Wireless hotspot on the hoof!

19th October 2014
Wireless hotspot  on the hoof!

Affordable  USB sticks which use 3G SIMscan be used to  to create a personal WiFi zone -- anywhere. IndiaTechOnline checks out a cool tool that will make a nice Diwali gift for geeks this week.
Most mobile operators in India offer Net access solutions where you can insert their SIMs into the USB dongle, they provide and plug it into a laptop or desktop to access the Internet. This is good as it goes – except for two downsides.
-  One: The dongles work only with their own SIMs.
-  Two There is no easy way to share the connection across multiple devices .
Third party providers of wireless dongles and data cards, have  overcome both limitations. They offer service-provider–free dongles which unlock the SIMs of any make.
In 2014, some of them have gone a step further: These dongles now double as WiFi routers: they create a hotspot so that you can share the Internet connection with multiple devices . They are being called MiFi -- for My WiFi or Mobile WiFi.
Huawei's Power-Fi range of USB devices take most makes of 3G SIMs. I tried out the Power-Fi E8221 with my Airtel and BSNL 3G SIMs and could set up a hotspot in about 5 minutes. Unlike most such devices, this one insists on your creating a user name and password on your laptop. Once it was set, I could  access the Net on  my mobile phone and  desktop. Power-Fi dongles E8221 and 8231 cost around Rs 2500 but are available online for around Rs 1600. The device works up to 4G speeds which is useful if you are travelling abroad – you can always buy a local SIM and get good speeds of 10- 15 MBPS even as you save on roaming charges. 
In this price band, you will also find operator -independent WiFi dongles - cum hotspots from makers like D-Link ( "Le petit" DWR 510 or 710), TP-Link and Binatone.  Do check before going in for the cheapest one available: Some of them  are older versions  that cater only to 802.11a/b/g speeds, while some are  either 802.11n or the latest and fastest 802.11ac.  Expect to may more for 'ac' dongles.
MiFi is a brand name used to describe a wireless router that acts as mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. In many countries, including the United States, Canada and Mexico, MiFi is a Novatel Wireless registered trademark brand, except in the UK, where mobile operator 3 owns the "MiFi" trademark. Novatel Wireless has never offered an "official" explanation for the origins of the name "MiFi"; it may be short for either "Mobile Wi-Fi" or "My Wi-Fi. A MiFi device can be connected to a cellular network and provide internet access for up to ten devices. (from Wikipedia). However MiFi or PiFi for Personal WiFi  is loosely used in the media when it talks about  mobile wireless hotspots.

Anand Parthasarathy/ Bangalore October 20 2014