An In-Depth Review of the ZTE MF61 4G Mobile Hotspot from T-Mobile.
In case you haven't been paying attention T-Mobile is in the midst of rebranding itself as a top-tier nationwide 4G provider, with emphasis on “unlimited” plans at prices that undercut its competitors.
With its large wireless 4G footprint, highly rated signal quality and exceptional customer satisfaction awards, T-Mobile has reaffirmed its membership in the “Big 4” wireless providers that offer nationwide 4G in North America (Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint being the others).
Up until this 2011, T-Mobile has not been a player in offering consumer mobile hotspots. T-Mobile did not even offer a mobile hotspot during the “mobile hotspot boom” about three years ago - when the 3G MiFi 2200 came out and quickly redefined what a mobile hotspot was. That has all changed now that T-Mobile has gone full force into the market with a very appealing offering, the MF61 4G Mobile Hotspot, manufactured by ZTE which operates on T-Mobile’s 4G HSPA+ nationwide network.
One of T-Mobile's big advantages over the past couple of years has been its “niche” offerings for popular smart phones on its high-speed networks, usually at attractive prices – coupled with lots of choices for service plans to meet all types of budgets and requirements.
T-Mobile has thought to have been able to adequately manage the bandwidth and signal quality on its wireless 3G and 4G networks, in large part, since it didn't have to deal with crazy amounts of users bombarding its networks as did AT&T and Verizon with their iPhone consumers. Studies have shown that iPhone users consume as much as 400% more bandwidth than other smartphone users – in other words 20% of their (iPhone) subscribers account for 80% of the bandwidth – “fortunately” (perhaps that’s not the right word?) T-Mobile does not have to contend with the huge network and data saturation demands of iPhone users.
In other words T-Mobile's digital mobile broadband networks have generally not been oversaturated, which would usually translate to a pleasurable experience for T-Mobile device users. Does this scenario still hold true and how does T-Mobile’s ZTE MF61 mobile hotspot hold up in the real world when compared against its competitor’s class leading offerings? Can T-Mobile's HPSA+ 4G network hold its own against Sprint’s WiMAX and Verizon's LTE 4G? Read the MobileHotspot.com review of the T-Mobile ZTE MF61 4G mobile hotspot to find out.
Before we get into the specifics of the T-Mobile hotspot, it would be helpful to explain a bit about the technology used by T-Mobile.
T-Mobile uses the HSPA+ wireless protocol (high-speed packet access, with enhanced back-haul) in its devices it labels as "4G". As of early 2011, both T-Mobile and AT&T use HSPA+ as there present 4G solution.
HSPA+ has often been the subject of arguments and contention, with “experts” sometimes calling it “3.5G”. In textbook definition terms, HSPA+ may not really be a “true” 4G protocol. Compared to protocols like LTE 4G, HSPA+ is indeed not on the same level when compared to maximum theoretical speeds and network performance. But in the real world, HSPA+ has performed well beyond expectations of many of its critics, evidenced by the billions of dollars invested in the technology by T-Mobile and AT&T.
Compared to AT&T, T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 4G seems to have consistently better overall performance, which may be due to lighter customer traffic and less frequent conditions where the cell towers are “maxed out” or over saturated.
When investing in a mobile hotspot, you want to make sure the technology will be viable for the next two years. In the case of HSPA+, we would guess the answer is YES for a large number of users. But there are factors to consider – of which we’ll delve into shortly.