Basics About the MiFi Mobile Hotspot

Use, Limitations and Issues of the Mobile Hotspot

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Getty Images/Justin Lewis

MiFi is the brand name for portable devices from Novatel Wireless that work as mobile hotspots. A MiFi router includes a built-in modem plus a Wi-Fi router that enables other Wi-Fi devices in range to reach the Internet via its cellular connection.

MiFi Compatibility

Novatel Wireless makes several different models of MiFi to work with different cell networks:

  • MiFi 2200 - for EVDO (CDMA) networks
  • MiFi 2352 and MiFi 2372 - for HSPA networks in Europe and North America
  • MiFi 4510 - for LTE networks

The devices are small - typically less than 4 inches wide. Some phone providers like Verizon sell their own branded versions of MiFi.

Using MiFi

Hooking up a MiFi to a cell network typically requires setting up or updating a service contract with the provider. Configuring local wireless support and connecting Wi-Fi devices to a MiFi works similar to other wireless routers.

MiFi Limitations and Issues

A MiFi supports a limit of five connected Wi-Fi devices at any one time. Connection speeds limited to that of the cell network and performance naturally degrades if multiple devices begin heavily utilizing the shared link.

With multiple device support and the extra convenience of connecting, those with a MiFi tend to more quickly consume bandwidth on the network that can result in exceeding service quotas from the provider and possibly incurring additional fees.

Portable hotspots like the MiFi require significant power to run.

Depending on how many devices you connect and your usage, the battery life may or may not be long enough for your needs.