Public Wi-Fi isn’t great for staying connected on the road. Weak signal, slow speeds, and dire hotel networks often make getting online an ordeal, and that’s before you even consider the lack of security.
If you need reliable, consistent internet while traveling, especially if you’ve got a locked smartphone or are traveling as a couple or group, take your connection wherever you go with a mobile hotspot instead.
- Size: 4.2 x 4.2 x 0.8 inches
- Weight: 8.5 ounces
- Battery life: Up to 11 hours
- Networks: Networks: 3G, 4G/LTE. Max 1Gbps down, 150Mbps up
- Connections: Up to 20 simultaneous devices
- Coverage: Global
- Size: 5.4 x 2.8 x 0.5 inches
- Weight: 6.7 ounces
- Battery life: Up to 12 hours
- Networks: Networks: 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE. Max 150Mbps down, 50Mbps up
- Connections: Up to 5 simultaneous devices
- Coverage: 140+ countries
- Size: 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.4 inches
- Weight: 3.5 ounces
- Battery life: Up to 6 hours
- Networks: Networks: 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE. Max 150Mbps down, 50Mbps up
- Connections: Up to 10 simultaneous devices
- Coverage: 4G/LTE in most regions (limited in the Americas), 2G/3G elsewhere
- Size: 4.2 x 2.4 x 0.7 inches
- Weight: 4.9 ounces
- Battery life: Up to 10 hours
- Networks: Networks: 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE. Max 300Mbps down, 50Mbps up
- Connections: Up to 10 simultaneous devices
- Coverage: No US support. 4G/LTE in most other regions, 2G/3G elsewhere
- Size: 4.4 x 2.7 x 0.9 inches
- Weight: 6.9 ounces
- Battery life: Up to 25 hours
- Networks: Networks: 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE. Max 300Mbps down, 50Mbps up
- Connections: Up to 32 simultaneous devices
- Coverage: 4G/LTE in most regions (limited in the Americas), 2G/3G elsewhere
What Is Mi-Fi, Anyway?
Mobile hotspots are known by a range of other names, including portable Wi-Fi routers, pocket Wi-Fi, mobile Wi-Fi devices, portable hotspots, Mi-Fis, and more. Whatever you call them, though, they all work in much the same way.
Typically a small gadget around the size of a deck of cards, the device shares cellular data over its own private wireless network. You get online by connecting all your other devices to that private Wi-Fi network.
Many companies rent or sell prepaid hotspot devices like these for international travel, where you buy a certain amount of data or time in advance. They’re convenient, but while typically cheaper than roaming, the cost can still mount up on longer trips.
Just like smartphones, though, you can also buy unlocked versions that let you pop in a local SIM card to take advantage of cheap data rates anywhere in the world. You’ll pay less (often, a lot less) per day with one of these, in exchange for having to seek out a prepaid SIM when you arrive in a country.
These are the best mobile hotspots unlocked for travel in 2022.
Note: We recommend carefully checking the regions supported by the specific mobile hotspot model you plan to purchase. Just like smartphones, not every device supports the different cellular frequencies used in each country. This can mean you get slower speeds, or no data at all, in some parts of the world.
Best Unlocked Mobile Hotspot: Netgear Nighthawk M1
Many, if not most, global mobile hotspots work surprisingly poorly in the United States. There are several reasons for this, but it’s a real problem for travelers visiting the United States or locals looking for a flexible hotspot that isn’t locked to a particular cell company.
Netgear’s Nighthawk M1 is one of the few models that offers good LTE coverage in the US and most other countries, with blistering top speeds and a range of extra features that provide real value when you’re on the move.
The M1 is relatively large as far as mobile hotspots go, but while it’s not really something you’d carry around in your pocket, it’s still small and light enough to easily fit in a purse/handbag or day pack.
That extra size and weight brings a number of benefits. The first is length of time away from a power socket, with Netgear promising up to 11 hours of usage from the 5000mAh battery. There’s also a spare available for purchase if you need even longer between charges.
The M1 supports sharing its data over either a 2.4 or 5Ghz Wi-Fi network, helping you avoid congested airwaves in crowded cities. You can also use it as a media server, streaming shows over Wi-Fi from a USB stick, hard drive, or microSD card. A USB socket lets you top up your phone from the hotspot’s battery if needed.
When it comes to download speed, the Nighthawk M1 is almost unparalleled in portable hotspots. Support for a range of confusing networking acronyms including LTE Cat16 and 4×4 MIMO translates to downloads at up to 1Gbps, and uploads of 150Mbps.
