” plan. Users pay a $3 monthy fee and then an extra $10 for every GB used. The alternative is a flat-rate monthly plan which can range between $40 and $100, depending if you choose to use 5GB, 10GB or 20GB a month. Through its app, users can easily monitor data. The drawback to Karma Go is coverage; it struggles in many rural and remote areas. (Check here for more coverage info).
Kargo recently also a new wifi hotspot called the Karma Black, which focuses heavily on secure browsing. The Karma Black isn’t available yet, but according to the press release it “will provide anonymous browsing (Tor), integrated Virtual Private Network (VPN), blacklisting and ad blocking on our new Karma connected device.” It’s essentially a much more secure version of the Karma Go.
Keepgo Lifetime Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot
Best for the International Traveler: If you’re the type of traveler who routinely ventures overseas, you’re not going to want the hassle of getting a new rental hotspot for every single trip. Enter: Keepgo. The hotspot comes with a 1GB Internet SIM Card and, if you need more data, you can keep topping this one SIM card as you go. It can connect 10 devices to the internet at one time, has six hours of working battery life and works in 64 countries, including Europe, Asia and the Americas. Also, since the Keepgo allows international travelers to keep their original SIM card in their phones, users can make and receive regular voice calls on their normal phone number while abroad.
Best for Global Expeditions: The MCD-4800 is the ultimate in mobile hotspots. It gets its signal from three BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) satellites and can connect any device to the internet from anywhere in the world (save Antartica). The device is also easy to use. Just press the power button, wait 60 seconds and you can connect. It is also auto-pointing, so users won’t have to deal with positioning it in “just the right place.” Once working, the MCD-4800 has 5 hours of battery life (it recharges in about 4 hours) and has a wi-fi range of 328 feet. Yes, it’s 25 pounds. But you won’t care about that when you’re checking email in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
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