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Best hotspot 2021: Work securely anywhere

We live and work in a connected world, so it’s important to have internet access when you are away from your workplace. Smartphones have integrated hotspot capability, but using your phone for this function drains the battery life and turns it into a multi-function platform when you may need your phone for other key connectivity.

Mobile hotspots have improved over the past few years with some even offering 5G connectivity. They are fairly affordable with competitive data plans offered by wireless carriers. These hotspots generally have a long battery life and support for connecting many devices, and are easy for companies to deploy to their mobile workforce.

WiFi is often used to connect when out on the road, but there are significant security issues with WiFi hotspots and, in my experience, hotel WiFi is often unreliable and slow. Packing along a dedicated hotspot is the preferred way to stay connected and productive while out and about.


Best 5G mobile hotspot for T-Mobile

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Network Connectivity: 5G (Sub6 and mid-band) and 4G LTE | WiFi Version: 801.11 b/g/n/ax WiFi 6 | Battery Capacity: 5050 mAh | Battery Life: Full-day of use | Dimensions: 150 x 70 x 17.9mm | Weight: 210 grams | Price: $336 

The Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 is one of the best mobile hotspots and is available for use on multiple carriers. It’s attractive for T-Mobile customers due to its support for both the Sub6 (low-band) and mid-band 5G networks, so you are only missing out on the range limited mmWave technology.

This mobile hotspot has a 2.4-inch color touchscreen for navigation and supports connecting up to 30 WiFi-enabled devices. You can even use the large battery of this hotspot to top off your phone, as it can serve as a portable battery pack in a pinch.

Data plans start at $10 per month for 2GB of 5G data with options for more data that include $20 for 5GB, $30 for 10GB, $40 for 30GB, and $50 for 50GB. These are fairly affordable plans and if you are using 5GB or less of data via a hotspot then you may be better off just using your phone for that occasional connectivity.

Pros:

All-day battery lifeSupport for 4G and 5G networks Affordable price 

Cons:

T-Mobile’s Sub6 5G network isn’t that fast Rather large size 
View Now at T-Mobile / Inseego


Best 5G mobile hotspot for AT&T

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Network Connectivity: 5G (Sub6 and mmWave) and 4G LTE | WiFi Version: 801.11 b/g/n/ac/ax WiFi 6 | Battery Capacity: 5040 mAh | Battery Life: Up to 8 hours | Dimensions: 105 x 105 x 21.5mm | Weight: 240 grams | Price: $509.99 

Netgear is a trusted brand for network connectivity and its Nighthawk MR5100 5G hotspot is one of the best available. This mobile hotspot has a 2.4-inch color touchscreen (320×240 pixels resolution) for navigation and supports connecting up to 32 WiFi-enabled devices. You can connect this mobile hotspot to your existing home router and then bring 5G speeds into your home for extended functionality for all of your AT&T devices.

If you are not an AT&T customer and want a dedicated mobile hotspot account, then you have two tier options to choose from. 40GB of high-speed data is available for $75 per month and 25GB is priced at $50 per month. The overage rate is $10 for every 2GB that exceeds the data limit of your plan.

AT&T also offers prepaid data plan options that include 15GB for $35 per month with an additional 5GB for $10. You can also select a 100GB plan for $55 per month, so if you are a heavy data user then a prepaid plan is more affordable than the postpaid option.

Pros:

   All-day battery life    Support for high-speed 5G mmWave    Connect up to 32 devices 

Cons:

   Postpaid 40GB plan is expensive    High price
View Now at AT&T / Netgear


Best 5G mobile hotspot for Verizon

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Network Connectivity: 5G (Sub6 and mmWave) and 4G LTE | WiFi Version: 801.11 b/g/n/ax WiFi 6 | Battery Capacity: Removable 3500 mAh | Battery Life: Full-day of use | Dimensions: 150 x 70 x 17.9mm | Weight: 210 grams | Price: $399.99 

The Inseego MiFi M2100 5G UW is similar to the one available on T-Mobile, but supports Verizon’s fast mmWave 5G high-band network. It also includes a smaller, but removable, battery so you can carry extras and provide mobile hotspot functionality for as long as you need to get work done. It includes support for WPA 3 WiFi security with hacker prevention features and password protection, so you can trust your mobile connection.

This mobile hotspot has a 2.4-inch color touchscreen for navigation and supports connecting up to 30 WiFi-enabled devices. You can even use the battery of this hotspot to top off your phone as it can serve as a portable battery pack in a pinch.

