If you’re planning on getting online when you travel, a handy device to help you do that is a mobile hotspot, also known as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, personal hotspot or MiFi device.
These devices connect to a cellular network for data, just like your phone does, and then share that data over a private local Wi-Fi network. This means you can get online in locations where there’s no Wi-Fi.
WiFi hotspots allow you to connect multiple devices at once, which can include smartphones, tablets, laptops, and any other device that connects wirelessly to the Internet. This connection is often more secure than connecting to a public WiFi network.
There are a lot of mobile hotspots on the market, and choosing the right one can be tricky. We wanted to put this post together to help you understand first of all what to look for when choosing a mobile hotspot for travel, and then provide our pick of the best mobile hotspots available at the moment.
As professional travel bloggers, we’ve used quite a few of these devices during our travels over the past decade. Being able to get online from a range of locations is key to our business. In addition, as a former software developer with a degree in computer science, I also have a passion for technology, and like to keep up to date with the latest developments.
Let’s get started by answering some questions you might have, and then go through what to look for in a mobile hotspot.
Table of Contents
What is a Mobile Hotspot?
A mobile hotspot is a small portable device, usually around the size of a deck of playing cards, which is designed to allow you to connect to the internet from a wide variety of locations.
It connects to the same cellular network that phones use, and once connected it creates a local Wi-Fi network. You can then connect your devices to the local Wi-Fi network in order to access the internet.
A mobile hotspot is usually a standalone device which creates a WiFi network, but there is also a category of device known as a mobile wifi dongle or internet dongle.
These work in a similar way to a mobile hotspot, in that they use the cellular network to create an internet connection. However, they plug directly into the USB port of a laptop for power, and don’t usually create a Wi-Fi network. So they are more designed for a single device like a laptop to connect to the internet.
Why Do You Need a Mobile Hotspot?
The main reason for using a mobile hotspot is to get online in places where there isn’t reliable Wi-Fi access. Mobile hotspots are popular with campers and RVers for example, as many camping locations around the world do not have WiFi.
A mobile hotspot is also popular with international and domestic travellers. For international travellers, a mobile hotspot can be a cost effective way to get online without running up hefty data fees from your mobile provider. For domestic travellers, it can just be a good way to get your devices online without having to worry about finding Wi-Fi, which can be slow and potentially unsecure.
To the latter point, about security, public WiFi networks can present a security risk when you connect to them, as all your data has to be passed over the public network. Using a mobile hotspot allows you to connect securely to a cell providers network, which is usually a much more secure option than a public Wi-Fi network.
Using a mobile hotspot when travelling can be another way to keep your data secure.
When is a Mobile Hotspot Not Needed?
A mobile hotspot might not be the best solution if you will have easy access to free or inexpensive Wi-Fi service. You can see our guide to different ways to get online while travelling.
If you are travelling to locations with Wi-Fi and just want to improve an existing Wi-Fi signal or make a connection more secure, then you’ll probably just want a travel router. See our guide to the best travel routers for some ideas.
Although a mobile router can also be used at home if you don’t have a good internet connection, this is not their primary purpose and there are usually better solutions out there. Normally data prices on mobile hotspots are higher than home internet packages.
If you are looking to improve your home internet speeds, a faster Wi-Fi router might help. See our guide to the best home Wi-Fi routers for some suggestions. Alternatively, your provider might have a home router that works over cellular networks that might be a better option.
Does a Mobile Hotspot Work Everywhere?
A mobile hotspot only works in location where there is a mobile phone signal. So whilst this means it will work in lots of places, and certainly in more places then you might find a Wi-Fi network, it won’t work absolutely everywhere.
Remote wilderness locations for example are unlikely to have a cellular network, whilst most locations with some form of population likely will.
We would recommend checking network coverage maps of a destination if you have a specific location in mind for using your device. You can usually do this with the carrier, which should have coverage maps on their website.
