MiFi Offers Travelers a Personal, Highly Portable WiFi Connection

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I’m going to cast aside my personal detest of all things Verizon for this post and share this piece of knowledge revealed to me by long time reader, longer time grandparent Rich. Verizon has recently come out with an alternative to the air cards offered by most cell phone companies, those convenient but at times bulky (hah, in our modern age “bulky” can apply to something smaller than half a candy bar) devices that allow travelers to connect to the Internet via the cell networks.

Verizon’s MiFi is basically the same idea, but with two distinct differences: you don’t plug it into your computer, rather it’s a nearly credit card-sized device you can slip into your wallet, pocket, purse or, presumably, cleavage; and you can use the device as a WiFi hotspot, whereas currently air cards only really work for one computer at a time, unless you get an expensive router or use your computer as the router.

Carrying around a portable WiFi network in a device the size of a credit card is super cool in my book. Of course, there are a few drawbacks.

  1. It’s still expensive. Whereas you can get unlimited Internet for around $25 / month via cable or DSL, you’ll pay $40/month for a measly 250MB of downloads, or $60/month for 5GB. 250MB translates to checking your email and not much else. If you want to watch Hulu or download bit torrents, even the 5GB plan isn’t going to work for you. So if this is your sole means of Internet access and you’re, say, a web designer or other web worker, it’s probably not for you. Plus the cards themselves are $100 with a two year contract, or $270 for pay as you go.
  2. It’s no cable. Just as with air cards, you can expect 1mbps download speeds on average, tops. Leave the city and you can expect that to drop significantly. Verizon is supposed to have one of the best networks, and they’re supposedly coming out with a faster, 4G network in the next couple of years, but it’s still not going to match what you’re getting with Comcast over a solid cable line.

All in all, if the 5GB cap wasn’t there and it wasn’t being offered by anti-net neutrality, anti-customer service, evil Verizon, I’d definitely go for this over having to plugin and connect via the Sprint air cards we currently use. Plus, as it’s a WiFi network, we’d only need one air card, not one each.

Read more about it here.