Mobile hotspots, also called MiFi, wireless Internet cards, laptop cards, wireless modems and PC cards - are devices that attach to your computer either via WiFi or direct connection to give you access to the Internet over a wireless carrier’s cellular network. Most mobile hotspots now support 4G data speeds, and are convenient if you want to access the internet wirelessly anywhere, anytime, without a Wi-Fi hotspot or a wired connection.
My laptop has Wi-Fi. Do I need a mobile hotspot?
No, but a mobile hotspot and data plan from your wireless carrier will let you access the internet at high speeds from anywhere in the country where your carrier provides coverage – indoors, outdoors, or even on the road. With Wi-Fi you need to be within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot (usually 20-30 feet) to get connectivity to the internet.
How much does this kind of connection cost per month?
To use a wireless internet card or mobile hotspot, you will need a data plan subscription from a wireless carrier. Most carriers’ standard data plan offers 5 GB (or gigabytes) of data use per month for about $60 per month. This information is intended as a guide and actual usage and rates may vary.
So the standard data plan includes up to 5 GB of data – how much is that?
5 GB is the equivalent of 5,120 MB (or megabytes) of data. Using general assumptions, 5 GB per month lets you send or receive 150,000 emails with no attachments or 50,000 emails with a five page Microsoft Word document attached to each. Surfing the internet, you could visit 30,000 typical web pages per month if you aren’t downloading files. A song download is about 1 MB per song (or 5,000 songs per month). Short internet video clips are about 3 MB, but downloading a 2-hour movie will use about 1.5 GB (that’s only 3 movies per month). We recommend downloading large files when you are connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, which doesn’t use your 3G data allowance at all. In short, 5 GB is a lot of data for most users. This information is intended as a guide and actual usage and rates may vary.
Can I share my card between multiple laptops?
Your data service will only work with your wireless internet card. You can easily move your card from one computer to another, but it can only be plugged into one computer at a time, unless it is a WiFi mobile hotspot, in which case it can accomodate multiple devices at once. Multiple computers can access the internet through a single laptop card if the card is used to power a 3G or 4G Wi-Fi router, provided that all PCs are in range of the router’s hot spot. Another alternative is a MiFi, now available with certain carriers. A MiFi has a built-in wireless internet card and allows up to 5 devices to connect simultaneously to the internet via Wi-Fi. Think of it as a mobile hotspot you can control.
Do wireless internet cards work on Macs as well as PCs?
Yes. Most of our wireless internet cards work on both Macs and PCs. Just make sure to choose a card that’s compatible with your laptop. If you go with a MiFi mobile hotspot, however, you do not need to worry which type of computer you have since all modern laptops can connect to a Wi-Fi signal.
How do I know which mobile hotspot to choose?
Mobile hotspots and wireless internet cards are distinguished by how they connect to your computer. Most new mobile hotspots connect simply via WiFi, and can be charged via an AC adapter or USB. Some connect via USB. Also, there are several 2-in-1 cards available now that come with an Express-to-PCMCIA adaptor, thus allowing the card to be used in either an Express slot or a PCMCIA slot.
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