If you are travelling to locations outside the reach of mobile networks, such as out to sea or in very remote parts of the world, you might want to consider another option if you really need to get online. Solutions in this case usually involve a satellite internet connection.
These provide global coverage but at a price premium. The speeds are usually not very fast, although this is changing with the launch of services like Starlink. If you are travelling in an RV and looking to get online, this can be an option. See my guide to getting online when traveling for more on satellite connectivity.
Should you Rent or Buy a Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot?
There are a few different ways that you can get a mobile hotspot, depending on exactly what you want to use it for and your budget.
First, you can buy a mobile hotspot outright. Once you own the device, you can either buy a SIM card for it, or it might come with it’s own built-in SIM card, in which case you just need to buy data as you go.
This will usually have a higher up front cost, but in the long term owning a mobile hotspot will usually work out cheaper than renting one. You can expect to pay around $70 – $400 for a mobile hotspot device if you buy it outright. Then you just have to pay for data.
The other option is to rent a mobile hotspot. There are lots of companies around the world who will rent you a mobile hotspot. These are usually a good option for short term usage, and are particularly popular with international travellers.
Renting a mobile hotspot for international travel is an easy way to get online when on the go. Expect to pay in the region of $5 – $12 a day for the device rental and data, depending on destination and how much data you need.
We’d advise renting if you only plan to use the device for a one-off trip to a specific destination for less than a month. A couple of companies that offer mobile hotspot rentals are GlocalMe and mywebspot.
If you plan on using a mobile hotspot more regularly on multiple trips, then purchasing a mobile hotspot will usually work out better value in the long run.
Can you Use a Phone as a Mobile Hotspot?
Many modern smartphones, including Apple and Android devices, include built in mobile hotspot functionality. This is often referred to as mobile tethering.
With this feature, you can share your phone’s data connection with your other devices, either over a Wi-Fi network that the phone creates, over Bluetooth, or by directly connecting your phone to a computer with USB.
This can be a good option, but there are a few things to watch out for.
First, not every mobile carrier supports data tethering, and it can be contract specific. So even if your phone is capable of tethering, it might not actually work, or it may have specific limitations. For example, our phone carrier does allow tethering, but only domestically. If we travel overseas, we can’t use it.
Next, if it is permitted, you need to be aware that tethering will use up your smartphones data allowance. If you do not have a generous data allowance, using your phone for tethering can very quickly take you over your allowance. This is especially likely to happen if you are using a laptop or desktop computer, because they generally use much more data than a phone.
Finally, and just something to be aware of, is that mobile tethering can also use up a devices battery very quickly. So this is usually only a good idea if you are near to a power source.
With the above caveats out of the way, using your phone as a mobile hotspot is definitely an option to think about instead of buying a dedicated mobile hotspot. This is especially the case if you have an unlocked phone, as you can buy local SIM cards when you travel, which often offer very reasonable data prices.
Alternatively, if your mobile contract includes international roaming with tethering for no extra fee, this is definitely an option to consider.
Features to Look for in a Mobile Hotspot
So now you know why you might want a mobile hotspot. Before we recommend some specific models to check out, we first want to share details of what to look for in a mobile hotspot. This should help you pick the right mobile hotspot for you and make a fully informed choice.
Cellular Network Technology and Speed
A mobile hotspot connects to the same network that a smartphone connects to. However, it only uses the data connection. As you might be aware, there are a number of different types of network out there. These are based on different technologies, and are often referred to as mobile broadband networks.
Every few years, new technology comes along, usually promising faster speeds. However, it takes a long time for this technology to roll out as it normally requires new hardware to be installed in mobile masts around the country. For this reason, it’s normal for networks of different speeds to co-exist. More populous areas tend to be upgraded to faster networks first, whilst rural locations will often take longer.
When you buy a mobile hotspot, you need to check what cellular network it supports, as this will affect both the maximum supported speed, and also where the device will work. As an example, whilst 5G networks might offer the fastest speeds at the moment, they are not widely available.
