Should you invest in a portable WiFi hotspot?

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Whether you take advantage of it or not, many of the tech devices we own are designed around portability. In fact, the smartphone pretty much guarantees that many useful functions can be accessed on the go, such as banking, entertainment, and socializing. As remote as the modern internet allows us to be, though, it’s still possible to buy a portable WiFi hotspot. Does anybody actually need this kind of device?

Data Plan

Firstly, let’s answer the obvious question. What is a portable WiFi hotspot? In brief, when you connect to the internet normally, you’ll have to attach some device or another to an existing signal, such as home broadband or a business network. With a WiFi hotspot, you can use your cell phone’s data plan to create your own network instead, wherever you happen to be at the time. 

Put another way, portable WiFi networks are small routers that turn 3G, 4G, or 5G signals into something we recognize as WiFi. They have much the same capabilities as fixed networks too, e.g. they can be used by lots of people at the same time. The downside is that they’re not always the most secure devices in the world, especially from a business perspective, and they do require the purchase of a physical product. 

With the definitions out of the way, let’s consider just how necessary portable WiFi networks are for the average person. For those who don’t travel very far, movable WiFi hotspots are ideal for avoiding restrictive (and expensive) broadband contracts. The Broadband Search website places the average cost of an internet connection in the US at $61.07, one of the highest prices in the world. 

Flood or Fire

An infographic created by ExpressVPN actually recommends that everybody keep a portable WiFi hotspot in what it calls a tech survival kit. This is due to the fact that routing other devices through a mobile instead of a hotspot can rapidly drain the battery. Movable hotspots can also be used in an emergency when a preferred connection is compromised, such as in the event of a flood or fire.

Of course, you’ll still need a phone data plan to use a hotspot but these can usually be found for around half the cost of fixed networks. Hotspot plans are usually sold as add-ons or extras to existing cell phone packages, with prices beginning at around $5 per month for 500MB (T-Mobile). The cost does increase in tandem with the amount of data required, however. Spending $50 a month can net you 50-100GB, depending on the provider. So, to answer the question in the title, as a portable WiFi hotspot can be purchased for around $40, they’re ideal to keep around for emergencies or for times when internet access isn’t guaranteed, such as when staying in a hotel or during a power cut. As long as you aren’t expecting a mobile hotspot to completely replace a broadband connection long-term, you should get more than your money’s worth from one of these little devices.