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What is a portable Wi-Fi hotspot?


Aug 26, 2020 — 6 min read

A portable Wi-Fi hotspot is a great way to connect to the internet on the go. While connection speeds vary by cellular network signal strength, they give you a secure way to access the internet when you need it.

Whether you’re traveling or at your local coffee shop, a portable Wi-Fi hotspot is a reliable way to connect to the internet. If you’re unfamiliar with them, here’s a closer look at how they work, why you should try one and where you can buy them. 

What is a portable Wi-Fi hotspot and how does it work?

A portable Wi-Fi hotspot is a small device you use to connect to the internet. It works like a router in that it routes a cellular network to your phone or computer. Once connected, you’ll be able to use the internet on your connected device. 

Why would someone use a portable Wi-Fi hotspot?

One of the biggest benefits is the portability of the device. Most portable Wi-Fi devices are super small, so you can tuck them into your pocket or purse with ease. Then, when you visit a coffee shop or restaurant, you can gain access to the internet whenever you need it.

Another important advantage is its dedicated connection. Unlike using public Wi-Fi, where many people are using the same connection at the same time, with a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, you’re the only one using it. 

This has several advantages. To start, since you’re the only one on the line, you could have a better connection, which will optimize your experience. It is also a more secure way to access the internet. Being on public Wi-Fi means your internet traffic is visible to anyone with that connection, so by using a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, your information can remain more secure. 

How do you get a portable Wi-Fi hotspot?

There are several ways to obtain one. The easiest and most convenient is to see if your cell phone has one. Most smartphones have mobile hotspots built-in. If it does, check with your cell phone provider to see which plans they have available, as you’ll likely have to purchase one to use the service with any regularity.

And if your phone doesn’t have mobile Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities, you can buy one online or by visiting an electronics retailer. When buying one, keep in mind you’ll need to purchase the device and a plan. Many retailers have packaged deals to make the process easier. 

What companies offer portable Wi-Fi hotspots?

There are a wide variety of companies that offer portable Wi-Fi hotspots. Here’s a closer look at what each offers and how much it costs. (Prices are subject to change.)

Verizon: Verizon has several portable Wi-Fi hotspot devices you can purchase on their website. Once you choose your device, you have a wide variety of plan options ranging from the 1 GB for $15/mo. to the unlimited data plan, which will cost you $80/mo.

Skyroam: If you choose a Skyroam device, they have multiple plans such as pay-as-you-go, where you’ll pay $3 per each 1 GB you want to use. You can also have 24 hours of unlimited Wi-Fi for $9 a day. 

AT&T: You have your choice between several different options with AT&T, including a portable device and one that connects to the USB drive of your computer. On the plan front, they offer a 10 GB plan for $50/mo. and a 15 GB plan for $70/mo. AT&T also charges $10 for every 15 GB you go over your plans.

T-Mobile: Similar to other providers, T-Mobile sells portable Wi-Fi devices. In addition, its plans offer a good range of choices from 2 GB for $10/mo. to 22 GB for $85/mo. Once you reach your monthly allotment, T-Mobile will slow your connection speeds to 2G.

Sprint: Along with devices, Sprint has several different plans available. The 2 GB plan will run you $10/mo., while the unlimited plan is $25/mo., providing an exceptional value when compared to other providers. 

Amazon: Of all retailers, Amazon offers the most variety. You can choose from brands like Netgear, GlocalMe, Huawei and many more. Your plan price depends on the manufacturer you choose. To demonstrate, GlocalMe’s 12 GB plan runs you $35.99/mo., or you can get the 24 GB plan for $59.99/mo.

How do you set up a portable Wi-Fi hotspot?

There are several ways you can set up a Wi-Fi hotspot. If you bought a portable device through a retailer or cellular provider, here’s how you set it up. 

Step 1: Open the box of the portable device and read the instructions. Normally, this involves charging the device for an hour to give it more power so it can connect. 

Step 2: After charging the device, go to the manufacturer’s website and activate it. 

Step 3: Upon activation, select a data plan from the provider. 

Step 4: If you’re doing a prepaid plan, enter your payment or gift card information to set up service.

Step 5: After completing the activation and plan purchase, your device is ready to go. From here, go to the internet settings on your computer. Most have a shortcut on the bottom right-hand corner with the Wi-Fi icon. Click on that.

Step 6: Doing this will bring up all available Wi-Fi networks in the area. Look at the bottom of your device or at the side of the box it comes in, as there will be the name of the device and the passcode. Find the device name on the available Wi-Fi networks then enter the passcode.

Step 7: If you’ve entered the information correctly and activated the device, your computer should connect. If it does, try several websites to make sure they’re loading properly.

Meanwhile, if you want to use your smartphone as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, then go to the settings. From here, you’ll want to select the internet settings, then go down to the hotspot. 

If your phone is hotspot-capable, click on it to open up that connection. From there, open your Wi-Fi settings on the bottom right corner of your computer, find the network name and passcode on your phone, and enter them in. Your computer will connect instantly into your cell phone’s network.

Wi-Fi hotspot frequently asked questions

Is having a portable Wi-Fi hotspot faster than traditional Wi-Fi?

Since the connection speeds rely on the signal strength of the cellular network you’re using, it depends on where you live. In many cases, a WiFi network installed by an internet service provider (Comcast, Verizon Fios, etc.) will be much quicker because there isn’t as much traffic congestion.Is My Connection Secure?

If you have to enter credentials such as a network name and password, it is more secure than using a public connection where there are no log-in credentials required. However, it’s important to ensure your device doesn’t connect to public WiFi hotspots automatically, as doing so could expose your information to hackers.

What should I look for in a provider?

The coverage map of where the provider offers the fastest speeds is of paramount importance since you want access to the fastest speeds with reliability. The price will also be another factor, especially if you’re in an area where you can choose between multiple companies. 

To sum it up

A portable Wi-Fi hotspot is a great way to connect to the internet on the go. While connection speeds vary by cellular network signal strength, they do give you a secure way to access the internet when you need it.  

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