I promised I’d do a blog post on the recent MiFi purchase. I’m currently in Heathrow with an hour or so to kill before my flight to Macworld so here goes:
If you’re not familiar with Mifi as a concept, it’s basically a device that connects to the cellular data network and provides broadband Internet access – very similar to the broadband USB dongles you can buy to access broadband via 3G on a laptop.
The difference with a MiFi device is that instead of physically connecting it to laptop, it creates a Wifi hotspot covering approx. 10m around itself. A sort of WiFi bubble. This means that you can connect a number of devices to the Wifi (dependant on the model but mine will support up to five devices). Hence the name MiFi – it’s my personal WiFi hotspot!
I’d heard of these before and I’ve used an early version when over in the US with Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast podcast. It worked a treat!
But I have my iPhone on 3G (via O2) and I’m not out and about that much, so I never really considered a MiFi unit.
That was until the iPad was announced.
As you know, it will come in 2 versions – Wifi and Wifi/3G
I really didn’t want to wait for the 3G version but I still would like to access the net via the iPad when away from WifI, so the Mifi became a possibility. I’d also considered if eventually we’d be able to access the Net via tethering with the iPhone but can’t see it as yet, unless at an extra charge.
So, using the latest research techniques, I asked my Twitter friends for recommendations.
GazMaz had used a MiFi unit at the recent Liverpool Tweetup and Pat Mahon had recently purchased the same MiFi to use whilst over in the US so what’s good enough for Pat and GazMaz was good enough for me. I ordered an unlocked Novatel 2352
MiFi 2352 intelligent mobile hotspot for HSPA networks, optimized for Europe and capable of providing Internet connection for up to 5 Wi-Fi enabled devices. Integrated microSD slot for up to 16GB, shared over Wi-Fi.
But what service to sign up for.
Again, GazMaz to the rescue with a tip that Virgin Mobile did a deal for a USB broadband modem for £8 per month (for existing customers £10 normally) THis allowed up to 1GB bandwidth per month. If you bought the modem (£25) there was no contract lock in past the initial 3 months.
No guarantee it was going to work with the MiFi but at least if it didn’t, I could still use the USB dongle.
The dongle and SIM arrived separately so I didn’t even have to take the SIM out of the dongle. Installed the SIM straight into the MiFi, powered up and it worked – no configuration needed. I then configured the MiFi security and changed the admin password and bingo!
The thing that really surprised me when testing it in my living room was the speed?
I can hardly get a signal on my iPhone using 02 and data is abysmal. The MiFi was significantly faster.
I tried it the next day from the car where again, I struggle with the iPhone on 3G – the MiFi was flying – nearly 10x the speed of the iPhone data connection.
To be honest, I’ve been blown away by the speeds I’ve been getting from the MiFi consistently.
Previously, I’d tried using audio streaming using the Twit application on the iPhone whilst driving. Never got it to work using the iPhone. Switched on the MiFi and connected the iPhone using Wifi and got a rock steady audio stream with no effort.
Here I am in Terminal 5 using the MiFi on both the Laptop and the iPhone and it’s working great.
My one regret….
I didn’t get one sooner – it’s a fantastic device.
All I need now is the iPad!