For the small-business owner who travels frequently and searches in vain for Wi-Fi hot spots while on the go, Novatel Wireless' new "Wi-Fi-in-your-pocket" product may be just what you've been waiting for.
Novatel announced it is launching a line of pocket-size devices that allow users to create a wireless broadband hot spot. Called the MiFi, the device acts as both a mobile broadband modem and Wi-Fi hot spot. Novatel says it expects the MiFi to hit the market in early 2009.
Novatel is marketing the MiFi as a "smart" hot spot that can connect users to the Internet using a variety of major high-speed networks, including those hosted by AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile. The San Diego-based company claims the device, about the size of a deck of cards, carries a 40-hour battery life, with 4 hours in actual use.
Novatel is so far keeping mum on the price, although the company revealed that the MiFi will be available for purchase through wireless carriers. Novatel says the device's ease of use is "unprecedented," requiring no additional drivers or host applications and boasting a one-click setup operation.
"With the pocket-sized MiFi device, Novatel Wireless has invented a new category of mobile broadband solutions, pushing the envelope in design and performance and ushering in the next era of the mobile broadband experience," Novatel Chairman and CEO Peter Leparulo said in a statement.
"Our carrier partners will now be able to provide new wireless solutions and bundles for consumer and enterprise users. This will contribute to the continued growth of the addressable broadband market and create a unique opportunity for carriers to generate additional revenue per user through the deployment of innovative value-add applications and services."
Novatel said the MiFi product line will offer small to midsize businesses a unique solution to secure, control and manage wireless connections. Certain MiFi configurations support applications such as auto VPN, automatic syncing of e-mail and optional remote management capabilities for the enterprise IT manager. MiFi also offers a platform capable of hosting third-party applications that extend reach and control when dealing with remote mobile assets, according to the company.
As SMBs find themselves ever more connected to the Internet, Novatel's MiFi may just be the answer for the SMB owner who can't live without online access, wherever he may be. Novatel's claim that the MiFi gives users access to mobile broadband connectivity anywhere (even in a moving vehicle) as well as being able to connect Wi-Fi-capable cameras, game consoles, computers, and media players, will have to be rigorously tested, and the relatively short battery life may bring pause to some.
But for anyone who has depended on "guaranteed" Wi-Fi somewhere (pretty much anyone who's been to a convention), Novatel's MiFi device is a promising step in making the Web-obsessed among us feel a little more secure.