Here’s an overview of current network technology you might expect to encounter.
- 2G – Launched in 1991, 2G offers speeds of up to 237 kbit/s download and upload. Also known as GSM, GSM GPRS and GSM Edge. This is generally not popularly available any more.
- 3G – Launched in 2001. Offers speeds up to 1.6Mbit/s download and 0.5Mbit/s upload. Also known as UTMS and CDMA. Still available but largely being replaced by 4G.
- 4G – Launched in 2006. Offers speeds up to 300Mbit/s download and 75Mbit/s upload. Also known as HSPA+, LTE and LTE-Advanced.
- 5G – Launched in 2018. Offers speeds up to 3Gbit/s download and 500 Mbit/s upload
It’s worth noting that these speeds are generally all theoretical in the most optimal conditions, and real-world performance is usually slower. Various factors influence the speeds you will get, including the distance from the mast, the weather, and any objects in the way like buildings or trees.
For most users at the moment, 4G offers the best combination of speed and availability, as it is a fairly mature technology. If you’re wondering how fast of a network you need, for 4K video streaming for example, you need around a 25Mbit/s connection. For HD streaming, 7 – 10Mbit/s will usually suffice.
When you are looking at a mobile router, check which technologies it supports. We’d recommend one that supports 4G technology at the least. 5G is probably not necessary in most cases, although if you are buying a mobile router, 5G will provide you with an element of future proofing. Most routers will be backward compatible, so if it supports 5G it should also support 4G and 3G for example.
Global Roaming Support
If you’re choosing a mobile router because you want to get online when you travel internationally, you need to ensure you pick a device that will work in multiple countries around the world. This will require it to support multiple different “bands”. Allow me to explain.
Cellular data is transmitted over radio waves, and different countries allocate different parts of the radio spectrum to cellular data. To make matters more complicated, different providers in the same country also use different parts of the spectrum.
You can think of this a bit like radio stations. In the USA for example, FM radio stations broadcast between 87.9MHz and 107.9MHz. So to tune into one of these stations, you need a radio that has a dial that goes from 87.9 to 107.9.
In Japan, FM radio stations broadcast between 76MHz and 95MHz. So a radio designed for use in the USA, wouldn’t be able to pick up all the radio stations in Japan, and vice versa.
Cellular data networks are exactly the same, with different countries using different spectrum allocations for their cellular data. In addition, different network operators use different frequencies within the allocated spectrum – sort of like different radio stations on different frequencies.
As an example, in the USA, the AT&T 4G network is available on the following frequencies, which are also given band names:
- 700 MHz (Bands 12/17/29)
- 850 MHz (Band 5)
- 1900 MHz (Band 2)
- 1700 MHz /2100 MHz: (Bands 4/66)
- 2300 MHz (Band 30)
In the UK, the Three 4G network is available on the following bands:
- 800MHz (Band 20)
- 1400MHz (Band 32)
- 1800MHz : (Band 3)
- 2100MHz: (Band 21)
As you can see, there’s zero overlap between the bands used by AT&T in the USA, and the bands used by Three in the UK. So what does this mean?
Well, it means you have to be a bit careful when buying a mobile hotspot, to ensure it will work wherever you plan on using it. The good news is that device manufacturers don’t want to build lots of versions of their devices for different regions, and tend to include the majority of cellular bands in their devices to avoid this problem.
This is much the same as we have seen in smartphones in recent years, most of them are now released with support for a huge range of bands so they work pretty much everywhere without much fuss.
However, some mobile hotspots only support a limited number of bands, which means they may only work in one country, and sometimes only with one carrier in that country. This is particularly the case with network branded mobile hotspots, which are often limited to the bands that that cellular carrier uses.
Our suggestion is to check which bands the device you are purchasing supports, to ensure it will work everywhere you plan on visiting.
