First there was Hi-Fi, then Wi-Fi, and now MiFi. While high fidelity (Hi-Fi) sound systems and wireless local area networks (Wi-Fi) date back to the last century, MiFi is relatively new. MiFi stands for “My WiFi” and serves as a mobile wireless hotspot for connecting to the Internet.
What is MiFi?
MiFi devices connect to the Internet using a cellular connection (either built-in or by through a connection to an existing cell phone). Once connected, the MiFi device becomes a wireless hotspot that allows up to five users to share the Internet connection. Users must generally be within 30 feet of the device in order to use it.
Official versus Unofficial MiFi
The term “MiFi” is a registered trademark in the United States owned by Novatel Wireless. As such, official MiFi devices are marketed by Novatel. Wireless carriers such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint offer MiFi wireless devices along with the wireless service plans required for connecting to their networks.
Like many trademarked terms, the term MiFi is often used generically to describe mobile wireless hotspots. Other manufacturers that offer wireless hotspot devices include D-Link, Sierra Wireless, and NetComm among others.
With a myriad of ways to connect to the Internet, why would you want a MiFi device? While hotels, cafes, airports, conference centers, and other facilities routinely provide Internet access and often feature wireless hot spots, having your own mobile hotspot has its advantages.
For example, if you enjoy camping or hiking, you may have cellular access but finding a Wi-Fi hotspot could be a problem. By having your own MiFi, you can connect to the Internet anywhere you can connect to a cellular network.
Since you can connect up to five devices at once, your entire family or a group of colleagues can share the connection. Instead of paying individual connection fees or investing in separate accounts, you can save money by sharing a single connection.
Alternatives to MiFi
While MiFi and MiFi-like devices provide you with a mobile hotspot virtually anywhere, they aren’t your only option. For example, the Apple iPad 4G Verizon tablet can serve as a mobile hotspot as can many smartphones on 4G data plans. In addition, many laptops and netbooks come with integrated 3G and 4G modems.
Is a MiFi device the right choice for you? Before you make the leap and purchase a mobile wireless hotspot device, check your existing devices to see if any have hotspot capabilities. You might also check with your travel companions to see if anyone has a MiFi device and data plan.
Update: NFC and Airdrop are slowly taking over MiFi and they come installed in al most all the smartphones now a days.
Let us know about your views on MiFi in the comments below.