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If you are away from home but still want a secure, reliable WiFi hotspot, you won't want to rely on public networks. Business executives, digital nomads, and others who spend their days traveling internationally know that public systems are risky and frustrating.
Instead, seasoned travelers bring their own global hotspot devices. This not only saves time that would have been spent searching for a signal, but also offers protection against cybercriminals interested in your personal and financial information. Encrypted, strong networks let you do your business and connect with friends and family members any time you wish.
Hotspots come in many different varieties, and each option has a different plan, cost, and set of limitations. Which mobile WiFi system is the best for you? Let's take a closer look:
Can You Use Your Mobile Phone for Data?
Many smartphones and tablets have the ability to function as hotspots for other devices.
To use your phone as a hotspot, go into your settings and enable your personal hotspot function. On that same page, you'll see the network name and the password needed to access it.
However, the fact that your cell phone has the ability to function as a hotspot doesn't mean that your data plan will allow it. Many unlimited data plans restrict a phone's ability to function as a hotspot. Be sure to know the details of your personal data plan to ensure that hotspot functionality is both possible and affordable.
For example, AT&T forbids hotspot use for its unlimited plan, but Verizon allows it in theirs. T-Mobile and older Sprint plans allow hotspotting with their OnePlan and Unlimited plan options. However, there are some limitations on the amount of data you can use. Each month, you can only use 10GB for Sprint plans and 20GB for T-Mobile plans.
Other plans offer a lot of data, but dramatically throttle connection speeds once you use a certain amount. You'll have to check with your carrier to see your specific limitations. Of course, it can get very expensive if you are out of the country and must pay for roaming as well. That's why many opt for a separate mobile hotspot device.
Features of Mobile Hotspot Devices
To accommodate international travel and the need to stay connected for both business and pleasure, mobile hotspot devices can be used as an alternative to your phone. In fact, there are a variety on the market. How do you know which one to choose?
There are many features to consider:
- Battery life: A benefit of owning a separate hotspot is that you won't have to worry about draining your phone battery. Some hotspots have their own internal battery, while others rely on an external power source.
- Number of Devices: If you are out of the country and need a hotspot for more than one device, make sure that the hotspot you choose can support multiple devices. If you are traveling with business associates, consider the data needs of others as well. The best hotspots, like Skyroam's Solis X, can connect to up to 10 devices at once.
- Cameras: Some hotspots also include a remote camera, which is an especially useful feature for business meetings, social media, or simply sharing travel experiences in real time. Look for a camera that has a wide-angle lens for optimum live streaming.
- Size: The last thing any traveler wants is to feel weighed down by their technology. You'll want a mobile hotspot that's easy to store. A hotspot with an internal, rechargeable battery is usually smaller. Some can even fit in your pocket.
- Remotely Controlled: Want to monitor connections from afar? Get a hotspot that has a complementary app that can allow for customized usage.
- Coverage: Your hotspot won't do you much good if it doesn't work internationally. You never know where your future plans will take you, so make sure your device works in as many countries as possible. Check the coverage before making your purchase.
Plans for a Global Hotspot
Of course, the bottom line is affordability. How much does it cost to use a mobile hotspot? Surprisingly, the device itself is quite affordable. After you purchase the technology, you'll sign up for a data plan that works for your situation. Some companies still require contracts, making it difficult to cancel service. Be sure to read the fine print.
For example, Skyroam offers three plan options. They are:
- Unlimited Global Data Subscription: This option makes sense for digital nomads and frequent business travelers who know they'll need a lot of data at all times. It costs $99, and you'll get unlimited, global data connectivity for 30 days. It's also possible to cancel at any time. (Also available in USA only and Europe only plans - $49)
- Unlimited Global Daypass: If you aren't planning on traveling or being away from reliable WiFi for the entire month, this option is better. For $9, you'll get 24 hours of unlimited service for up to 10 devices. It's a pay-as-you-go plan with no contracts.
- Pay-Per-GB GoData Subscription: The most affordable and flexible option, the GoData subscription plan gets you a baseline of 1 GB of data for $6 a month in the United States or Europe. Globally, it will cost $9, with the ability to top up whenever you need additional data. This is an ideal alternative to a sometimes very expensive local SIM card for a smartphone.
- Pay-Per-GB (non-subscription): Pay-As-You-Go and buy data by the GB that never expires! No Throttling, always Full Speed. Get Pay-Per-GB data in both localized or global options - $8/GB for USA only, or $12/GB for Global (135+ countries). No Subscription, no contracts. Buy additional data when you run out. Available in the Solis App.
Stay Connected During International Travel
If you're serious about staying connected and safe during international travel, you can't rely on public WiFi. Smart devices like phones and tablets can offer hotspotting capabilities, but many plans include frustrating limitations. For business travelers and those simply exploring for fun, a mobile hotspot can alleviate these issues.
Since purchasing any new technology is an investment, be sure to do your research before deciding on which one to buy. Some of the newest models of hotspot devices offer microphones and Bluetooth options that let you customize your usage so it's easier than ever to stay connected.
Finally, read the reviews of the product. You'll want to see that others who rely on the service are pleased not only with the device and connection, but also with customer service. Not all devices have the same quality, just like WiFi itself.