Recommendations on a Mifi type device for travelling? - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums

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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-08, 03:00 PM Thread Starter
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Recommendations on a Mifi type device for travelling?

I am wondering what the best way is to enable data roaming when outisde of Canada for devices such as a iPads, iPhones, Blackberrys, etc. I travel to the US and the UK several times a year and I probably go at least once a year each to other countries such as HK, China, continental Europe, caribbean, etc.

There is no easy way to roam with an iPad unless you buy separate microSIM cards in every country that you go to. And that only works on your iPad, if you have other devices you need separate SIMs for them as well.

So I am thinking that maybe a Mifi is the way to go. Does anyone have experience with these?

Doing some browsing online it looks like the Huawei E586 might be the way to go. It is available for around $120-$130 but it is unlocked (this device seems to be mainly sold in the UK through 3). It supports 3G and HSPA+ so you should get pretty good speeds with the device. You will still need pay as you go SIM cards for each country but I am starting to think that this is the way to go. It looks like you can get plans with a reasonable amount of data for $20-$30 per month which is about what you pay for 2 days' internet access at a hotel - but that assumes that you get decent speeds from this service in your hotel room.

For just the US the Virgin Mobile MiFi device looks pretty good. It also costa around $120-$130 but it appears to use CDMA/EVDO so it is likely only good in North America.

Anyone have any advice to share on this topic?
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-08, 03:17 PM
 
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Do you have a smartphone with a mobile hotspot feature? That will also work and is what I use when I am away for business
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-08, 03:55 PM Thread Starter
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My main phone is a Rogers BB9700 and I don't think it has this capability. At times my wife is with me and she has a Rogers iPhone. But the problem with using a roaming plan with a phone from a Canadian provider like Rogers leads to fees of about $0.5-1 per megabyte which is a lot more than the amounts that you will pay with these Mifi type devices which is more like $0.02 per MB.

Telus appears to have a North American wide plan that is $45/month for 500MB. That is better but still pretty steep compared to the $35 per month for 5GB that I pay for Canada only with Rogers.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-08, 04:22 PM
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I think the easiest thing to do would be to just have a unlocked cell phone with a tethering capability. That way you can deal with local cell providers (if you're going to be needing a lot of data).

As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as a good deal on data roaming prices. If you're going to be using reasonable amounts of data, get a relationship with an actual local carrier.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-08, 05:59 PM
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The BB9700 doesn't have wireless tethering.

No matter where you go you are going to need a local provider's SIM. You will never find a roaming package that is a better deal. If you don't want to be changing the SIM in your phone, a MiFi is probably the way to go. Look for one that supports HSPA, with at least 850/900/1900/2100 bands to make sure you will always have service from someone. I wouldn't recommend buying a CDMA MiFi as it will only be usable in the country you purchase it from.

Note that if your use is for a laptop, it's probably cheaper and more efficient to purchase a rocket stick, rather than a MiFi. Obviously that doesn't apply in this case though.

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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-09, 12:08 AM Thread Starter
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It is not always a question of wanting to change the SIM in your phone it is being able to. You can only do this with an unlocked phone, and it isn't always possible, or at least easy, to unlock a smartphone.

You can tether your BB to a laptop (assuming your carrier allows it and Rogers does or did), I have done this in the past. Theoretically you could probably then bridge the wifi on your laptop to your tethered BB but this is a bit tricky and cumbersome. And it certainly isn't portable.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-09, 02:34 AM
 
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You might want to look for a device that also supports the 1700 band. For US travel, I plan to get a T-Mobile pre-pay SIM. I think it can be used in a MiFi device. T-Mobile's 3G uses the 1700 band. With $30 down, you can get unlimited talk, text, and data for $3/day - the first 200 MB/day are 3G, with 2G afterwards. You can keep the account (SIM) alive by putting in a buck every 3 months.

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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-09, 09:16 AM Thread Starter
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It looks like this Huawei E586 device doesn't suport the 1700 band

HSPA+/HSDPA/UMTS 2100/900MHz
GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900MHz
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-09, 10:14 AM
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Assuming that is the full list of frequencies (I don't know where you got it, but carriers lie all the time about the bands their devices support) that device will only work in Europe and Asia, and not North America on 3G.

