Over the last month I’ve been testing a MiFi Mobile Broadband device that has been lent to me from Three. This small dongle sized device connects to the Three mobile network and creates a Wi-Fi hotspot that can be connected to by up to five devices at once. For the first week or so it remained in its box as I was too busy to test it, but then my world turned upside down.
In terms of internet connectivity at home I’m normally well served by my Virgin Media 50Mbps connection which is normally ultra-reliable. However, suddenly last month Virgin had a network fault which knocked out my connection for around 10 days; a total disaster for a homeworker like me. For the first day I totally forgot that I had the Three MiFi device sitting on my desk, but after spotting it on the second and getting it up and running it proved to be a godsend.
Setting up the device was simple. The MiFi itself is small enough to fit comfortably into a pocket measuring around 9x5x1cm, although we positioned it near a window to try and get the best possible mobile internet connection. There is only one button on the device – to turn it on and off. Once it’s on, the device automatically connects to the Three network and creates the mobile hotspot i.e. no configuration is needed.
Once up and running the front of the device has a small status screen providing information on:
- 3G signal strength
- Network speed: 3G or the faster HSDPA
- Wifi connections: how many devices are connected to the modem
- Battery charge level
- Data used: usage in MB per session
I was pleasantly surprised, no make that very surprised, by just how fast the Three MiFi was. I’ve been with O2 for nearly two years and the only reason I chose O2 was because at the time they were the only network offering iPhones. Since then I’ve learnt the hard way that O2′s mobile internet speed is shockingly slow, partly due to having more data hungry iPhone users than other networks. However, I was shocked when I saw first hand just how slow the O2 network was compared to Three’s. With the MiFi device I was able to browse the internet without really noticing that I wasn’t using my fixed line connection, or that I was sharing the connection with my wife. This wouldn’t be possible with my iPhone 4 acting as a mobile modem, or using my O2 dongle (which of course can only connect one device at a time).
To compare the speeds of Three and O2 I installed Speedtest.net’s mobile app on my iPhone 4 and compared the results of connecting directly to the O2 network Vs connecting via the Three MiFi Unit. On the O2 network my download speed averaged around 0.9-1.1Mbps and upload around 0.3-0.5Mbps, whereas Three averaged 2.2-2.6Mbps for downloads and 1.4-1.6Mbps for uploads. That’s a huge difference! My O2 contract is up in two months and I will be definitely switching to Three based on these results.
So what didn’t I like about the MiFi?
- The battery life wasn’t the greatest in terms of both usage and standby. If I were a true mobile worker, the device wouldn’t have lasted a full day without a recharge and I’m sure I would get a bit frustrated trying to find charging points daily and having to charge it every night.
- I also had occasional problems connecting to the internet via the device – the MiFi would say that it was online, but I wasn’t able to go online with my laptop. I’m sure though that this was probably related to my review unit, rather than this problem affecting all devices.
All in all, I think the MiFi is a great device and could be a worthwhile investment at £71.99 if you have more than one mobile device in your household. For this price, not only do you get a dongle free mobile internet connection for your devices that can be carried in your pocket or bag, but you can also connect up to five devices at once.