7/5/10
10:13 am

MacMost Now 420: Mobile Hotspots

Mobile wireless Internet connections have evolved into mobile hotspots: devices that allow you create your own Internet-connected wifi network while on the go. You can get mobile hotspot devices from Verizon and Sprint. This sort of connection has many advantages over USB devices and public Internet access.

Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
Hi. This is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode, let's talk about mobile hotspots.
So all the way back in Episode Number 2 of MacMost Now, I talk about USB devices that allow you to connect your MacBook to wireless internet networks. Like the ones offered by Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T. Now, those USB devices are still available, and they're better than ever. But there's some new devices now that are these little boxes that also allow you to connect, but in a different way.
So these mobile hotspots connect to the same internet networks. But, instead of connecting to your MacBook with a USB connection, they create their own little wifi network and you can connect to it just like you connect to an airport base station.
So the big advantage is, all you need to do to connect to this, and thus the internet, is the ability to connect to any wifi network. So a device, say, like the iPad, or iPhone, or iPod touch could use one of these to connect to the internet. You don't need to have that USB connection and supporting drivers.
Better still, you can connect to multiple devices. Usually connect up to 5 devices to 1 mobile hotspot. So, if you've got an iPhone, an iPad, and a laptop, you can connect them all. If you're a couple or a family traveling with several different devices, you can all connect using one of these mobile hotspots. Whereas with a USB device, only that 1 laptop can connect.
They offer the same advantages as the USB devices. Namely that you don't have to pay for expensive hotel or airport wifi. And you get a secure connection instead of having to send your data over public, or possibly unsecured wifi connections.
So Verizon offers the MiFi 220, which is this little box that connects to the Verizon network, and allows you to connect up to 5 devices on the wifi network that it creates. Likewise, Sprint offers the Overdrive, which also connects to its network, and also connects to a 4G network that's available in some locations now by Sprint. And it also allows you to connect up to 5 devices to the mini wifi network it creates. Both of these boxes run about $50 with a plan, and both have plans that are about $60 a month for 5 gigabytes of data.
Both devices also have batteries in them, which means that you don't have to have any sort of wall connection to run them. At least for a few hours. So you can carry one of these with you, and, say, also carry your MacBook or iPad, turn them both on, this will connect to the internet, and then connect to your MacBook and you have access. You do the same thing with an iPad. So you can actually use the wifi version of the iPad and connect to the internet even though you don't have a regular wifi connection near you. You can use one of these. And they're also great as a backup for the iPhone in places where the AT&T internet network isn't available.
Now, at 60 bucks month, it's probably too expensive if you're already watching your budget, and you already have an iPhone connection. But I find it to be invaluable as a backup to my home internet connection. And also, it pays for itself if I just have but 1 short stay at a hotel with an airplane trip.
Now if you already have one of the USB devices, you have a few options. One is that you might be eligible for an upgrade for just the $50 to one of these devices and sticking with the same data plan. Another is to get a device, like one made by CradlePoint, which allows you to plug in a USB wireless device into it, and it will create the wifi network itself.
So if you're on the road a lot, and you use a MacBook or an iPad, or you want a backup for your AT&T connection on your iPhone, you may want to check out one of these options.
Till next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: 5 Responses to “MacMost Now 420: Mobile Hotspots”

    Peter Emery
    7/5/10 @ 2:13 pm

    Another way to create a wireless hotspot using a USB modem is to enable Internet Sharing on a Mac fitted with an Airport card.

    Set up sharing from the USB modem to devices using Airport in the Sharing Preference in System Preferences. With a little work, this connection can be made secure.

      7/5/10 @ 5:51 pm

      The problem is that this doesn’t work — at least not the times I have tried it. With my old USB modem I was specifically stopped from setting up a shared network by the drivers. They had a block in there for it. I’m sure this varies according to device and the carrier, though. I was using the most popular device on a pretty big carrier.
      They may not care about this any more, since there are these wifi devices out there now anyway, but I doubt they will take the time to update the firmware to lift those old restrictions.

    nando
    9/23/10 @ 12:50 pm

    HOT SPOTS!it would be nice for one to able to have a service for thee ipod touch one would pay for such service it would be so convienontand easy to do such thing.one could brows thee internet purhces any content one desiers at thee comforts of your own home,of cours for one that dosent own a computer i could say for many people and,it would make people happy to know they could pay for such service even if it;s just an ipod touch.THANK YOU!!!Foryourtime.

    Kathy Whitehurst
    1/9/11 @ 1:10 pm

    Hi Gary, I have one of the verizon and it was working great. Then last week I could not get on it from my mac. I called the support desk and they try some setting and still could not get it to work. However, when I took it into the store it worked for them. They told me to bring in my mac and they would configure. I don’t really want them to mess with my computer. Do you know of any settings I need to change? I thought odd that it worked one day and not the other. I never downloaded the software. Just used the device like any wireless hotspot. Thanks and love keep the website going!

      1/9/11 @ 3:32 pm

      I would take them up on their offer to help. It is very difficult to troubleshoot these kinds of things without being there. Just have them work with you to change the settings so you know what they did to fix it.

Comments Closed.