Portable WiFi hotspot designs and devices are becoming increasingly popular, especially among people who travel frequently or lead a nomadic lifestyle. Broadband internet access is now as essential as the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe – wherever we are, we want it. And in recent years, prices for mobile data plans (although still more expensive than they should be) have come down significantly. At the end of this article, I will provide you with some of the cheapest mobile Wi-Fi hotspot data plan prices.
Fortunately, options are plentiful and prices are coming down. As I did earlier when researching the mattercheaper prepaid ratesmcheaper data plansI also wanted to research and share what are the cheapest mobile WiFi hotspot plans out there. First, let's start with some basics about mobile hotspots.
What is a mobile hotspot?
A portable hotspot is a device that you can use to connect one or more WiFi-enabled devices to connect to the Internet. Some people refer to a mobile hotspot as a "MiFi", but MiFi is a trademark of Novatel's mobile hotspot devices - it's not a name for the technology. As the MiFi was one of the first portable hotspot devices, the MiFi name has become the most popular name for mobile hotspot technology, so to speak (like Kleenex for facial wipes).
Mobile hotspots can be created in two ways:
- Via a dedicated mobile modem device (similar to the one shown in the image above)
- Via a mobile device, such as a mobile phone or tablet, via the tethering function of the hotspot
As I will discuss below, there is a difference in experience. Today's dedicated hotspots tend to be cheap, tiny, and can usually connect anywhere from 3 to 15 WiFi-enabled devices at once. Many of them allow 4G LTE connection, but some also offer 5G speeds.
Portable Hotspot vs. connection to your phone
Many of the mobile WiFi hotspot providers listed below also offer a free hotspot connection in their data plans, which allows you to connect WiFi-enabled devices to your phone and use them as a data gateway. Unfortunately, no provider today offers an unlimited data connection with unlimited data plans without significantly slowing down speeds when you reach a certain data limit.
So why would you buy a hotspot device (which is just a hotspot device) when you could buy a mobile phone and connect it to your Wi-Fi devices for free?
This is a big question. For those who are frequent hotspot users:A dedicated hotspot is more reliablerather than connecting your phone. And there are a few other reasons why a dedicated mobile hotspot device might make sense for some tethered users:
- Battery life:Mobile hotspots have much longer battery life than mobile phones used as data gateways, especially corded ones.
- Share your phone:With a mobile hotspot, you can keep your phone free to take calls, use apps, and do other tasks without straining it.
- Reliable connection for multiple devices:Although some mobile phones can connect multiple devices, the more devices connected, the worse the experience, dropouts, etc. Dedicated devices like WiFi modem can provide a better experience.
Mobile hotspots are so cheap that the benefits to power users outweigh the cost of the device and the hassle of carrying a dedicated mobile hotspot device.
Mobile network coverage maps
After all, as I pointed out in my post about the cheapest prepaid plans, there are really only three national carriers left in the US (although Dish Network is building a fourth):
If you are not one of these three carriers, you are classified as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). MVNOs do not own spectrum or radio networks, they lease network access at wholesale prices from the Big 3 and resell to consumers.
When looking for the cheapest mobile hotspot providers, it's important to consider what network they operate on. A mobile hotspot is useless if the provider does not have strong coverage (preferably 5G or 4G LTE) where you live and travel frequently.
Here are the 3 big coverage maps:
It is worth noting that inCurrent speed testsHowever, despite its perceived inferior reputation, T-Mobile outperformed all other carriers, with average download speeds nearly double those of AT&T and Verizon. Your mileage may vary significantly depending on your location.
The cheapest mobile WiFi hotspot prices
Here's a list of the cheapest prepaid mobile hotspot plans I could find, including monthly costs/data, device cost, network used, and more. Please note that some of the service providers do not sell hotspot devices. However, you must be able to use a mobile device as a hotspot (or possibly find and connect a dedicated hotspot device if you prefer).