You’re unlikely to ever see those speeds in the real world due to limited carrier support and general network congestion, but even so, until 5G coverage is widespread and affordable, this is as good as it gets right now.
The M1 handles up to 20 devices being connected at once, so you’ll have no problems sharing those faster speeds with a group of people even if you’ve all got multiple devices.
In short, this is a high-quality device that promises widespread global coverage, fast speeds, good battery life, and useful extras, at a size and weight that’s still appropriate for all kinds of travel. As a result, it’s our top unlocked portable hotspot pick for 2022.
Note that Netgear has recently released the Nighthawk M5, the 5G version of this hotspot. Speeds are very impressive if you happen to be in a 5G coverage area, but the device is also noticeably more expensive. Grab the M5 if you know you need those super-fast speeds and will be somewhere you can get them, but otherwise, the M1 makes more sense for most people right now.Buy on Amazon
Best for Flexibility: GlocalMe G4 Pro
The GlocalMe G4 Pro is one of the best mobile hotspots we’ve come across, with a killer feature. The device lets you use either the inbuilt data plans for convenience or a local SIM to slash costs, whichever you prefer.
We’ve published a full review of the predecessor G3 in the past. Despite a couple of minor niggles, we found it to be the best mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for international travel overall, especially if you’re regularly on the road.
The latest model is basically a slimmer, lighter version with all the same features. It uses 4G/LTE networks by default, dropping back to 3G or 2G when necessary. You’ll get good speeds as a result, up to 150Mbps download and 50Mbps upload over LTE.
With the maximum five devices connected at once, web browsing, maps, and even streaming video should still work well. The device ships with just over 1GB of global data included, which you can use via the internal “cloud SIM” in any of 100+ supported countries.
Once it’s finished, you can buy local or regional packages as needed, often at a surprisingly reasonable rate. “Unlimited” data plans are capped at 2GB, however, after which speeds drop significantly.
You can put local prepaid SIM cards in either or both of the unlocked nano slots, and switch between them and the cloud SIM at any time. The device has a simple touchscreen interface, and it doesn’t take long to get used to how it works.
Battery life is good, at up to 12 hours of continuous use. You can even use the G4 to charge up your other devices via the USB C port, which is a nice touch.Buy on Amazon
Best Value Mobile Hotspot: Huawei E5577
The Huawei E5577 removes most of the limitations of the cheap and nasty hotspots out there, while still staying affordable. For your extra cash, you’ll get 4G/LTE support in most of the world and at least 3G in the Americas. This makes it a solid international pocket Wi-Fi choice for global travelers on a budget.
Good top speeds let you connect several phones or tablets to the E5577 without major slowdowns, at least in areas with 4G/LTE service. The interface isn’t as slick as the touchscreen-based version on more expensive models, but other than when installing a new SIM card, you’ll barely need to use it.
The hotspot is slim and lightweight enough to drop in your pocket, but that lack of bulk comes at a price: lack of space for a big battery. Expect no more than six hours of continuous use out of it, and potentially less if you have several devices connected or are in a low-signal area.
Overall, the E5577 makes a lot of sense for travelers who want a simple, easy-to-use Mi-Fi device that works in most of the world and doesn’t cost a fortune. We’d like the battery life to be better, but that’s the only real concern, and is easy enough to get around with a portable charger if needed.Buy on Amazon
Best for Fast Downloads on a Budget: Huawei E5787
The best feature of Huawei's E5787 is its speed. LTE Cat6 support provides download speeds of up to 300Mbps, making this one of the fastest mobile hotspots you can buy without spending a fortune. You can also connect up to 10 devices at once, so everyone can take advantage of that extra bandwidth.
The sleek design allows the E5787 to fit easily in a pocket. A slick touchscreen interface makes it easy to see important information at a glance and change more advanced settings as needed.
You’ll get 4G/LTE coverage in many parts of the world (but not necessarily the Americas), dropping back to 2G or 3G service elsewhere. If you’re in an urban area with crowded airwaves, you’ll appreciate being able to switch the hotspot’s Wi-Fi network between 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz for a better connection.
Despite the small dimensions and extra power requirements of that high-speed data, you’ll still get up to 10 hours of battery life. In a pinch, you can even charge your phone or other USB devices from the hotspot if you need to.
