Broadband Expansion: MiFi and WiFi in the Car

Verizon and Sprint are both offering the Novatel Wireless personal "MiFi" hotspot device. The device costs about $100 and requires a two-year contract. So many, if not most, people will be deterred by the pricing. For "road warriors" it may not even be as convenient as a laptop dongle (because it has to be charged) and it's certainly not cheaper. But the advent of this device points to increasingly ubiquitous connectivity.

Also in that category is Autonet Mobile's in-car router (image below) that turns your car into a moving hotspot. It's similarly expensive, with a $399 up-front investment plus either $29 or $59 per month depending on bandwidth requirements. 

However, we should see more mobile connectivity options and should also see prices come down over time. There's a growing expectation of being able to connect to the Internet whenever and wherever you want. This provocative article argues in favor of using the iPhone with a MiFi device and dropping the AT&T plan, which is impractical for the majority:

The reasoning works like this. If you can bear to stick another gadget in your pocket or backpack, both iPods and iPhones can use MiFi's data plan. You can Skype to your heart's content (or, realistically, up to the 5GB monthly limit). This helps especially if your EDGE or 3G coverage is already awful when compared to Verizon's EV-DO network. MiFi gives you the opportunity to dump your entire iPhone plan and replace it with possibly better data. And with no US tethering yet announced for the iPhone, MiFi offers laptop as well as iPhone data; its WiFi connection appears to be platform agnostic.

If the White Spaces initiative ever becomes reality it may offer the kind of cheap yet powerful broadband coverage that we've all been dreaming of (the Feds, seeking to protect the vested interests of mobile carriers and cable companies may intervene to limit access or influence terms). But the larger point is that these devices are increasingly making it possible to get the Internet on the go and on more devices. 

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