Mifi madness

The idea of having 3G broadband shared as WiFi across multiple devices appealed immediately but I thought that I couldn’t really justify yet another ‘Vodem’ purchase when I had both the old Huawei and stick versions already.

As a roaming contract consultant I’ve developed a comprehensive mobile office which I’ve finally mini-fied down to a briefcase and the Vodem has been an essential component for a few years. There are times when I’ve no access to WiFi at client locations or in transit and have to defer to 3G. Even in some locations, including two of my current contracts, the freely available wireless is so unreliable I turn off WiFi on my iPad so I can get more consistent connectivity and performance over cellular.

But these days that means at least three data accounts to track: cellphone, tablet and Vodem. Frustratingly, the iPad isn’t designed to tether to cellphones and the time required to mess about with tethering the netbook is a bit annoying in the middle of meetings.

A colleague was singing the praises about his recently acquired Vodafone Pocket WiFi, not just for the fact that he had all of his devices sharing the single data connection, but for the additional network speed. It got me thinking that maybe, given the number of connected devices I carry, it was time to reconsider whether NZ$199.00 was really an unjustified expense, particularly given my reliance on the Cloud for work activities.

When I happened across a mobile Vodafone shop in the Warehouse Stationery car park I saw it as a sign and went in. Five minutes later, I gleefully left with my very own white and red MiFi* device.

What can I say? It’s very, very useful. Up to five gadgets can share the same passkey protected connection: that’s both netbooks, both smartphones and the iPad if I really go all out. Or I can be friendly and invite a colleague to share since three devices at a time is all I usually need.

Setting up was easy and specifying a name for the network and passkey, a trivial affair. The single switch on/off and auto-connect to the cellular network is great. Connecting to it from all the various devices is as easy as any other WiFi network.

It’s a convenient size, if bigger than the stick Vodem, but one significant advantage is that I can simply turn it on and leave it in the case: no need to plug it into anything unless it’s time to charge up the internal battery. Which means it frees up a USB port for the plethora of other devices I need to read or charge.

It’s been handy for my partner: Drew had decided not to go with a 3G-enabled tablet when selecting his Iconia, on the premise that, unlike me, he’s usually in WiFi zones. Recent work trips via Dunedin to Balclutha has meant the lack of inbuilt 3G has been a bit more of a bind. The MiFi device has easily resolved that problem and he’s been able to keep up with emails whilst waiting at the airport.

This isn’t really a review of the Vodafone device (which is Huawei kit), but more a look at how useful having a small, portable WiFi access point can be. Given the proliferation of smart devices and portable computing, it is quite a handy piece of equipment and I certainly missed it yesterday when it took its weekly trip down south with Drew. Of course, as more places offer free WiFi, whether there’s a need longer than a couple of years, I’m not so certain.

Having proven its usefulness, at least in terms of how I work, I looked at what other options are available. In New Zealand, all cellular providers offer MiFi options. 2Degrees has Huawei hardware and Telecom has NetComm. 2Degrees’ website was somewhat uninformative on pricing but Telecom’s is comparable at NZ$199 for the device (albeit you have sign up for a monthly plan).

If you’re not worried about the carrier, then DealExtreme had a few options on offer too. Interestingly, there are pocket WiFi routers which have USB sockets so you can transform your existing Vodem or T-stick into a shared connection.

My advice is this: if you’re looking to connect over 3G and don’t have an existing 3G broadband device, pick the MiFi option. Yes, it’s more money but the functionality offered is much better. If you’re finding that you have an increasing number of devices to connect, upgrade and be a little bit more efficient.

I think even as a backup option for when your ISP goes down or, heaven forefend, more earth-shaking or weather-related issues affect telecommunications this is useful. The entire household can conveniently share the connection which can (possibly) be a bonus!

*MiFi is actually a line of Novatel compact, wireless routers, however it’s now become the more generic description for all mobile wireless routers. For the purpose of this article the terms is used in the generic.
Share on Google Plus
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment


Post a Comment