MiFi® simply means ‘My Wi-Fi’. It’s a special compact wireless router which allows you to connect to wireless internet broadband services using your cellular or mobile phone carrier’s 3G/4G network.
The word “MiFi” is a trademarked name by Novatel Wireless which represents a whole line of these compact wireless routers. Their function is to create a small, personal wireless Wi-Fi network using the MiFi®’s wireless connection to your cellular carrier’s network. It’s a personal wireless hotspot cloud.
You can use one anywhere you have wireless service, whether it be at your home, or on the road. When powered on it creates a small Wi-Fi network allowing up to 5 wireless devices to connect from up to 30 feet in distance. It runs on batteries so you can put it in your pocket and carry your personal Wi-Fi network where ever you go.
Mobile Broadband USB, PC Cards and Express Card modems have been around for some time now, allowing you to connect your wireless network device to the internet. Tethering off from your cellular phone is another common way of connecting. What makes the MiFi® different is simply the ability to connect more than one device and no cords are required. A USB cable is provided, allowing you to initially configure the device and for charging it while not in use, but otherwise it’s completely wireless.
The following chart illustrates a personal wireless hotspot setup using an older MiFi® 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot model with the 802.11 b/g specification:
Newer models, such as the MiFi® 4510L offered by Verizon Wireless, provide both 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi standards and 4G mobile broadband network standards allowing it to be as much as 10 times faster than 3G.
It’s about the size of a small stack of credit cards and weighs only a couple of ounces.
So what exactly is the difference between Wi-Fi and MiFi®?
Is MiFi® worth the extra cost? Things to consider – Do you need to be connected to Wi-Fi all the time? Does it cost you more to NOT have Wi-Fi access wherever you go?
The MiFi® wireless router supports the common Wi-Fi access point security methods used to encrypt a wireless network:
The MiFi® 4510L device comes from the factory with security enabled. A sticker on the back panel includes the name of the wireless network (SSID) and the network password. You can change the security settings in the MiFi Settings Wi-Fi screen.
MiFi®’s are typically purchased from your mobile broadband provider, as they do require a data plan for operation. You can purchase a MiFi® from a local distributer, but your best deals on cellular broadband data services are most likely going to be offered as part of 1 or 2 year contract – in which case the actual MiFi® device could be free. All of the major mobile wireless internet providers offer plans – see Where to Buy Overview.
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