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Being stranded without a Wi-Fi signal is a nightmare for just about anyone who demands constant connectivity, for business or otherwise, so to keep yourself tied in, make sure to keep one of the best mobile Wi-Fi hotspots close at hand.
These hotspots operate on the same principle as any modern smartphone, piggybacking on a cellular network to create an independent Wi-Fi network without the need for a router or modem. Of course, these purpose-built hotspots will provide a much stronger connection than your smartphone.
Check out our best mobile Wi-Fi hotspots below.
Excellent Battery Life
Good data speeds
High initial cost
Spotty USB-C connectivity
While there’s plenty of support for U.S.-based carriers to work internationally, charges can add up very quickly. Enter Skyroam and lose the hassle of constant worry that you’ll return from a trip overseas to a bill that will have your jaw on the floor. Unlimited data? Check. Simple setup? Check. Essentially, you can receive 4G LTE mobile Wi-Fi speeds while traveling in any of the 130+ countries the Solis supports, including those in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas. The unit allows you to connect up to five devices at one time and delivers a whopping 16 hours of battery life. It even has a built-in 6,000 mAh power bank with a USB-C connection so you can charge up your mobile devices on the go. Activation is simple: just take it out, turn it on and connect to the local contracted carrier as you travel from country to country. You don't have to purchase local SIM cards as you go — the Solis takes care of it for you.
Skyroam also offers this device in conjunction with its Go Data plan, which gives you 1GB of data use per month for a flat fee. If you need more, you can purchase more. Most reviewers noted that 1GB gets used up pretty quickly if you're connecting multiple devices to the Solis, watching videos, or doing any other data-heavy activities. But each additional gigabyte of data is only $9, so it's probably still cheaper than most cell carriers' roaming charges.
Take a look at our guide to free Wi-Fi hotspot locations and find out what to know before connecting to learn more about using hotspots
Slick form factor
No 5Ghz Wi-Fi Support
Short battery life
It’s tough to avoid the fact that Verizon has a hold on the mobile hotspot market — their MiFi hotspots are trusted sources of internet on the go. But, their top-tier models have gotten a little expensive for their reliability, so our nod here goes to their Jetpack line, specifically the 900L as it offers good, prepaid service for less.
First off, the network is reliable, as Verizon offers some of the most seamless coverage on a national scale. The hotspot connects via Verizon Prepaid 4G LTE, so you won’t need to worry about another monthly fee, and it’ll give you fast, reliable speeds. Like other hotspots, it lets you set up a Wi-Fi network, and if you have the bandwidth in your current reception area, you’ll be able to easily connect up to 8 devices including laptops, phones, and tablets. The device's 2,100 mAh battery that Verizon delivers 10 hours of use on a single charge. The indicator screen doesn’t give you a ton of details, but it’s clear, and with such a small form factor, it really is the best option for the price.
Not sure about what you're looking for? Read more about hotspots in our guide to finding and using Wi-Fi hotspots.
Solid coverage and speed
Good battery life
Flexible data options
Limited simultaneous connections
Whether you’re a globe-trotting business person or just taking a vacation, the GlocalMe G4 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot is the best way to stay connected while seeing the world. Powered by the company’s Cloud SIM technology, travelers can get online using a local SIM card in more than 100 countries overall. With 50Mbps max upload speed and 150Mbps download speed, the G4 isn’t the fastest hotspot around, but those speeds are more than good enough to stay in touch with family, read e-mail and browse the Web. Capable of connecting up to five devices at a time, sharing connectivity with friends or family has never been easier.
While the device can be used with any local SIM card, GlocalMe entices you to utilize its own networks with 1GB of free data that can be used anywhere the device has a signal. Helping you stay connected is a built-in 3900mAh battery that provides around two days of total battery. Beyond battery life, the G4 works in Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Oceania, as well as anywhere in Africa. GlocalMe even adds their own data packages with competitive pricing to help avoid the need to purchase local SIM cards with pay-as-you-go plans that will help avoid wasting data.
Check out our picks for the best mesh Wi-Fi networks.
Extensive battery life
Plans can be somewhat expensive
Netgear's Unite Explore 815S 4G LTE rugged hotspot is a superb choice for data-only users who want fast performance, good battery life and the ability to use it on any network they choose. Capable of connecting up to 15 devices at once, the former AT&T unlocked device works with any data SIM card worldwide and has an IP65 rating to help protect against light water intrusion and dust.
Measuring 4.5 x 2.8 x 0.8 inches and weighing 6.3 ounces, the 2.4-inch 320 x 240 touchscreen display helps you keep tabs on network performance. The USB 3.0 charging port doubles as a USB modem and can charge the hotspot from zero to full. Speaking of battery life, the Unite Explore has a 4340mAh battery that lasts for nearly 22 hours of continuous use.
Beyond battery, network connectivity is front and center (it covers a host of LTE, HSPA+ and 3G frequencies), so you'll get connected nearly anywhere in the world, including Europe and most of Asia. With an unlocked device, you’re not dependent on AT&T for network connectivity or rate plans, so you have the option to pick up local SIM cards and pay for better pricing overall while utilizing local cellular networks for data access. For maintaining the best signal, the Unite allows you to switch between either 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands or utilize both for the best possible signal. The Unite adds OpenDNS support for content filtering, VPN passthrough and a range of about 70 to 80 feet of Wi-Fi range.
Excellent browsing speeds
With its somewhat childish logos, white color, and bright screen the KuWFi may seem like a quirky little device, but for well under $100, it's an exceptionally versatile hotspot that offers enviable browse speeds. The KuWFi is compatible with a bunch of different SIM cards; it’ll accept US SIMs including 4G LTE Sprint 2500 MHz, Redzone Wireless, SpeedConnect, U.S Cellular, and AT&T — so it gives you plenty of options if you’re looking for an unlocked connection.
It connects via 802.11 offering peak speeds of 150 Mbps, making its performance comparable to that of an entry-level, at-home router. Plus, you can connect up to 10 devices at the same time, so it’ll feel just like you’re at home in that way, too. (Though it’s important to note that the more devices you connect, the less bandwidth you’ll have for each.) The hotspot is also a great travel companion; at 1.3 pounds and sporting a super-slim profile, it’ll slide into a purse or backpack no problem.
You may be interested in our roundup of the best wireless routers.
If you're constantly traveling to places without an easily accessible Wi-Fi network the Verizon Ellipsis Jetpack is the best way to remedy that.
David Beren is a tech writer with more than 10 years of experience in the industry. He has written and managed content for tech companies like T-Mobile, Sprint, and TracFone Wireless.
None of our top picks have been tested quite yet, but our testing regimen for mobile Wi-Fi hotspots includes using them with a variety of devices in both a wired and wireless configuration in a variety of connectivity environments. Beyond the performance and specifications of each unit, we'll also be comparing the relative initial and operating costs of specific units as well.
Network - Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots operate off of existing cellular networks, so you want to make sure you’re choosing one that’s reliable in the area you’re going to use it. Some carriers work very well in urban areas but not rural (or vice versa). When in doubt, choosing an AT&T or Verizon device is a good bet.
Battery life - If you’re relying on your Wi-Fi hotspot to get you through a workday, then you need to make sure it has the battery life to cope. You may need to tether multiple devices—a laptop, a tablet, a phone—to the hotspot. Therefore, ensuring a hotspot has sufficient battery life to hold up is important. Some of these devices even have large enough batteries to serve as a power bank.
International use - If you’re only going to use your hotspot in the US, then this isn’t an issue. But if you’re a regular international traveler, you may want to buy a device that won’t cost you an arm and a leg to use overseas.