Novatel's MiFi personal hotspot is an idea so good that I am shocked it is just now coming to market. And, for once, a cellular company has gotten the pricing right. Carry-around connectivity has taken a great leap forward.
The MiFi is a tiny (3.5 by 2.3 by .4 inches) Linux-based Wi-Fi router that weighs about 2 ounces. Unlike the wireless data cards offered by cellular providers, MiFi allows up to five computers or other wireless devices to share a single broadband connection on the Verizon EV-DO network.
Theoretical download speed is 3.1 Mbps, which is shared between all devices connected to the MiFi. Your download speed is more likely to be in the 1 Mbps range, again shared across all five connected devices.
The most interesting part of Verizon's announcement is the pricing: $269.99 for the device and $15-a-day for unlimited use. That is a good deal for broadband, multi-device connectivity where a normal Wi-Fi hotspot is not available.
Because MiFi is something I will not use more than twice a month, that pricing works best for me. When I am using the MiFi it will be with multiple computers and moving a fair amount of data, so the unlimited use pricing is a big deal to me.
Other pricing includes $99.99 for the hardware (after a $50 mail-in rebate) and $59.95-a-month for 5 GB of data or $39.99-a-month for a (to me) useless 250 MB plan.
Battery life may be an issue for some. The MiFi can run operate for 4 hours on a charge. That is longer than many computers, but is doubtless a size/weight compromise by the MiFi's designers.
Businesses are going to flock to this device, which Verizon says will go on sale May 17. I have run into many situations where no public Wi-Fi was available and I wanted to connect more than one computer to the Internet.
Being able to carry around a tiny Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing me to create a network cloud wherever I need one, will be a great thing.
One potential downside might be Wi-Fi interference at gatherings where people show up with a number of MiFi's. There is also the issue of bandwidth, which is shared among all users of a cellular tower.