The ability to have access to the internet while on vacation or a business trips in really an essential nowadays. Gone are the days of wondering if the hotel's lobby of the is going to have a free Wi-Fi hotspot. You simply can't afford to fool around with unreliable or possibly insecure networks.
Any business traveler who booked a room with the promise of "In Room Internet", only to get their to find one of those old Ethernet network cables coiled up in the corner of the room knows that feeling of uncertain dread. You call the front desk, only to here "sir, the brochure said internet access...not in room WiFi" - you think to yourself, this is 2012, right? or is this the hotel room time machine back to 1992?
Access to the Internet when Abroad: Essential Tools
New and innovative ways to access the internet wirelessly are constantly being developed. Mobile broadband has seen perhaps the most exciting developments in the past few years.
Mobile broadband is simply the use of a high speed, wireless data connection to access the internet when away from home if the office. If you have checked your Facebook status in your smartphone, then you have used mobile broadband. While the concept of Mobile Internet is universal, every year, easier and faster ways to to use mobile broadband always seem to come out.
While anyone can simply go out and purchase the latest and greatest mobile gadgets and monthly service from the like of Verizon, AT&T or Sprint, this is surely not the best option for everyone...especially those who only need short term use of this stuff.
For vacationers and business travelers, being able to get online quickly and securely is something that should not have to give you heartburn worrying about. Even more important is not having to worry about getting ripped off when using the internet abroad.
Years ago, having access to the internet when in a foreign country was considered a "nice to have" benefit. In 2012, this is hardly the case anymore. Executives and business managers need to keep a pulse on their business and a watchful eye on the competition - nowadays, this is really only possible with a decent and reliable connection to the web.
Many of us have heard or read about travelers who use the "data roaming" feature of their own mobile equipment, only to be stunned to find they racked up a bill for several thousand dollars for just a weekend trip and a few hours of using the internet ! Also, how folks are confidently knowledgeable in global GSM and LTE wireless radio technology? Are you really sure your equipment is going to even work overseas?
So what options does the average traveling internet user have?
In case you didn't know it, there's a thriving niche that caters to this need by offering short and medium term rentals for locally compatible mobile broadband equipment. The vendors who rent the equipment offer a selection of matching data service plans that allow easy access to the local cell provider's data service and reasonable and fixed costs.
These mobile broadband rental services have been around for as long as mobile broadband itself - about 10 years. Originally 99% of the rentals where for USB data modems. Since they required a USB port, these devices were almost always meant to be used with a Windows or Mac Laptop.
Nowadays, you'd be lucky to find a single UBS port on the most popular devices that people use while traveling: Smartphones, Tablets (like the iPad) , and eBook readers (like the Kindle). So what options are there then?
Mobile Hotspots are the Key.
In case you haven't seen a mobile hotspot, what they do is pack three essential components for accessing the internet while away from your home base: A WiFi Router, a 3G or 4G cellular radio and a long duration battery.
What does this mean in simple terms?
Picture the Wi-Fi router in your home or office. Now picture cutting all the cables that attach to it. Lastly. picture taking that Wi-Fi router (with all its cords cut) and stuffing it into your briefcase or purse.
Take a ride out to the boondooks. Now fire up your iPad and use the router in your breifcase to access the web. Sounds crazy?
A mobile hotpot does EXACTLY this same thing (except it's only the size of a deck of playing cards and no ugly ripped and cut wires!)
Just like your home WiFi, the mobile hotspot will allow up to 10 people or separate devices to connect to the internet. That means one device to carry, one rental agreement...access for everyone.
How the Rental Works: Pricing and Packages
There are quite a few companies that offer mobile broadband rental services. For the customer to make the best decision possible as to which company to choose, they may want to do a little research on the coverage in their particular area and look into some of the package time periods.
Most mobile broadband rental companies can ship you your device in advance of your trip. The devices are always fully configured. All you'll need to do is turn the mobile hotspot or insert the UBS stick and enter the supplied Wi-Fi password.
