Reliance Jio’s portable Wi-Fi hotspot (commonly known as JioFi) spiked the popularity of Mi-Fi (short for Mobile Wi-Fi) devices in India last year. Mi-Fi devices are small hot-spot gadgets that work as personalised pocket routers.
So long, smartphones were the only source of tethering as an Internet hotspot for other devices, including laptops and tablets. However, this is good enough for tasks that require limited data. Also, smartphone tethering drains the battery much faster, restraining the extent of use. While data dongles address these two challenges, most support only a single device at a time.
A Mi-Fi device comes across as the best solution for dedicated Internet on-the-go. It requires a mobile sim card that allows access to the Internet. A Wi-Fi chip lets it create a network and connect multiple devices via Wi-Fi simultaneously. A dedicated battery allows longer usage.
In the present market scenario, it is important to cross-check a few features while purchasing a Mi-Fi device. Pay attention to the connectivity range the device supports. Choose a device that offers 4G or LTE connectivity (4G device usually supports 2G and 3G networks, too).
Ensure whether the device is ‘unlocked.’ A locked device is compatible with only a single service provider’s sim and does not accept any other. An unlocked Mi-Fi device, on other hand, gives you the flexibility of selecting your own service provider. Features like USB compatibility, expandable SD card slot and support for higher number of simultaneous Wi-Fi devices (at least 10) will bring in more benefits.
Today, JioFi is the most popular Mi-Fi device in the Indian market. Let us look at some other options and explore their features.
Huawei E8372 Mi-Fi dongle
Huawei offers its own unlocked Mi-Fi device that can tap into 4G LTE network of most major Indian mobile service providers. The sleek gadget comes in the form of a dongle.
To run the device, plug it into a power source or a computer system through its USB port. Its Wi-Fi network can serve up to 10 devices simultaneously. It can also be plugged into the charging port of your car, so you can use it on-the-go. The device can be set up using the proprietary HiLink mobile application. The dongle comes with an expandable microSD memory slot. It is available online for ₹ 3499.
SmartLink Network Systems offers this compact 4G/3G Mi-Fi device under its Digisol brand. It supports most major network providers, and can generate a download speed of 150Mbps. The inbuilt Wi-Fi can connect up to 10 devices at a time. A 2000mAh battery allows it to run for about 10 hours. Power-saver mode further enhances the battery’s longevity. The device has a microSD slot expandable up to 64GB. It is priced at ₹ 5200.
Vodafone R217 4G Mi-Fi
Vodafone’s latest Mi-Fi device supports 4G LTE connectivity with Wi-Fi coverage that supports 15 devices simultaneously. The two-step authentication (WPS and password) makes the device extremely secure. An 1800mAh battery powers the device for seven hours straight. There is a microSD expansion slot to support up to 32GB of storage. A mobile application and Web-based interface make the setup easy and quick. The device supports both prepaid and postpaid Vodafone services. It is currently available at a discounted price of ₹ 1950.
Airtel E5573 4G Mi-Fi
Huawei has partnered with Airtel to deliver a handy Mi-Fi device, E5573. It supports up to 4G networks. Download speeds can reach up to 150Mbps. The device supports 10 Wi-Fi devices simultaneously. It has a battery capacity of 1500mAh, which allows it to run for six hours at a stretch. The official model is locked for Airtel SIM and is available for ₹999.
TP-Link offers a unique Mi-Fi device in the form of TL-MR3020. It is a portable router that creates a hotspot using a connectivity source. A separate modem is required to carry a 3G/4G sim and plug into the Mi-Fi router to access the Internet.
MR3020 comes with an Ethernet port where a LAN/WAN cable can be plugged in to create a hotspot. A switch on the gadget lets you toggle between three different modes of connectivity: travel (Ethernet), WISP and AP (3G/4G). The device supports multiple network providers including Airtel, Vodafone, BSNL and Jio. Connectivity can be configured through a Web interface.
It comes with a strong battery life and a three-year warranty. Although its maximum retail price is ₹2199, it is available at discounted prices on online sites like Amazon.in