What Is a Hotspot?
In this mobile era of wireless communication, it is more important than ever to be able to use your phone on the go. Technology has made it possible to get your work done from anywhere in the world; you can keep sending emails during your trip to the coffee shop, and you can check up on a new report while you are on the go if you need to.
In order for this to work, you need to be able to connect to the internet everywhere you go. WiFi has become more advanced over the years, but inconsistent connections and security concerns make it a last resort in many cases.
Cellular data, on the other hand, will keep you connected for as long as you need, without needing a wireless connection. On top of that, you can use a hotspot to use your phone’s cellular internet to connect your other devices to the web as well.
Common Hotspot Terms Explained
What Is Wi-Fi?
WiFi is the radio signal that gets sent from a router to a compatible device. A router is necessary for a WiFi connection to exist, and it will usually be centralized in a business or home. The further you get from the router, the worse your wireless connection will be.
WiFi in the home can be protected through extra security measures, but there are dangers to using WiFi in public places. Because data is transferred over airwaves, WiFI is susceptible to hacking and data theft, so avoid using important passwords or logging into sensitive apps while on public WiFi.
What Is a Wireless Access Point?
A wireless Access Point (WAP) is a device that allows WiFi devices to connect to the network. In most cases, a home router will have a WAP integrated into it already, meaning that a router is all you need to set up home WiFi.
For businesses, it is common for many access points to be interspersed throughout the location. This increases the number of people who can connect to the network, and it prevents slowdowns due to distance from an access point.
Once you have your access point setup, you can start using all of your compatible devices on WiFi. This includes your phones, computers, and even other devices such as printers that use an internet connection.
An SSID is your Service Set Identifier, which is basically the name you designate for your network. When searching for a WiFi network, you can scroll through a list of available SSIDs to find yours. Every router comes with an SSID, but you are free to change these at your leisure.
An SSID is public unless you choose to utilize extra security measures to hide it. This is not a problem as long as you avoid putting important info in your SSID, such as your address or phone number.
Comparing Mobile Hotspots
AT&T Mobile Hotspots: Are They Good?
If you go with AT&T, you can get a solid bang for your buck by purchasing an unlimited phone plan. The Unlimited Elite plan is only $60 per month, and in addition to cell service, you also get 40GB of high-quality hotspot data through your device. This is significantly cheaper than what you can get with T-Mobile.
AT&T also has a line of Nighthawk hotspot devices; however, these are more difficult to recommend. The newest Nighthawk devices support 5G and are very expensive, but AT&T’s 5G network is not yet robust enough to justify the purchase.
You would be better off with a 4G hotspot until AT&T improves its 5G network. An example is the Netgear Nighthawk M1, which offers the best available 4G speeds on the market. Even this option is pricey, however, especially compared to the 5G hotspot options with T-Mobile.
T-Mobile Hotspots: Worth It?
T-Mobile is unique in that it is the only carrier out of the big three (T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T) where we would recommend getting a 5G hotspot. T-Mobile has the widest 5G coverage in the nation, with over 41% of the country covered. This dwarfs both Verizon and AT&T, which only cover 11% and 18% of the country respectively.
While this will certainly shift and change over the next few years, T-Mobile is currently the only carrier where it would be in your best interest to purchase a 5G phone plan. Customers who purchase T-Mobile’s 5G Magenta Max plan get 40GB of high-speed data for their hotspot usage. However, this is a pricey option as the Magenta Max plan is their most expensive offering at $140 per line for three lines.
You can also purchase one of T-Mobile’s Inseego hotspot devices. Alongside these, you can purchase a hotspot plan of up to 100GB of high-speed data for $50 per month. As far as 5G hotspot devices go, the Inseego M2000 is by far the most affordable with the best network. With this in mind, T-Mobile is easily the go-to choice for 5G hotspots as of 2022.
Do Verizon Hotspots Work Well?
Verizon has arguably the best 4G hotspot on the market in the form of the Inseego Jetpack MiFi 8800L. It has a strong 11+ hour battery life with the fastest network speeds you will find on any carrier’s hotspots.
Verizon sports the least expansive 5G network by far, and as a result, there is no need to invest in a 5G hotspot at this time. While Verizon is doing its best to expand its network, only a small portion of the country can use its 5G. 4G, on the other hand, is something Verizon does fantastically, making the Inseego device the best possible option among 4G devices.
Let Us Help You Compare Hotspots
For now, T-Mobile has the best options for 5G hotspots, but with these carriers fighting for supremacy, that is sure to change constantly. If 5G is your priority, there is no other option but T-Mobile for your hotspot needs.
If price is on your mind, then AT&T offers cheap unlimited plan options that come with 40GB of high-speed hotspot data. This is considerably less than what you can get with a dedicated hotspot device, but it is a great value if that is your primary concern.
Finally, Verizon has the best overall hotspot with its 4G Inseego Jetpack MiFi 8800L. It has the best speed, battery life, and overall reliability despite its lack of 5G integration.
As these hotspots continue to adapt, use Navi to keep up to date on the best hotspot plans and devices. Navi uses industry insight to keep you informed on the best wireless products for you both in terms of hardware and software.
When you need to figure out which carrier has the best network options for you, Navi will analyze your plan, and your needs to determine which path is right. Hotspots become more important by the year, so make sure you are using the tools at your disposal to make the right choice.