Also note that not all MiFi devices allow you to change the APNs necessary for data service with carriers.

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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-09, 10:38 AM Thread Starter
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I think you may be right - but there is a slightly newer device called the E587. Telus sells this for $150 without a contract and T-Mobile USA sells it as the Sonic 4G mobile hotspot.

So far I can't find an unlocked version of this device on eBay - there are unlocked/unbranded versions of the E586. Perhaps this device is too new and we will see it appearing shortly.

There is also a Sierra Wireless device called the 754S that supports LTE. Rogers is selling this (or will be soon) for $200 without contract and $130 with contract. This device is being sold unlocked on ebay for $160 from HK or on Amazon.com for $150.

So which one looks better - the Sierra one, (which is sold by Rogers and Telus), or the Huawei one (which is sold by Telus and T-Mobile). What about roaming outside of North America?

If I buy an unlocked Sierra then I should have no problems using it on Rogers or AT&T, correct? I could just be able to put in my iPad microsim (with an adapter) and be browsing away, shouldn't I?

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Users can gain a competitive advantage with one of the latest LTE products developed by Sierra Wireless - the AirCard® 754S Mobile Hotspot, also known as the AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G, or the Rogers LTE Rocket Mobile Hotspot. With its compact and lightweight design, the AirCard 754S Hotspot provides wireless access at download speeds of up to 100Mbps and upload speeds up to 50 Mbps, so customers traveling globally or at home have the ability to experience the fastest network speeds available and share and manage data with colleagues
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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-09, 11:09 AM Thread Starter
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I bought an unlocked version of the Sierra device on Amazon. I am in San Fran next week on business so I am having it shipped there. I will try it out and post my review.
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-09, 11:15 AM
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Keep in mind that MiFi devices will often have several variants (like phones) which support different bands. This means that there's no guarantee that the E587 that Telus sells is the same as the one T-Mobile sells. According to T-Mobile, their E587 has UMTS 850/1700/2100. However, given that they listed the AWS band in an incorrect format, and it seems really odd (but not unheard of) that it would have 850 but not 1900, I'm not sure how much stock I'd put into their listing. There is also a risk that the unbranded one is a Euro version with no North American frequency bands.

Of course, they could all be the exact same device. Since carriers won't tell you for competitive reasons, and Huawei doesn't seem to be especially forthcoming on their website, it's pretty tough to tell. You could try digging through FCC filings for the T-Mobile variant and see what bands it contains, but even that is no sure thing. The only way to really know for sure is to test one.

According to Sierra, the 754S has 850/1900/2100. Assuming that is the only variant, that should work on Rogers/Bell/Telus, AT&T, and most European carriers, if you can find one unlocked. However, given the choice I would actually avoid LTE devices. Personally, I'm happy with HSPA+ speeds, and LTE technology is new and very rough on battery. Obviously it will vary from device to device, but HSPA devices will typically see much better battery life than LTE.

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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-09, 11:23 AM Thread Starter
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As I said I did find one of the Sierra 754S devices unlocked on Amazon so that is what I bought - if you search for this device on Amazon you will find the listing.

That is the easiest for me to test out since I have a (so far unused) AT&T microSIM that I can use and my iPad has a Rogers microSIM so I am hoping that I can use these microSIMs in the Sierra device for North America. I also have a 3 microSIM for the UK and it may or may not work with that network but could work with Vodaphone UK or Orange UK if I get one of their pay as you go data SIMs when I am in the UK next month.

Worst case scenario would be that it just works in the US but that is not too bad from my perspective as it will save me the $150 purchase price pretty quickly in data roaming plans with Rogers and I will expense it to my employer as well.
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-09, 11:43 AM
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Assuming that it is what Sierra and Amazon say it is, it will work fine on both Rogers and AT&T, as well as 3, Vodaphone, Orange, O2, T-Mobile UK, and pretty much any other British carrier with HSPA.

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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 2012-02-09, 11:54 AM Thread Starter
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Awesome - we will see how battery life is for this. The other negative for this device is that it appears to be a lot bigger than the Huawei device. That probably isn't a huge deal for me but we will see.
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