Every rental company will supply a postage paid shipping box that you can seal up and mail back to them when the trip is over. Invariably, you'll need to leave a deposit on your credit card that will cover the maximum amount of possible data use, as well as the replacement cost of the device. This deposit will usually range from $250 to $600. You'll get every cent back upon the ending of the rental agreement. It's really no different if you went down to Home Depot and rented a log splitter.
Pricing for mobile broadband rental is dependent upon the amount of time the customer chooses to rent the product and what shipping and insurance options are selected. Costs can be around $10 to $25 per day for a 1-3 day period or less than $5 a day for larger rental periods such as 19+ days.
The companies that provide rental services provide different types mobile hotspots and UBS network cards that are compatible with nearly any laptop. The customer must simply provide the company with the brand and make of their computer and the rental company will most often display a range of devices that will best suit the customer’s needs. Any reputable rental firm will gladly offer up their advice on what the best plans and devices are. After all, there really in no incentive to "oversell" you, since you'll only need the device for an fixed number pf days that is known in advance.
Pros and Cons
Some of the benefits of mobile broadband include:
- True wireless connectivity: Whether the user is in a public park, or miles away from any nearby WiFi access point, if the company provides coverage in the location of the user, they can be certain that they will have unlimited access to the web wherever they may be.
- Mobile hotspots will allow your whole family or group of travel mates to share one device and one single rental plan.
- The mobile hotspot can run for 5 hours on battery - perfect for side trips and excursions.
- Eliminates the very real possibility of inadvertently racking up massive ($1000+) wireless data service bills due to data roaming on a non-preferred foreign mobile providers
- No need to worry if your mobile equipment will work overseas or abroad.
- Know you much you are spending on web access in advance.
- No need to purchase equipment that you may never use or need again.
Despite all of the benefits mobile broadband can provide, this particular mobile service can exhibit a few areas of weakness that can often frustrate the user. Some companies may hesitate to tell the customer about a few of the downfalls of mobile internet use. Some of these include:
- Mobile broadband coverage: Depending on the location of the mobile broadband user signal issues and proper connection to the internet pose as a problem to the customer. There are a few “dead-zones” where a broadband signal simply will not reach the user.
- Varying speeds: Although companies advertise speeds of “up-to 7.2Mb” research has shown that in areas of weaker coverage, connection speed is drastically reduced.
- "One more thing to carry" - mobile hotspots are quite small and may be easy to be left behind if not careful. This could result in a large charge for "lost equipment"
MobileHotspot.com Recommended Mobile Broadband Rental Providers
Daypass Wireless offers a wide range of pricing packages that the customer can choose from. These packages are clearly displayed on their main page with the specific details of the package easily obtainable. What makes this company different from most others is that a customer can rent a device for any amount of days they specify, while many others have a minimum day rental period.
After placing an order, the customer will receive an envelope with the wireless card or USB device that was chosen, an installation CD and a prepaid return envelope that the customer will use to mail the device back.
WiFi Rents, like many other companies, offers mobile hotspots and a wide range of cards and USB devices that will fit nearly any computer. This company features an easy to navigate webpage with simple information about the company and the packages and services they provide.
Wifi Rents offers packages starting at one week at $99 and going upwards to up to a five month rental period. They also have a special 7+ month package that holds slightly different pricing and specifications than any of the other packages they offer. Wifi Rents boasts “free 3-day shipping” on any of the chosen packages. If the customer desires, he/she can request “rush shipping” as a means of quicker delivery.
Rovair is another mobile broadband rental company that allows the customer to view a coverage map of a few different internet service providers. This allows the customer to be sure that they are going to have access to the internet in the location of their desired use. Rovair features an extensive FAQ section that answers nearly any question imaginable.
The questions answered include everything from shipping times to technical information about data speeds. Like Wifi Rents, the customer can choose to upgrade to speedy shipping if desired. However, unlike Daypass Wireless, Rovair has a minimum rental period of 3 days or more. This company also offers an insurance plan if the user desires to purchase one as part of an extension the package deal the customer has purchased.