What’s the Best Way to Get Portable Internet?
Whether you have the travel bug and love to take trips or you have a job that has you constantly on the move, there’s no doubt that you need portable and reliable internet service that can keep up with your needs. We’ve got good news – you have plenty of options. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all have relatively widespread coverage throughout the US, and portable devices like Verizon’s Jetpack MiFi 8800L, the Solis Lite, and the GlocalMe G4 mobile hotspot allow you to stay connected on the go, even when traveling internationally.
We’ve gathered all of the details you’ll need to make a decision about which portable internet plan or device is best for you, including information about the biggest players in portable internet, answers to frequently asked questions, and key reviews from industry leaders.
The big players
With arguably the most complete 4G coverage of the US, AT&T is a reliable option. Their current 5G footprint covers a little under 30% of the US, with most coverage areas concentrated on the east and west coasts. AT&T offers two mobile hot spot data plans: 25GB/month for $60/month or 40GB/month for $85/month. If you enroll in auto-pay and paperless billing, you can receive a $10/month discount on either plan, too. You can also purchase an LTE Mobile Hotspot through AT&T for $249.99 or as low as $6.95/month for 36 months.
Verizon ranks 3rd among the top three providers for coverage when it comes to 5G access, with coverage in only about 14% of the US, though their 4G coverage is more extensive. Verizon offers 4 mobile hotspot data plans for existing Verizon customers, along with two standalone plans. The plans for Verizon customers range from 15GB of data for $20/month to 150GB of data for $80/month. Standalone plan options are 100GB of data for $90/month or 150GB of data for $110/month.
Verizon hot spot devices range in price from $79.99 to $399.99 if you choose to purchase outright, or you can pay as little as $2.22 to $11.11/month for 36 months.
T-Mobile’s 5G coverage is currently outpacing both AT&T and Verizon, covering over 53% of the US. Data packages start at $5/month for 500MB of data and go up to $50/month for 50GB of data. If you realize mid-month that you don’t have enough data, you can upgrade to more at any time with no penalty.
T-Mobile offers three hot spot device options which range in price from $60 to $336 if you pay full price, or $2.50 to $14/month for 24 months for well-qualified customers.
Best hotspot devices for international travel
Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L
If you travel outside of the country and are looking for a device that will function well, you might want to consider the Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L. Verizon calls this device “global-ready,” because it will work in more than 200 countries. The device features 24-hours of battery life, a universal charger, and can connect to up to 15 devices at once.
The Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L costs $199.99 at full price (or $5.55/month for 36 months) and you will be responsible for a $35 activation fee. But, you can pair the device with one of Verizon’s four hotspot data plans to suit your exact needs.
The Solis Lite comes with the most tailored data package options. With functionality in over 130 countries, 15 to 20-hours of battery life, and the ability to connect up to 10 devices at once, this lightweight and compact device costs $119.99. Best of all, the Skyroam Solis is less than 1″ tall and weighs less than 5oz, making it easy to take along on any trip. Solis also offers international data plans starting at $9/day or by the month, with unlimited data for $99/month.
The GlocalMe G4 mobile hotspot is another great choice. This device features a 5-inch LCD touchscreen, 15 hours of battery life, and can be connected to up to five devices at a time. Weighing in at under 7oz, this hotspot is easy to carry on the go. The GlocalMe G4 Pro will work in more than 140 countries, but users report spotty service in the Middle East and Africa. The device costs $169.99 and can be paired with GlocalMe’s US or international data packages, which range in cost between $63.99 and $70/month.
While each of the big players offers portable internet plans, there are a few things you’ll want to consider when making your decision.
Whether you’re traveling within the US or internationally, you’ll need to determine if the plan and device you choose will work where you need it to. While Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have great coverage options within the US, if you’re looking for networks outside of the US, you’ll need to look into an international data plan and make sure it covers the areas of the world you’re traveling to.
Device and data plan costs
Device cost and data plan costs are other considerations. Does it make more sense for you to purchase the mobile device in full or break down the payments into monthly increments? If you pay month-to-month, you’ll be locked into a plan with the provider until you pay the device off, while purchasing your device upfront gives you more flexibility over time.
The last thing you need is a mobile device with poor battery life that requires frequent charging. When choosing a device, make sure you understand how long it can go between charges so that you can plan usage accordingly.
What others are saying
Reviews from industry experts make it easier to see what others think of these portable internet options.
“While both AT&T and Verizon offer vast 4G networks that cover almost all of the U.S., their 5G networks aren’t the same. AT&T offers low-band 5G across much more of the U.S. than Verizon does.” – US News & World Report
“For users who spend a lot of time in dense urban areas, Verizon’s Ultra-Wideband 5G service can offer download speeds faster than even most wired broadband connections.” – US News & World Report
“T-Mobile beats most of Verizon’s prices while offering a faster 5G network, and its rate plans are also much simpler than Verizon’s.” – US News & World Report
Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L
“The new Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L hotspot has the best 4G LTE networking capabilities available today.” – PCMag
Skyroam Solis Lite
“The Skyroam Solis Lite is a solid international hotspot you can buy or rent, with long battery life and widespread coverage that offers unlimited LTE data in over 130 countries.” – PCMag
GlocalMe G4 Pro
“The GlocalMe G2 hotspot gives you speedy 4G LTE data on local networks at an affordable price, but its bulk and short battery life weigh it down a bit.” – PCMag
Portable internet FAQs
We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions on portable internet.
How do I know how much data I need with portable internet?
Determining data needs can be tricky for anyone. In general here’s what you can expect to accomplish with 10GB of data: 500 hours of surfing the web, 2 to 4 hours of HD video streaming, or 30 hours of gaming.
Do I need portable internet if I have a hot spot on my smartphone?
While using the hotspot on your phone may be a great option when you need to connect one device every now and then, it may not be the best option if you have data limits on your phone plan or need to connect multiple devices at once.
Do I have to have a mobile hotspot or can I just rely on free Wi-Fi?
Though you can certainly take advantage of free mobile Wi-Fi, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you’ll be limited to only having service when you find an area with free Wi-Fi. Also, your connection will not be secure which means you could be putting your security and identity at risk.
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