As good as the device is, however, it’s worth noting that recent price drops on the Huawei E5885 (below) often see it selling for a similar price. If you don’t mind the extra weight, the premium features and longer battery life may make it a better option.Buy on Amazon
Best for Extra Features: Huawei E5885
Many Mi-Fi devices, especially the lower-cost models, have small batteries that go flat after a few hours of consistent use. You’ll have no such problem with the Huawei E5885, which should last an entire day or more and has several other premium features to justify its higher price.
Like the E5787 (above), this is one of the faster mobile hotspots you can buy. LTE Cat6 support ensures downloads of up to 300Mbps in much of the world, and 3G/HSPA+ coverage elsewhere. You can also connect up to 32 devices at once, so if you feel like providing Internet service for your entire tour group, it’s totally possible.
The hotspot’s extra features may mean you can leave some of your other travel gadgets at home. Rather than toting a portable charger, for instance, you can use some of the 25-hour battery life to power other devices via the USB port. Helpfully, the small hand strap doubles as micro-USB cable.
The E5885 also removes the need for a dedicated Wi-Fi range extender since it can also act as a travel router, taking an existing wired or wireless connection and sharing it over Wi-Fi. Both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz are supported, which helps improve the signal in urban areas with congested airwaves.
It’s more durable than most other portable hotspots, with a faux-leather cover that provides some resistance to spills and stains. All of the ports are also protected by a rubber cover, helping keep liquid and dust out when they’re not being used.
This is a high-end device, with a price tag to match. Given the premium features and the ability to leave other gadgets at home because of it, however, the E5885 still provides good value for money for many travelers.Buy on Amazon
Main image via Virrage Images/Shutterstock.com, product images via Amazon
I don’t quite understand the purpose of a mifi. Assuming you are travelling you would want an unlocked phone, so why not just use your phone and setup a wireless hotspot?
First and foremost I’d rather have an unlocked phone first than a mifi. However I do have a mifi as a secondary device with built in Sim for those times when I arrive in country and dont want to mess about looking for the best phone/data sim package.
If you’ve already got a MiFi, I guess you already understand the purpose of it? In most cases, if you’ve already got an unlocked phone, and only need to share an Internet connection with other devices occasionally, you’d just set up a hotspot on your phone. For those who have a locked phone, who don’t want to drain their phone batteries by leaving the hotspot running for long periods, and/or are traveling as a couple or group, an unlocked MiFi can be more appropriate.
I agree. And if you were going to buy one for the reasons mentioned in Mr. Dean’s reply, why not just buy a cheap android phone in the country you’re in. You can use it is a hotspot, and as an unlocked phone, on about the same budget.
That being said, most countries cell providers sell their own branded Mifi’s for less than 20 bucks and are guaranteed to work on their systems.
Buying a branded MiFi locally is also an option, but mainly for infrequent travelers, or those who keep returning to one country, because it’s locked to that provider. This article is geared towards those who want the flexibility of using one device and local SIM cards in many countries.
A cheap Android phone works too, for those who want to go down that path.
Personally, I just buy a good unlocked phone and use it with local SIMs, hotspotting as necessary. Given how many companies continue to rent and sell MiFi devices, though, there’s definitely a market for them among a segment of the traveling population.
Personally I want one to replace the crappy, intermittent and annoying DSL Internet connection my parents’ home has (there is only one provider in this area because no company wants to invest in proper cabling).
They don’t really use more than 2GB per month so it wouldn’t cost more than the DSL connection and it would be infinitely more reliable. However, they don’t want to deal with setting up their phones, so a centralised access point would be better. It would possibly also have much better signal than mobile phones because of external antennas, which would make it possible to use it with the data plans from the cheaper cell companies that don’t have good reception in this particular area.
Gave to agree with stuart, I can’t find a need for these things, seems simpler to just switch to a t mobile phone plan. I’ve been traveling the world for years and years with a t mobile phone with free international data plan, just works for free in country after country, seemless, when you step off the plane you have service
Totally agree, but not everyone is from the US, or wants to switch to T-Mobile even if they are. Cheap or free international roaming is still a rarity in most of the world, sadly.
Just a note to be careful… Someone I know did the exact same thing as you — traveled for years on a T-Mobile plan. A month or so ago, they let him know they were canceling the plan. Apparently there’s something in the fine print of your contract that says it’s free as long as it doesn’t go into excessive use (or something like that). I’m not sure what the threshold is for excessive use, but people who are planning to be location independent for long periods of time (or indefinitely) might not want to depend on a T-Mobile plan if there’s the possibility of it being canceled on them.