In order for your devices to connect to the internet, the mobile hotspot will create a local Wi-Fi network that they can connect to. Different hotspots support different Wi-Fi versions and features, which is something to keep in mind when choosing a mobile hotspot.
Just like cellular networks, Wi-Fi networks operate at different speeds and on different frequencies.
There are two main frequencies that Wi-Fi networks operate at, 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The former is generally more crowded but has better range, whilst the latter is normally faster with less range.
There are also different Wi-Fi categories, like Wi-Fi 4, Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6. Each step up tends to bring an increase in speed, much like the difference between 3G, 4G and 5G. If you’re interested in the different Wi-Fi speeds and technologies, you can read more about them in our guide to home Wi-Fi routers here.
Honestly, the supported Wi-Fi version of a mobile hotspot is not that important. Most devices these days should support at least WiFi version 5, which was released in 2014. This supports network speeds up to 3,470Mbps, which is far faster than most cellular networks will run.
We would recommend, if possible, choosing a device which can create a 5Ghz network. These tend to be less congested. However, again, it’s not that important. The cellular network connection speed will nearly always be the bottleneck in your network, rather than the speed of the Wi-Fi network.
Number of Devices Supported
One of the main reasons for purchasing a mobile hotspot is that it lets you share its internet connection with multiple devices. It’s important that whatever hotspot you buy, it’s going to be capable of supporting all the devices you want to connect at once.
If you’re travelling with a family on a camping trip for example, you might have quite a number of devices that want to get online at once. You definitely don’t want to be having arguments over who can connect when!
We’d recommend choosing a mobile hotspot that supports at least 8 devices.
You’re getting a mobile hotspot because you want to use it when you’re mobile, and that often means being away from a power socket. We often use our hotspots on long distance bus journeys for example, and whilst some of these do come with free WiFi and USB connections, it’s by no means standard worldwide.
So having a device that has a good battery life is important. After all, there’s no point having paid for data and a device if you can’t actually use it! We’d recommend looking for a device that has at least an 8 hour battery life, but ideally 12 hours or more. This means it can be used for a few sessions between charges.
Most of these devices can be charged using a USB cable or directly from an electrical outlet, so this allows you to charge them from a USB port or portable battery pack as well as a wall plug.
Almost all mobile hotspots support dual voltages for worldwide charging support. However, for the wall plug, you’ll likely need a travel adapter to charge it in a wall plug in other countries. A travel adapter costs just a few dollars and a good universal one that works in most countries is this one.
Wired Connection Options
The most common way to use a mobile hotspot is to set it up to create a Wi-Fi network that your devices can connect to. However, some mobile hotspots offer additional options.
The most common additional connection types are USB and Ethernet. Whilst these are not necessary, some users might need the option to connect a device directly to the hotspot by a cable instead of over Wi-Fi. So if this is a feature that you would find useful, look out for a device that supports additional connection options.
Using a mobile hotspot to connect your devices to the internet is usually quite secure, but not all mobile hotspots are created equally.
To start with, you’ll want to ensure that the local Wi-Fi network that the hotspot creates is secured with a password, so it can’t be accessed by anyone. The security protocols on Wi-Fi networks have improved over time, and ideally you’ll want it to support at least the WPA2 standard.
Next, for even more protection, or to login to streaming or banking services when you travel, you might consider a router which also supports VPN services. A VPN is a great way to mask your location and further secure your connection, and we have a guide to VPNs here.
Whilst you can connect to a VPN on your laptop or smartphone whilst connected to your hotspot, some mobile hotspots allow you to enter the VPN credentials directly as part of the connection setup. This means that every device that connects through the mobile hotspot will automatically have it’s data passed through the VPN, giving even more security.
External Antenna Support
This is a bit more of a niche requirement, but is something to consider if you regularly travel to locations where the cellular network coverage is a bit spotty. This is a feature that many of those traveling by motorhome or campervan may look for as they are likely to encounter areas with weak coverage. It’s also easier to mount an antenna externally on one of these vehicles.