|Mobile Wi-Fi hotspot provider||Hotspot program cost||Access point device and cost||Mobile network used and maximum speed on hotspot device||Comments|
|$25/month (12 months prepaid): 20GB|
|Netgear Nighthawk M6 Pro: $12.78/month or Franklin A10 (4G LTE): $2.23/month||AT&T, 5G speeds||Prepaid option called "AT&T PrePaid Mobile Hotspot". Data plugins available. Most AT&T prepaid voice plans allow data like a mobile hotspot (except the $65 unlimited plan). You can purchase an additional mobile hotspot. The $75 Unlimited Plus plan includes 10GB of mobile hotspot data.|
|Mobile hotspot boost||$15/month: 2GB|
|Alcatel Linkzone 2: $49.99 one time fee||T-Mobile, velocidades 5G||Connect up to 15 devices.|
|Cricket Wireless-Hotspot||Simply Data plans (for hotspot use):|
Hotspot connection on some unlimited packages:
|Cricket Turbo Hotspot 2: One time fee of $79.99||AT&T, 4G LTE speeds (with Turbo Hotspot, 5G with compatible device)||Cricket is a trademark of AT&T Wireless using the AT&T network. Data only plans include US/Canada/Mexico usage.|
|generation mobile hotspot||10 $: 1 GB|
20 $: 3 GB
30 $: 6 GB
|Alcatel Linkzone 2 (owned): $19.99||T-Mobile, 4G LTE speeds (with Alcatel Hotspot, 5G with compatible device)||Good price for a hotspot device if you don't mind using it.|
|Karma Mobility-Hotspot||$10/month: 1GB|
|Franklin Wireless R717: $59.99 one time fee||Varies, 4G LTE speeds||4G LTE speeds on T-Mobile.|
|Mint Mobile-Hotspot||It varies by term. See notes":|
$30-35/month: "Unlimited" (35GB 4G/5G limit)
|n/a - Use your own Mint Mobile (T-Mobile) compatible device, no dedicated hotspot available for purchase||T-Mobile, 5G speeds (with compatible device)||Quoted prices vary depending on how many months you buy at the start of the term.|
|Franklin T10 Mobile ($90 one time) or|
Inseego MiFi X PRO 5G ($264 one time)
|T-Mobile, 4G LTE (Franklin device) or 5G (Inseego device)||Plans work in Canada and Mexico at no extra cost.|
|Tello Mobile-Hotspot||No fine plans (call/text plans also available):|
$29/month: Unlimited – (25GB high speed)
|n/a - Use your own Tello (T-Mobile) compatible device, no dedicated hotspot available for purchase||T-Mobile, 5G speeds (with compatible device)||Great deal on the "Unlimited" plan that includes 25GB of high-speed data! Tello is an MVNO that uses T-Mobile's network.|
|Twigby Mobile-Hotspot||20 $: 4 GB|
25 $: 7 GB
$40: Unlimited (20GB 4G/5G limit)
|n/a Use your own compatible Twigby (Verizon) device, no dedicated hotspot available for purchase||Verizon, 5G speeds (with compatible device)||Prices are also reasonable on the Verizon network.|
|US mobile hotspot||$35/month: 5GB hotspot with "Unlimited Basic"|
$45/month: 50GB hotspot with "Unlimited Premium"
|n/a - Use your own US mobile compatible device (T-Mobile or Verizon), no dedicated hotspot available for purchase||Verizon or T-Mobile, 5G speed (with compatible device)||Unlimited Premium seems like a good deal.|
|Xfinity Mobile-Hotspot||"By the Gig" (high-speed hotspot):|
|n/a - Use your own Xfinity Mobile compatible device, no dedicated hotspot available for purchase||Verizon, 5G (with compatible device)||Look at mineXfinity Mobile-RezensionLearn more about programs and pricing. All Xfinity Mobile plans can connect to millions of customer hotspots.|
|Verizon-Hotspot||Mobile Hotspot is available as an add-on to Mobile Hotspot and is only available on 5G Start, 5G Play More, 5G Do More, 5G Get More and One Unlimited iPhone plans at an additional cost:|
|Verizon Orbic Speed ($79.99 one time), Verizon Jetpack ($399.99 one time), Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L ($199.99 one time)||Verizon, 5G speeds (with compatible device), 4G LTE (Orbic/Jetpack)||Expensive, but Verizon gives you a lot of data.|
|Visible mobile hotspot||(Unlimited plans, but hotspot speeds limited to 5 Mbps)|
$30/month: "Unlimited Views"
$45/month: "Visible + Unlimited"
|n/a - Use your own Visible compatible device (Verizon), no dedicated hotspot available for purchase||Verizon, up to 5 Mbps (with compatible device)||Visible is a sub-brand of Verizon. It is not a hotspot device, but a connection with speeds up to 5 Mbps.|
Here's a random tip: Since many of these plans come with free texts but expensive data, you might want to knowHow to send text messages via email, so you don't have to keep paying data charges when you go to your browser to compose emails.
Which mobile WiFi hotspot plan do you use and why?
- Free Wi-Fi hotspots in 7 national chains
- How to send text messages via email for free