Yep, it’s happened to a few people who travel extensively overseas with a T-Mobile plan. Definitely worth being aware of!
yes, I’ve been overseas for 2 months and didn’t know that there is a max data and have been getting warnings that I am roaming. I’ve been listening to the radio on the way to/from work. So I am trying to figure out the best mifi to get for here. I have seen one that advertises “Cat16 1Gbs download”. Is that really true? What is Cat 16?
Cat16 is one of the high-speed LTE data standards, which supports speeds up to 1Gbps. Some hotspots do have that capability, but whether your carrier supports those speeds — and whether you’ll ever see anything like that in real-world conditions — is another question entirely. 🙂
You definitely don’t need anything like that kind of speed for streaming radio, though, so don’t feel the need to buy a high-end MiFi like this unless you have a particular reason to.
Thanks for the heads up, never heard of any average user having any plan revoked. Quite the opposite really, had a $1200 data charge last nov 2016 due to a 24 day Mediterranean Cruise i was on, one glitch with the International free roaming is cruise ships networks if your phone switches to them are not covered for free. T mobile refunded the charges without batting an eye.
Where t mobile goes the rest slowly follow…. unfortunately reluctantly….check your other usa carriers they all have plans of some sort for international use, not any where like t mobile but at least starting to. I know for sure at&t does
Keep the gadgets coming, always enjoy getting your updates!
I’m waiting for them to put a small solar panel into a cell phone to trickle charge and extend your battery time, or how about a trickle charging rolex, movement charging device like in my submariner? Lol
Love all the new gadgets Dave and the site redesign is cool. My question is this: If I buy a local sim and add a cheap data plan (currently in Thailand for 199 THB or about 5 USD/ month extra and link it to my MB Pro, how is getting a MIFI going to serve me better?
Thanks Philip! Assuming you mean you’ll be using the SIM in your phone and tethering it, there’s little benefit to a MiFi for your situation. It’s most useful for people with locked phones who can’t use local SIMs in them, or those who want to share a connection between multiple devices without draining the battery on their phones
Hi Dave, thanks for a great article. We are currently a couple travelling all over UK & Europe for 3 months. We bought a three.co.uk Sim which allows 12gb data per month for Ukl20 & includes all countries…. Yaaay thought we… Until we discovered it’s locked for hotspot/tethering. So we can’t hotspot our tablets or other phone. No Netflix on tablets. ? It appears the best option is a Mifi. But where to buy one in Switzerland or Italy is the next challenge. ? Cheers
Yeah, it can be tricky buying in other countries, especially if there’s a language barrier. If you’re going to be somewhere for any length of time (or can receive mail at a hotel or elsewhere further along in your trip), Amazon has English-language sites in the UK and Germany, and most vendors are happy to ship within the EU.
I have an unlocked Galaxy S5 and my carrier is Metro PCS. I travel to areas where Metro provides cell service, but not internet service. I thought I was going to buy one of these to gain wifi access, but now wonder if there is a way to tap into another carrier (such as AT&T) just using my unlocked phone? I’m new at this, so a detailed response will really help me understand.
You do have another option — just getting a SIM card with an appropriate data package from a different carrier, and swapping between your Metro PCS SIM and the new one as needed. Remember that you won’t have access to your normal phone number when you do that, though. Calls will go to voicemail, and texts will queue up for a few days, or until you put your main SIM back in.
Since this site is aimed at travelers, we typically recommend prepaid SIM cards that can used while visiting a country, and then discarded. Assuming you live in the US, though, you can also consider post-paid options, which may provide somewhat better value.
Either way, you’ll need to decide which company is best for you, likely based on coverage in the areas you’re going, and the cost. Take a look at this post (and the comments) for various suggestions. If you’ll be using the new SIM infrequently, you’ll also want to check how often you need to top up your data package before the company disables it for inactivity. Usually it’s at least three months, but again, just double-check if it’s likely to be a concern.
Dave, I’m looking for wifi routers which can be carried from one country to another and which accept sim cards of different operators from different countries, to use for team meet-ups. What would be your recommendations? Any advice would be massively appreciated!
Any of the routers in this article meet your basic requirements, but I’d suggest the Huawei E5885 for a few reasons. The most important for use with a team is that it can handle up to 32 connections, and is one of the few such routers that supports high-speed LTE data — the more people you have connected, the faster speeds you want to have. It’s also small, light, and has good battery life.
I don’t know how big your team is, but if you’re going to have more than about 10 devices connected, I’d suggest getting two such routers with a SIM card for each. A single cellular connection, even LTE, is usually too slow to handle much more than that in real-world conditions.