Because mobile routers work over radio waves, they have a built in antenna which allows them to connect to the network. This internal antenna will work for most connections, but if you want to boost the connection, you could connect a larger external antenna.
This works in the same principle as a TV antenna. You can use a small internal TV antenna if you have good reception, but you will usually get better results with a large external antenna mounted outside your home.
For a mobile hotspot, you usually don’t need anything near as large as a TV antenna, just a small antenna attached directly to the device can make a difference. Not all mobile hotspots support them, but it is a nice to have feature.
Network / SIM Lock
There are a few different ways to purchase a mobile hotspot. For example, you can buy them as part of a contract from a network provider, in the same way that you might buy a smartphone.
If you do this, there’s a good chance that the device will be locked to that providers network. This means you can’t change the SIM card and use it on another network, unless the provider lets you unlock the device.
You can also buy mobile hotspots from stores like Amazon. These will either come with a removable SIM, or a built-in non-removable SIM tied to a data provider. The former will give you more options, as you can choose the best SIM package for you. The latter can be easier, but will lock you in to purchasing a data plan from that provider, much like buying from a network provider would.
The right option for you will very much depend on your needs. We travel a lot to different countries, so having the option to purchase a local SIM card in each country means an unlocked device without a SIM card is a good option for us.
We also have a pay-as-you-go mobile hotspot tied to a specialist provider of mobile hotspot plans. This has a built-in SIM card but we own the device. This is useful for travelling to countries where buying a SIM card isn’t so easy for visitors, and is also a simple solution as we just need to buy the appropriate data package for the country we are visiting from the provider of the hotspot.
Data Allowance and Limitations
Whatever kind of mobile hotspot you purchase, be it tied to a contract, rented, or even unlocked, you will want to be aware of the data allowance and any limitations imposed by the network providers.
Mobile data has a price, and so the companies providing it obviously have to both pass that cost on to you, and also turn a profit.
Usually, there will be a data allowance imposed. This might be a fixed daily limit, like 1 GB a day, or a monthly limit, like 10GB / month. It’s important to check what happens if you go over this limit. The most common things that can happen are:
- You can keep using the device, but your provider will start charging (sometimes hefty sums) for data used over the limit.
- Your provider will shut off data so the device can’t be used unless it is topped up.
- Speeds will be throttled beyond a certain limit. This is most common on “unlimited” data plans, where a certain amount of data is provided at full speed, after which the speed is slowed down. Often the speed slows down to 2G, which is fine for e-mail and simple web browsing, but insufficient for video streaming.
The above also applies even if you have an unlocked device with a SIM card you’ve purchased yourself. The SIM card you buy will have terms specifying data usage and allowances. For example, it might give you unlimited data, but will go on to say it’s 1GB of data at 4G speeds, after which it will drop to 2G speeds.
It’s also worth making yourself aware of any limitations your provider might impose. For example, some providers only allow streaming of HD video instead of 4K video. Many providers restrict use of file sharing services. If these are things you want to use, you will definitely want to check if it’s allowed on the device and network you plan to use.
We’ve covered the majority of features to look out for when purchasing a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, but there are some other nice to have features that some devices come with. These may be important to you, so we’ve included them here.
Some mobile hotspots come with a screen. These can be used to display handy information to you, from how good the connection is, to how many devices are connected, data usage and so on. Some devices even have a touchscreen interface for configuration, which can make setting them up really easy.
Power other devices
A mobile hotspot should come with a built-in battery. Some of them even work as a backup USB battery pack, meaning you can plug your smartphone or other USB device directly into the mobile hotspot and charge it.
Obviously, this will reduce the battery life of the mobile hotspot, but it can be very useful if your smartphone is running low on juice!
Travel Router features
As mentioned earlier in the post, a mobile hotspot is not the same as a travel router. A travel router is primarily designed to enhance and extend an existing wireless network. It doesn’t connect to the internet itself.
