INSIDE MOBILE: How MiFi Provides Mobile Internet Access on Multiple Devices

Wi-Fi is great at home and in the office at providing mobile Internet access around the premises. However, MiFi makes a lot of sense for the traveler who needs mobile Internet access on multiple devices at the same time. Here, Knowledge Center mobile and wireless analyst J. Gerry Purdy explains what MiFi is and how it works to provide simultaneous Internet access for multiple notebook PCs or mobile devices.


There's a really cool solution to getting Internet access while traveling called MiFi (pronounced "My-Fi"). It is a small device that is basically two wireless components in one package: a wide area wireless cellular modem and a Wi-Fi access point. Verizon Wireless provided me with a MiFi unit to test a few weeks ago, and I finally had a trip scheduled in which I could try it out.

My wife and I attended my son Jason's wedding in Maine (held at the beautiful Retreat at French's Point) and stayed in the Belfast Bay Inn, a classy bed and breakfast right in the heart of Belfast, Maine. I set up our three notebook PCs: my Frost & Sullivan system, my personal system and my wife Alicia's system.

In order to get the MiFi working, it has to be provisioned by Verizon Wireless (so it was a valid unit on the network) and then activated (my account was established with Verizon Wireless PR). With the help of Brenda Rainey in Verizon Wireless PR, the unit got provisioned to work and then activated as a demo unit.

Normally, the MiFi unit would require a two-year commitment at $40 for 250MB or $60 per month for 5GB of use. Obviously, since we carry around three notebook PCs, we would have normally had to sign up for three wide area wireless modem accounts: one for each notebook PC or three times $40 to $60 per month (or $120 to $180 per month).

To be sure, many hotels provide Wi-Fi but in many cases they charge anywhere from $9.95 to $19.95 for 24 hours of access. Some hotels-most notably Marriott Courtyard and similar mid-tier hotels that cater to the business traveler-provide free Wi-Fi access. But most of the time (independent of whether you purchased Wi-Fi access or not) the hotel requires you to input your hotel room number and then will only allow one computer to have access to that account number at one time.