Can the MiFi Mobile Hotspot replace your wired broadband connection at home?

A new debate arises after the recent release of a new generation of portable, multiuser internet access devices, such as the MiFi Mobile Hotspot . Can wireless broadband technology upstage the tried and tested wired home broadband connections? Is the MiFi 3G device a feasible replacement for your home's wired cable modem, FIOS, or DSL connection?

The MiFi is a mobile hotspot by Novatel which is being retailed by Verizon and Sprint along with their connection plans in the United States. It has a range radius of 30-40 ft. and has a battery life of four hours continuous usage or forty hours standby time and of course it doesn’t have any wires (except if you want to use the plug in AC Adaptor charger). It connects to your 3G provider and turns the 3G signal into a regular WiFi signal, all while on the go. The MiFi mobile hotspot is a clear winner outside of the home, so let compare "apples-to-apples" where we can in seeing who might benfit from a single univeral internet connection provided by the MiFi.


The data service plan for the MiFi Mobile hotspot range from $40 to $60 per month. Since you’re dealing with Sprint or Verizon, tack on another $15 in taxes and fees, so you are looking at around $75 per month. The two price tiers are for different data caps - in this case the $40 monthly rate allows for (only) 250 Megabytes of usage per month. Since the MiFi will we used as a primary home connection, I would not recommend this low-cap option. When comparing the $75 monthly fee, it’s important that you count in any possible recoverable fees you may be currently incurring. Assuming you have a "triple play" (voice, data, TV) wired broadband service, subtract the cost of what you are paying for the all-in-one service with the TV only subscription. The MiFi can utilize Skype or several other low cost or free VOIP providers to deliver voice and telephone service to you home. Generally you will find this price differential to be a wash, with the costs negating each other. On first appearance it may seem like the cost is the same, but then factor in any existing mobile data plans you have that the MiFi can replace, and you will see the MiFi as an effective cost savings. The MiFi's build in router may also present some potential saving of having to buy an existing wireless home router.


The MiFi will deliver around 5 Mbs download speed, but more realistically in dense urban areas, you may see around half that speed. Cable modems are generally 10 Mbs, while FIOS is around 25 Mbs. The speed winner on face value is clearly wired broadband. The caveat is that not everyone needs 10 mbs download speeds. Remember browsing in the web in the late 1990's with a 56K modem? For regular, everyday "web stuff" 56K is not too shabby - 5Mbs is about 8 times faster then 56K, and should be fast enough for downloading songs and watching videos. The MiFi Mobile Hotspot also has the added benefit of a managed 5 user router build in, so the fact that the fast connection can be shared is a bonus on top.


If you are a person who lives on the go and takes your connection where they go, the MiFi Mobile Hotspot may be a great alternative. After all, the MiFi device will always be "with you", and the "you", be it at home or on the road, will always be assured a fast connection. The MiFi is likely NOT going to be a realistic replacement for your home broadband if you have a need for the mobile and wired environments to coexist. The ideal candidate for a MiFi-Only scenario would be a single person who does not need a dedicated wired home connection when they are on the road, but wants a high speed broadband connection wherever they are, be it home or abroad. Plug the MiFi into the wall adaptor and you have for all practical purposes the same setup as a cable modem and WiFi router. The MiFi-Only setup would not be a great choice for a family that needs on-the-go connectivity but has users or other family members at home the same time. The "MiFi as a Primary Home Connection" also would NOT be a feasible choice for those who mass download BitTorrent or Newsgroups, since the 5GB monthly cap would likely be exceeded.

Conclusion: The MiFi was never intended or marketed as a full time replacement for a wired home broadband connection, however, in my opinion there is a fairly large demographic that I would call the "constantly connected single person" who could greatly benefit from a practical device that can provide both mobile and stationary broadband service for voice and internet at a substantial cost savings over traditional plans.[source]


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