Hi Dave, do you know for the devices you recommended – does it all support a wide range of spectrum? or spectrum band like ie 700MHz, 1800MHz?
My only concern would be for this device to be compatible with as many local SIM cards and local tel cos as possible since that’s the purpose of purchasing one.
It varies depending on the device. In general, the more you pay, the more frequencies are supported. That said, you’ll get at least 3G coverage in most countries with most devices, since there’s a less global variation in 3G frequencies. With 4G/LTE, though, it’s a different story.
You’ll want to check the exact details for any device you’re planning to buy, though, if you need coverage for a particular frequency band.
I live in the Philippines and have both Mifis from SMART and Globe cellphone nets and have an iPhone that works wit them, but don’t know if these Mifis would/can work in the US?
If they do, what should I get from the US?
Is there anything to do here in the Philippines before I go?
Without knowing the manufacturer and model of your Mifis, or whether SMART and/or Globe lock them to their own networks, I can’t really answer your question, sorry.
Generally, assuming they’re unlocked, you should be able to get 3G coverage on AT&T or T-Mobile’s networks with most Mifi devices, using a prepaid SIM. There’s nothing to do in the Philippines as far as the devices themselves go, but you definitely need to confirm whether they’re SIM-locked or not. Many carriers lock their Mifis, especially the discounted/subsidised models.
I am travelling on a Glocalme and I am highly satisfied with the product because of the virtual SIM Cards. Its true that the price for the data is generally a bit higher than buying a local Sim Card. But when I stay in a country for short and also calculate the price for the SIM-Card I have to pay, then glocalme often turns out to be cheaper not to mention all the trouble to get a local Sim Card in place like eg. India.
However, I am looking since a while for another brands with virtual sim cards but could not find any. Do you have an idea why this is? In my opinion thats the technology of the future.
As far as I can tell, there’s nothing different about Glocalme’s inbuilt SIM to other international SIM cards you can buy (see here) — you buy voice/text/data packages from Glocalme, and use them in whatever country you happen to be in.
The interesting bit is having that SIM inside an Mi-fi device that also has a standard unlocked SIM slot, so you can choose which one you want to use — the inbuilt SIM if you’ve just arrived or will only be somewhere a short time, or a local SIM if you’ll be in a country for a while and want to save money.
It is a bit surprising that other companies aren’t doing this, although it might be that it’s seen as too complicated to explain and sell to average customers, or because there’s less money to be made — for most of these companies, they’ll make far more on selling the high-priced international service than on the device itself.
I work in Remote Areas across the Caribbean, Haiti to be exact. My job consists of uploading and downloading for a good 50% of the time if not more. I have to share data with my partners across the globe. I need something that goes fast enough so I can work efficiently. The time is very valuable in the field I work especially when it comes to my boss making decisions.
Your speeds will be restricted much more by the mobile networks in Haiti than the MiFi device you use to connect to them. There’s a little bit of LTE coverage in parts of Port-au-Prince with Natcom, but other than that, it’s 3G at best, and 2G or nothing elsewhere.
I’m interested in your opinion on the Skyroam Solis. I don’t see anything on the Solis or its predecessor from Skyroam. Your thoughts, please.
It’s not an unlocked Mifi device — you can’t use a local SIM card in it for cheap rates, which is why we haven’t discussed it here.
At $9/day for up to 500MB/day of LTE data, it’s comparable to some of the other international SIM cards (or hotspots with international SIM cards in). You can check out our thoughts on several other variants of those here.
Not sure if this is the right place to post this question. But as a traveller I sometimes end up in some remote locations that have spotty cell service. I get a few bars, depending on which way the wind is blowing. Do MiFi Devices have a ‘stronger’ or more ‘powerful’ connection to the networks ….or would it be the same as a cell phone?
I doubt you’d notice much, if any, difference, unfortunately. The battery life on many MiFi devices is relatively low as it is, so they don’t tend to ramp up the cellular radio power very high.
I’ve just bought an unlocked mobile hotspot on eBay to take on my trip to the UK. Planning on buying a local data only sim there. I was wondering if there’s a way to check if it is indeed unlocked, before I leave for my trip, and make sure that it will work with the sim I buy in the UK? (I bought a Alcatel 4G LTE Linkzone MW41)
The best way to find out ahead of time whether it’s unlocked is to try using it with two different SIM cards from two different providers (eg, AT&T and T-Mobile, assuming you’re in the US). They don’t have to be data-only SIMs, but they do need to have cell data access. Beg, borrow, or steal from a friend. 🙂
I can find very little information about that device online, particularly as regards a reliable list of the cellular frequencies it supports. As a result, I can’t tell you whether it’ll work in the UK or not, sorry!