However, some mobile hotspots also come with built in travel router functionality. This means that they can either create their own internet connection over a cellular network, or they can connect to an existing Wi-Fi network and share it with your devices.
This gives you a best of both worlds solution. Connecting to data all the time can be expensive, whilst Wi-Fi is often free. However, public Wi-Fi networks can often be unsecure, or may limit the number of devices you can connect to them. A travel router solves this problem.
Best Mobile Hotspots 2023
Now that we’ve shared everything you need to know to help you choose a mobile hotspot, we wanted to share some options for the best mobile hotspots available today based on our experience with a number of products.
These cover a number of options, including devices you can purchase outright, devices you can rent and devices which are locked to a network.
Alcatel LINKZONE (model MW41NF-2AOFUS1)
The Alcatel Linkzone is a budget no frills unlocked 4G LTE mobile hotspot. If you’re looking for a budget mobile hotspot that will work in a number of locations around the world, this is one of the better value options available.
This unlocked device supports micro size SIM cards which you will need to provide yourself for data. It’s unlocked, and supports 4G LTE speeds up to 150Mpbs. You can connect up to 15 devices, and the diminutive size makes it easy to travel with.
Note that there are a number of versions of this product on the market. You want to be sure to get the MW41NF-2AOFUS1 model as this has the most band support, meaning it will work in more locations around the world.
Battery life is OK if not great 6 hours, and there’s no built-in screen. However, there is an app which you can use to manage the device from your smartphone.
For the local WiFi network, it supports up to WiFi 4 and 2.4Ghz networks only.
Networks supported: 4G (Bands 1 2 3 4 5 7 8 12 13 20) + 3G (Bands 1 2 4 5 8).
Size: 3.4in x 2.3in x 0.5in (87.6 x 59.6 x 12.6mm)
Weight: 6.3oz (178g)
Battery Life: 7 hrs
Devices Supported: 15
Best for: A solid budget pick for an unlocked global mobile hotspot
Price: Check price here on Amazon
TP-Link are a well-known brand who primarily make networking equipment, and they have a range of MiFi devices available. These range from the budget M7000 through to the high end M7650. Note these are easy to find in the UK but not always available in the USA.
The main difference across the range is the 4G speeds supported, the speed of the WiFi network, the battery life, and the number of devices each option support.
The M7000 for example supports 4G speeds up to 150Mbps, has 8 hours of battery life, creates a local 2.4GHz network with speeds up to 300Mbps, and supports up to 10 devices.
The M7650 by comparison supports 4G speeds up to 600Mbps, has 15 hours of battery life, creates a local 2.4GHz network with speeds up to 300Mbps as well as a 5GHz network with speeds up to 867Mbps, and supports up to 32 devices.
Our recommendation falls in the middle of these specifications, but you might prefer to go with a higher or lower end device.
The M7450 supports 4G speeds up to 300Mbps, WiFi of 300Mbps at 2.4GHz and 867Mbps at 5Ghz. It can handle up to 32 devices, and has a battery good for 15 hours. It also has support for an SD card for media storage and streaming, has an app for control, and a color screen display.
Networks supported: 4G (Bands 1 3 5 7 8 20 28 38 40 41) + 3G (Bands 1 5 8).
Size: 4.4in x 2.6in x 0.62in (112.5mm x 66.5mm x 16mm)
Battery Life: 15 hrs
Devices Supported: 32
Best for: A great mid-range pick, with a number of models to choose from
Price: Check price here on Amazon UK
The GlocalMe DuoTurbo is another excellent product if you want the best of both worlds. You can either use it out of the box without a separate SIM, using competitively priced data plans from GlocalMe. Or, you can insert your own SIM card if you prefer.
The device can be purchased outright or rented, and it has excellent 4G coverage, which will let you get online in over 140 countries worldwide.