You do not have to have an existing Verizon account to buy this hotspot and setup service. For $85 Verizon offers unlimited 5G Ultra Wideband (mmWave) access with 30GB of its 5G Nationwide (Sub6) or 4G LTE data. Once you hit the 30GB level then your unlimited data reverts to 600 Kbps speed, unless you connect via the Ultra Wideband network. This service plan is labeled Unlimited Plus.

Verizon also offers the Unlimited Plan that has no 5G Ultra Wideband network coverage, but offers 5G Nationwide or 4G LTE data up to full speeds for 15GB of data. Beyond this, access speeds top out at 600 Kbps.

Pros:

   Removable battery   Truly unlimited data plan options   WiFi 6 support 

Cons:

   Limited battery life    Rather large size 
View Now at Verizon / Inseego


Best mobile hotspot for world travelers

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Network Connectivity: 5G (Sub6 and mmWave) and 4G LTE | WiFi Version: 801.11 b/g/n/ax WiFi 6 | Battery Capacity: 6000 mAh | Battery Life: More than 18 hours | Dimensions: 89mm diameter x 23mm height | Weight: 139 grams | Price: $119.99 

While the three major US carriers offer 5G support, sometimes you roam the world and need 4G LTE connectivity that extends beyond what your smartphone can provide. The Skyroam Solis Lite is a global mobile hotspot with support for service in more than 130 countries.

The bright orange hotspot is compact at just one-inch in height and has a weight of 139 grams. You can share your connection with up to 10 devices while the battery is rated for more than 18 hours.

Skyroam offers the service with three plan options: Unlimited Data, GoData, and Global Daypass. The Unlimited Data plan provides up to 20GB of 4G LTE data and then data up to 512 Kbps. The global option for this plan is $99 per month with three- and six-month plans that reduce the per month cost. A US unlimited data option is available for $49 per month, with an EU unlimited data option also priced at $49. Skyroam also offers top-up pricing if you want more 4G LTE data with prices ranging from $15 for 5GB up to $75 for 50GB of additional data.

The GoData plan starts at $9 per month for 1GB, so you pay for the data as you go. There is no rollover of data limits that you purchase when the 30-day period expires.

Another service option is the Global Daypass that provides 24 hours of unlimited data for $9.

Pros:

   Affordable price   Long battery life   Prepaid international service options 

Cons:

   Limited to sharing to 10 devices    No 5G network support 
View Now at Skyroam


Best 4G mobile hotspot for T-Mobile

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Network Connectivity: 4G LTE | WiFi Version: 801.11 b/g/n/ac | Battery Capacity: 4400 mAh removable | Battery Life: Full-day of use | Dimensions: 105 x 66 x 19mm | Weight: 146 grams | Price: $90 

The Alcatel LINKZONE 2 is an inexpensive mobile hotspot that provides 4G LTE connectivity for up to 16 devices. It’s a fairly basic hotspot, but it does have a large capacity battery that should easily get you through a full day of use.

You can even use the large battery of this hotspot to top off your phone, camera, tablet, or other device, as it can serve as a portable battery pack in a pinch.

Data plans start at $10 per month for 2GB of 5G data with options for more data that include $20 for 5GB, $30 for 10GB, $40 for 30GB, and $50 for 50GB. These are fairly affordable plans, and if you are using 5GB or less of data via a hotspot then you may be better off just using your phone for that occasional connectivity.

Pros:

   All-day battery life    Removable battery    Affordable price 

Cons:

   Managed via a web portal   Download speed not as fast as a smartphone 
View Now at T-Mobile / Alcatel


Best 4G mobile hotspot for AT&T

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Network Connectivity: 4G LTE | WiFi Version: 801.11 b/g/n/ac | Battery Capacity: 5040 mAh | Battery Life: Full-day of use | Dimensions: 105 x 105 x 19mm | Weight: 241 grams | Price: $249.99 

The Netgear Nighthawk LTE Mobile Hotspot Router is a mobile hotspot that provides 4G LTE connectivity for up to 20 devices. It has some internal storage and a microSD card slot so you can store data on it as a backup when you are out and about.

The Netgear Nighthawk has a 1.4 inch display with 320×240 pixels resolution.The hotspot is managed through a smartphone app and can also be used to charge up your phone with JumpBoost functionality. There are two TS-9 ports available for optional 4G antennas too.