Thanks for the help!! “GSM bands: 850, 900, 1800, 1900” – is this perhaps the info you needed?
So with the assumption and hope that it works in the UK, should it work with not-data-only SIMs too? (so a normal sim with a text and call deal)
Yep, that’s helpful – thanks! Based on that, you should get at least 3G coverage with any of the UK providers.
And that’s correct about using a normal SIM. If you get a better data package with a normal SIM than a data-only one (which sounds silly, but often happens anyway), you’ll be able to use it in your hotspot.
So the mobile hotspot came in the mail and I tested it with an AT&T sim and it worked fine! (supposed to be a T-mobile product) So I guess it’s unlocked. Now, assuming pre-paid is the type of sim I need to get, how do I keep track of how much data I’m using and make sure I don’t go over? like if I buy 2GB worth of data for example, and use it in the mifi and not my phone, is there a way to keep track? Or will it just stop working once I’ve used all 2GB? I have no idea how prepaid sims work.. (I don’t even know if that’s the type I’m supposed to get ?) I’ll be overseas for about a month, Amsterdam and Norway for 3 days each and then the rest in the UK. I’m thinking I’ll buy the cheapest one in Amsterdam for Ams+Nor and then buy another one in the UK with a UK carrier so it has better coverage all over the UK. Good idea or no?
You’d usually get an SMS when approaching your data limit, but since the SIM will be in a hotspot rather than a phone, you won’t receive that text. Some providers offer an app that lets you monitor the usage, or you can often do it via their website. Failing all that, it’ll just stop working, or get extremely slow.
Buying a cheap option for Amsterdam and Norway, then switching to a UK SIM, is a good choice, mainly because competition in the UK prepaid SIM market makes it noticeably cheaper than the Netherlands and Norway. You may also get better coverage, depending on which provider you choose to go with.
Is there any option where purchasing a sim isn’t needed? I don’t want the hassle in a place I’m unfamiliar with. Travelling to Nigeria. Thank you
You can roam with your phone company from home, buy an international SIM card before you leave, or use the Glocal device mentioned in this post, which lets you use either the inbuilt international SIM or a local SIM as you wish.
Hey Dave….I just ran into this one online and looks like a winner….but can’t find much about it. My daughter will be in Vietnam for 5 weeks, then Capetown for 5 weeks then Buenos Aries for 5 weeks all going to school so she wants to be able to crack open her MAC and do work any time, any where without worrying about wi-fi and coverage. Does this look like it would do the job? MIOWIFI Global HotSpot https://miowifi.com/product/miowifi-buy/
Looks like $199 to buy then she will just need to get a Sim card in each market? Thanks for your help.
I’ve never heard of that device, but from reading that link, it looks like you can’t use local SIM cards in it. Instead, you need to buy service from the provider — so it’s basically a hotspot with an international SIM card inside. If you’re looking for something with maximum flexibility, I’d go for the GlocalMe device mentioned above, which lets you use either the ‘international SIM’ approach, or stick a local SIM card in to save money, as you wish. The devices themselves are a bit cheaper, too.
There’s this one mifi model which I found quite interesting except for it being rather pricey. It’s the TP Link M7450, an upgrade of the M7350 featured here. Its reviews online seem very OK. Will be traveling to Europe, particularly Poland, Germany, and France, soon but am still in a quandary whether to purchase a MIFI or an open line cheap smartphone that can act as phone and hotspot at the same time. For one, I dislike removing my Philippine sim card from my phone to insert a data sim thereby disallowing me from receiving important calls and text messages while vacationing.
I work in Bahrain and travel through UAE etc. I need to make sure I get one that works GSM on these carriers. Also, I was under the impression MiFi devices had better gain. I use my Huawai P10 as a hotspot from time to time but the gain is not the best in more remote areas. ~JG
I tried a simple experiment using a smartphone as a hotspot vis-a-vis a mifi. You’re right. A mifi has better gain than a phone used as a hotspot. Besides, a phone tends to heat up thereby shortening battery life. For a short needed access to the internet, a phone will do just fine. However, when you need to be continuously connected while in transit, it’s really better to have a mifi.
Hey Dave, I am looking for a jack of all trades: Do you know a Mifi device that can run on Verizon (CDMA) as well as on the in Europe commonly used GSM frequencies, when the respective SIM card is inserted? Ideally it would even run on all carriers world-wide, and be as light as possible. Thanks a lot for any help in advance!