Specs wise you get LTE connections up to 150Mbps download, 2.4GHz WiFi 4, support for up to 10 devices, and a battery that lasts up to 12 hours. It also has an easy to use touchscreen interface.
Note that GlocalMe have a range of mobile routers you can either rent or buy, as well as a lot of data plans to choose from. So do check out their website to see if one of their other options is a better fit for you than the G4 Pro.
For example, the FirstG is an excellent cost-effective option with good worldwide support for those of you looking to bring your own SIM, whilst their high end Numen Air is an excellent future proof option for those of you wanting 5G as well.
Networks supported: 4G (Bands 1 2 3 4 5 7 8 9 12 13 17 18 19 20 25 26 28 34 38 39 40 41 66) + 3G (Bands 1 2 4 5 6 8 9 19)
Size: 4.96 x 2.6 x 0.5 inch (126 x 66 x 12.6 mm)
Weight: 5.2oz (1480g)
Battery Life: 12 hrs
Devices Supported: 10
Best for: Easy international and domestic roaming with the option to use your own SIM
Device Price: Check price here on GlocalMe and here on Amazon
Rental Prices: Check rental price here on GlocalMe
Travel Wifi Sapphire 2
The Travel WiFi Sapphire 2 is a great option if you’re looking for flexibility. TravelWiFi offer a range of devices which you can rent or buy, and you can either choose to buy data packages, or use your own SIM card. This gives you the best of both worlds.
The Sapphire 2 supports up to 4G LTE speeds and comes preloaded with 1GB of global data. It supports up to 5 devices, and has a built-in battery that provides up to 12 hours of battery life. It works in over 130 countries worldwide, and there’s a companion app available to help you manage the device and your data.
We also have a discount code for TravelWifi, use discount code “findingtheuniverse” for a 5% discount on their prices.
Note TravelWifi have a range of products, so do compare their other options as well to see if those better suit your needs. The Sapphire 2 in our opinion offers a great balance of price and performance, but if you need more features, check out their other options.
Networks supported: 4G (Bands 1 2 3 4 5 7 8 9 12 13 17 18 19 20 26 28 34 38 39 40 41) + 3G (Bands 1 2 4 5 8)
Size: 5 x 2.5 x 0.5 inch (136 x 72 x 12 mm)
Weight: 4.9oz (140g)
Battery Life: 12 hrs
Devices Supported: 5
Best for: Easy international and domestic roaming with the option to use your own SIM
Device Price: Check price here on TravelWiFi
Rental Prices: Check rental price here on TravelWiFi
NETGEAR Nighthawk M1 (model MR1100)
We have used a number of Netgear devices over the years, including the Netgear Nighthawk M1. This is a high-end unlocked mobile hotspot which supports fast 4G LTE speeds up to 1Gbps.
It has a nice screen which shows you mobile signal strength and data usage, and it supports up to 20 connected devices. It has a built-in battery offering 24hrs of usage, and also offers travel router features where you can extend existing WiFi networks. Speaking of WiFi networks, this offers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz support up to the WiFi 5 standard.
Because this device is fully unlocked, and supports a wide range of cellular network bands, it should work well in most destinations (although of course you will want to check in advance of a trip to be sure).
It also offers dual external antenna connectors as well as a USB port you can use to connect an external drive, from which you can stream media to devices on your network.
The main downside of this device is that all the features do come at a price premium.
Note that there are different versions of this device depending on your region. A newer 4G model is the M2 (MR2100), which offers slightly faster WiFi speeds and a touchscreen interface. This is primarily available for UK, European and Australian markets. For 5G, there is the M5 (MR5200) which also offers touchscreen support and has more worldwide availability.
If you want the absolute fastest mobile hotspot in the US, Europe and beyond, the M5 is the option to go for, but it comes at a hefty price premium!
