The Fundamentals of the MiFi Mobile Hotspot

Use, Limitations, and Issues With the MiFi Mobile Hotspot

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MiFi is the brand name for portable devices from Novatel Wireless that work as mobile hotspots. A MiFi includes a built-in modem and acts like a wireless router, creating an ad hoc network that enables multiple devices, such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, and others, to share a data connection on 3G and 4G cellular networks.

MiFi Compatibility

Novatel Wireless makes several different models of MiFi devices. Some are specific to your carrier, but some are global:

  • MiFi 7730L Global Mobile Hotspot is a premium device that provides up to 24 hours of battery life on a single charge. It includes simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi. Up to 15 Wi-Fi clients can connect simultaneously. 
  • MiFi 6630 Global Hotspot connects up to 15 devices to LTE for up to 20 hours on a single charge, It includes a built-in power pack for charging external devices.
  • MiFi 5510 3G/4G Intelligent Mobile Hotspot displays your data usage on its screen so you can avoid overages. Up to 10 devices can connect simultaneously.

The devices are small, some barely 4 inches wide. Phone providers such as Verizon and Sprint sell their own branded versions of MiFi. U.S. Cellular sells the MiFi M100 4G LTE Personal Mobile Hotspot, for example.

Using MiFi

Hooking up a MiFi device to a cellular network typically requires setting up or updating a service contract with your cellular service provider. A MiFi usually has its own data connection from the cellular service provider. Configuring local wireless support and connecting Wi-Fi devices to a MiFi is similar to connecting with other wireless routers.

MiFi Limitations and Issues

Connection speeds attainable through a MiFi are limited to the speed of the cellular network, and performance degrades when multiple devices use the link at the same time.

With multiple device support and the extra convenience of connecting anywhere, individuals with a MiFi tend to quickly consume bandwidth on their network, which 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 sufficient for your needs. However, with the current versions, most users can expect to get a full day of intermittent Wi-Fi connections before needing to recharge the batteries.