If you are not an AT&T customer and want a dedicated mobile hotspot account, then you have two tiered options to choose from. 40GB of high-speed data is available for $75 per month and 25GB is priced at $50 per month. The overage rate is $10 for every 2GB that exceeds the data limit of your plan.

AT&T also offers prepaid data plan options that include 15GB for $35 per month with an additional 5GB for $10. You can also select a 100GB plan for $55 per month, so if you are a heavy data user then a prepaid plan is more affordable than the postpaid option.

Pros:

   All-day battery life    Support for up to 20 devices    Large data options 

Cons:

   Expensive for an LTE hotspot   Download speed not as fast as a smartphone 
View Now at AT&T / Netgear


Best 4G mobile hotspot for Verizon

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Network Connectivity: 4G LTE | WiFi Version: 801.11 b/g/n/ac | Battery Capacity: 4400 mAh | Battery Life: Full-day of use | Dimensions: 109 x 67 x 18mm | Weight: 152 grams | Price: $199.99 

The Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L is a solid 4G LTE mobile hotspot option for Verizon customers. This mobile hotspot has a 2.4-inch color touchscreen for navigation and supports connecting up to 15 WiFi-enabled devices. You can even use the battery of this hotspot to top off your phone, as it can serve as a portable battery pack in a pinch.

You do not have to have an existing Verizon account to buy this hotspot and setup service. For $45 Verizon offers unlimited data with 22GB at full speed and a reduction to speeds up to 200 Kbps after 22GB.

Pros:

   Affordable price   Truly unlimited data plan options   Compact size and weight 

Cons:

   Supports a maximum of 15 connected devices
View Now at Verizon / Inseego

Can I use a mobile hotspot for my home internet service?

While the technology will support using a mobile hotspot for your internet service provider at home and is a great backup in case some event knocks out your cable, fiber, or satellite internet service, a mobile hotspot isn’t the best solution for daily home or remote business needs. While there are affordable service options, note that these service levels are not designed for 24/7 connectivity and hours of streaming media content on a daily basis.

It is tempting to do this, since some of these mobile hotspots offer faster download speeds than people often see provided from their home internet service provider. But the mobile hotspots are best used in lieu of WiFi networks while working away from the office or home.

Why do some mobile hotspots have integrated or expandable storage capacity?

It’s always a good idea to back up your data when away from the workplace. With storage provided directly on the mobile hotspot, you can back up that data locally without having to consume your data allotment to back that data up to cloud services. Some hotspots include support for microSD cards, while most also have USB ports for direct device to hotspot data transfer.

Do I have to use one of the big three carriers for mobile hotspot service?

No, our list also includes the Solis Lite router from Skyroam that is not tied to any of the major US wireless carriers. There are also GSM unlocked mobile hotspots available from ZTE, Huawei, and others that support data plans from GSM carriers (AT&T or T-Mobile) and several MVNOs.

You may also find that US carriers offer existing smartphone customers other hotspot data options as a customer loyalty benefit, so check with your preferred carrier before signing up for a mobile hotspot data account.

Some also find having a different carrier for their mobile hotspot provides them with the best flexibility for coverage. A smartphone may provide coverage from one carrier in one area while the other carrier provides better data coverage through a mobile hotspot.

How did we choose these mobile hotspots?

Given that 5G continues to roll out in earnest — and even if this network technology doesn’t always provide the fastest speeds in your area — low-band 5G (Sub6) is available across the US and provides a wide coverage area. When you need connectivity for work, a mobile hotspot that supports 5G and 4G is your best bet.

We reviewed the offerings from each major US wireless carrier and read various reviews on the hotspots to figure out which are the best available for enterprise customers. In some instances, we also had the opportunity to test out the hotspots for ourselves.

Which mobile hotspot is best for you?

Given that some of the hotspots provided by carriers are made from the same manufacturer, the hotspot itself is not the driving factor in figuring out which is best for you and your business. Start by determining where you need to use the hotspot and then make your selection based upon the best carrier coverage for that operating area.

After you have figured out a carrier, then you need to decide if you want to enjoy the benefits of 5G network technology or if you want to continue to operate with a 4G LTE hotspot.

Lastly, make a choice for the data plan that will best provide connectivity for your business needs. Verizon’s unlimited data options are compelling because you never have to worry about going over the data limit, but T-Mobile’s plans are less expensive and offer more 5G data before the data is throttled back.

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