Networks supported: 4G (Bands 1 2 3 4 5 7 12 14 29 30 66) + 3G (Bands 2 4 5)
Size: 4.1 x 4.1 x 0.75 inches (10.4 x 10.4 x 1.9cm)
Weight: 8.48 oz (240g)
Battery Life: 24hrs
Devices Supported: 20
Best for: Global and domestic travel where you want to choose your own SIM card and want the fastest speeds.
Price: Check price here on Amazon
For a simple mobile hotspot that just works domestically and internationally, the Solis Lite is a good option.
This device comes with its own built-in SIM card, and it offers 4G data coverage in around 135 countries worldwide. Data packages can be bought for individual days or for longer periods, and vary in price depending on duration and destination. See the Solis website for all the options.
You can either buy time based data which works for a specific time period like a day, or you can pay by the GB.
Note that you can’t change the SIM card, so unlike the GlocalMe device above, you are tied in to the Solis prices. It is also only currently available to purchase outright.
Specs wise, you can connect up to 10 devices, it’s lightweight, offers reasonable battery life with the ability to charge other devices, and WiFi 4 support.
You can also save 10% on any order with our exclusive Solis discount code. Enter “FINDINGTHEUNIVERSE” on checkout to save 10%!
Networks supported: 4G (Bands 1 2 3 4 5 7 8 12 17 18 20 25 26 28 38 39 40 41 71) + 3G (Bands 1 2 4 5 8)
Size: 3.5in x .9″ (
Weight: 5.5 oz ( g)
Battery Life: 12 hrs
Devices Supported: 10
Best for: Easy global roaming with minimal fuss
Device Price: Check price here on Amazon and directly with Solis here.
INSEEGO M2000 5G MIFI WiFi-6
If you’re in the USA and looking for the fastest connectivity for domestic use, as well as fast connectivity when travelling internationally, consider T-Mobile’s Inseego 5G MiFi M2000.
This is the one of the few devices on our list which supports 5G, which means theoretical download speeds of up to 2.7Gbps. Real world speeds will definitely be lower than that, but if you have access to a 5G network, this will definitely get you a fast connection!
It supports WiFi 6, has a color touchscreen, can connect up to 30 devices simultaneously, and can charge other devices via USB. It also has full support for a plethora of 4G bands in areas where 5G isn’t available.
For international use, you’ll mostly be using the 4G bands, of which the device supports many and you’ll need to buy international data packs for overseas use. Alternatively, T-Mobile is quite flexible about unlocking their devices, and the SIM card is removable.
The main downside of this device is the price. 5G is still a relatively new technology, and access to it definitely carries a price premium.
Networks supported: 5G (n2, n41, n66, n71) and 4G (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 17, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 46, 48, 49, 66, 71)
Size: 5.9 x 2.8 x 0.7 inches (150 x 71 x 18 mm)
Weight: 7.4 oz (210g)
Battery Life: 24 hrs
Best for: The fastest speeds in the USA with the option for international roaming
Price: Check price here on Amazon and here on T-Mobile
Well, that summarises our guide to the best mobile Wi-Fi hotspots available on the market for travel. We hope you found it useful. We’ve also got a lot of other resources you might find useful, including the following.
- We have a guide to getting online when travelling, which has lots of options beyond mobile hotspots to consider
- Depending on your travel plans, you might need a travel router rather than a mobile hotspot. See our guide to travel routers to help you decide which is right for you.
- Fast internet access at home is also important! See our guide to the best home wifi routers for improving your home internet speeds.
- Staying safe online when you travel is important. See our guide to the best travel VPNs for tips on keeping your personal data safe when you’re on the road.
- You’re going to need to power all your devices when you travel – see our guide to the best travel adapters
- If you are heading out onto the road and looking for a laptop to get some work done, see our guide to the best laptops for photo editing
- Thinking of buying a new camera? See our guide to the best cameras for travel
And that’s it! As always, if you have any feedback about the post, or questions for us, just pop them in the comments below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.