I don’t know of any hotspot that will give you coverage on both Verizon CDMA and European/global GSM frequencies, unfortunately. That said, Verizon is moving to 4G/LTE across its network, so in theory you should be able to find a device that will give you what you’re after that way.
I say “in theory” because Verizon is particularly painful about only certifying/allowing particular devices on its network, so even if the cellular frequencies match, Verizon may refuse to activate the SIM in that device.
So, in short, you’ll probably need to pick a device that is compatible with Verizon’s LTE frequencies alongside the global ones, and then confirm with Verizon that you’ll actually be allowed to use it on their network. :-/ You can try going the other way (asking Verizon about an unlocked device that is compatible with its network and can be used with local SIMs overseas), but good luck getting a sensible answer — in my experience, Verizon reps only know about the products they sell, and all of the Verizon hotspots I’ve come across are locked to their network.
Hi Dave, thank you very much for your reply!
I was afraid you would come back with this answer and did some research as well but I am not tech-savvy enough to judge reliably: How about the GlocalMe U2? Can you tell me if from the purely technical point of view (assuming that Verizon would indeed activate a SIM in it) the U2 could run on Verizon and also on European GSM frequencies? It appears to a layman like me to cover CDMA as well as GSM…
Thank you very much for the other propositions which are less than optimal but very solution-oriented!
I’m not sure about the U2, but the reviews of the G3 suggest that people are getting service with Verizon in the US. That’ll probably be with the cloud SIM rather than a local SIM, but at least means the device is physically compatible. It’ll be using Verizon’s LTE network, which isn’t CDMA. Both the U2 and G3 are compatible with European GSM networks (I used the G3 in a couple of European countries last year with no problem).
If you want to double-check about any of this, it might worth posting the question direct to GlocalMe through their website.
I do like the the GlocalMe arguments that when you first arrive somewhere you have data – I just arrived recently in Saigon and the airport wifi was down and I had to get an Uber – I had to find a stall that would help me out luckily because the cost through Telus would be very high in Vietnam. Also using MAPS whenever you are lost or finding transportation is useful or sometimes just finding general info that you might need unexpectantly. If it is just a 2 day drop in I don’t want to shop for a local SIM.
If the G3 is recommended to shut off the app and just go online to work it as the app uses battery power, then what is it giving you vs the U2 which is lighter and smaller?
Usually my 7+ can last all day if I watch what I am doing so that the recharging ability is not that important and adding extra weight and size into a jacket pocket is a pain.
What else does the G3 give me?
Any suggestions as size and weight with all the other stuff I carry electronically become a consideration.
Thanks, Ted B
The G3 has a few things going for it over the GlocalMe U2 — that extra size is due mainly to the bigger battery, so it lasts longer between charges. You can also use it to juice up your own devices, as you mention, and having a (touch)screen means you can configure things like APN settings directly on the device, as well as see at a glance how much data you’ve used etc, without having to use the app.
If you’re someone who usually carries a portable battery anyway, it makes sense to buy the G3 and ditch the separate battery, since you’ll save space/weight overall. If you don’t carry a battery now, and don’t care about the extra features, by all means save a few bucks and go for the U2 instead.
Going to be living in a van/rv for some time, need an Internet solution. Huawei E5786S seems best for fast and down/up, but in Canada there are no “data only” options which is painful. Is the GlocalMe G3 a contender even though much less oomf than the E5786S? Appreciate your thoughts, thanks. Kept the Huawei Vodafone Mobile WiFi Hotspot R216 Pocket WiFi I bought in NZ last year, it was a fabulous device, but locked, unfortunately, to Voda-NZ.
If it helps, you don’t need to use a data-only SIM in the Huawei E5786S (or other models of hotspot) — a standard voice/text/data SIM will still work, you just can’t use the calls and texts. Whether it makes sense financially to do that can be a different question, but there’s usually not all that much difference in the price.
If you went with GlocalMe’s own data packages, the best pricing I can see for Canada is €29 (~$50 CAD) for 3GB of data for a month, or €12 (~$20 CAD) for 1GB. That’s probably not too bad by Canadian standards, but you’ll need to do your research with different providers to see exactly how it compares.
You may also want to contact GlocalMe to find out who its service partners are in Canada, to ensure you’ll get coverage wherever you are. Of course, with the GlocalMe G3, you’ve also got the option of using a local SIM either in Canada or elsewhere at some point if you choose to.
