For a number of years now I have been using mobile broadband with my laptop using a usb dongle. I have taken service from mobile provider 3 and it has been a pretty reliable and cost effective way of getting web access when I have been out and about. My current contract gives me 1gb of data for only £5 per month.
When I got back from holiday recently I noticed that 3 had released their “mifi” device. This is a small unit that allows you to share your mobile broadband connection with a number of local users over wifi. Effectively it is a wifi hotspot with a mobile broadband connection all in one neat little unit.
I got mine last Friday and have been playing with it since then and have been very impressed. The unit is easy to use having a number of buttons on the side allowing the user to turn the power, wifi and 3G connections on and off independently. In use there really is nothing that needs to be done other than turn it on, make the connection. You get an access key which you need to enter once on each device that you want to connect via wifi.
Speed seems pretty good and faster than my dongle but I suspect that is just wishful thinking on my part. I did a couple of tests via Speed Test and got the following results:
Download: 0.2 Mb/s & 0.56 Mb/s (two locations)
Upload 0.05 Mb/s & 0.05 Mb/s (two locations)
Not stellar but certainly more than acceptable for the occasional use. I have not had an opportunity to test it heavily with multiple clients connect yet though.
As you will see from the pictures below you don’t get much in the box other than the device itself but there are some neat reference cards to help you get started and it does come with a mains usb power supply so you don’t have to charge the unit from your laptop, although you can if you wish.
The other interesting thing is that it also allows to overcome a restriction on my iPhone. There are certain apps that will only work over wifi, Slingbox for example. By connecting my iPhone to the mifi device I can trick it into thinking it is working on a wifi connection when in reality it is still on a 3G connection.