Thanks very much, Dave . Yes, the cost of cellular is painfully expensive in Canada. I am leaning toward GlocalMe G3 mostly for option of either/or. There are no data-only cellular options in Canada, so with the Huawei E5786S my only option is one of the carriers, but will really miss my land-based ADSL for down/up and constancy. Much appreciate your feedback.
I”ve had good luck with AT&T. I have an AT&T hotspot which I”ve used for a few years but this winter I took the Canadian SIM card out of my unlocked smart phone and stuck in an AT&T go phone SIM card bought at WalMart. I use the smart phone as a portable hotspot replacing the old data only hotspot, unlimited talk and text and 6gigs/month of data with a one month roll over of unused data for $45/month. I used a US campground as a US address and pay on-line with my Canadian issued US$ card, probably a C$ card would work. With the SIM you have to use it every 60 days to keep the phone # active but AT&T indicates that you can do it by going to the $2 plan (one day of service, that”s what I”m going to do). You can also use the plan in Canada, they pair with Rogers (not sure how long you can use it, I”m trying it out now!). IIRC the SIM was $10.
Hi! I’m traveling to ny in May. Can you help me with the best device? I’m thinking to buy a pre-paid T-mobile. Is it good? Thank you so much.
I haven’t used any prepaid T-Mobile hotspot device I’m afraid, although I have used a prepaid T-Mobile SIM in the past, which worked well in my unlocked phone.
Good article, one point I feel needs mentioning, Huawei has been implicated in data harvesting through its devices via specifically inserted chip. This news broke back in December last year, and has resurfaced with Australia, Great Britain and the US banning use of the devices for federal employees. Good advice for business users too IMHO.
There’s been no hard evidence emerge regarding that, particularly in Huawei’s consumer devices, which is why I’m happy to recommend the company’s wireless hotspots. If that changes, I’ll be sure to make mention of it, and potentially change the recommendations.
There’s also no “federal” (ie, national government) employee ban on using Huawei devices outside the US that I’ve seen, only on installing the company’s infrastructure gear to power upcoming 5G networks. The UK seems to have backed away from even doing that in recent weeks.
Are there any more non-Huawei options? Unless you don’t mind China spying on you…
See my reply to the previous comment for my thoughts on the Huawei/spying thing as it relates to consumer devices. Regarding other options — unfortunately no, I haven’t found anything else worth recommending from other manufacturers.
Is there any unlocked mifi that works with Sprint (CDMA 3G) and GSM (tmobile) carriers? I live in a place where only satellite or cellular wifi is available, so want to use mifi as a hotspot for multiple devices. However, I want to switch carriers if not satisfied with Sprint. Also, Sprint will deprioritize to 3G when congested
Not that I’m aware of, sorry. CDMA is so rare these days that there’s no real incentive for manufacturers to produce MiFi devices that work with it, especially dual CDMA/GSM variants.
So for Sprint and Verizon, I need to purchase their locked mifi device/hotspot?
For their CDMA networks at least, yes. As they migrate to LTE and 5G, I’d expect this to become less of an issue.
posted comment about glocalme g3 at https://toomanyadapters.com/best-unlocked-mifi-devices/
Don’t know if this is a one-off, but I had a very disappointing experience with the Glocalme G3. When I bought it 3 months ago in August, it worked exactly as advertised and I was initially very impressed. I got 12 hours of use on a full charge although I did notice that it got very warm and took nearly all night to charge fully from my iPhone USB adapter but that was not a showstopper. Then last month, I noticed it was getting very warm indeed (which made me wonder about the fire risk) and that it took only 48 hours to self-discharge even though it was powered off completely (which made me wonder about data harvesting). When I contacted Glocalme support about this they were singularly unhelpful, insisting that self-discharge in 48 hours was perfectly normal and demanding a video (!) to prove that it did so. Amazon have agreed to refund my money but I don’t see any alternatives with specs that look as good on paper. Glocalme seem to have replaced G3 with G4 which has similar specs, but a smaller battery. I also read that Skyroam recently sued Glocalme for patent infringement and won. It looks like Huawei 5885 may be the best alternative but it costs about $30 more than G4 …
I had a G3 and took it to Brazil and Thailand never a problem. Upgraded to the G4 and took it to Brazil and Thailand and never a problem. No over heating. No other portable Wi-Fi comes close. I use sim cards all the time. $20 US for unlimited data for 2 weeks to a month. Can’t beat that. I say give it another try