With 3G networks finally coming into place in India, the newest buzzword to do the rounds could soon be MiFi, small mobile personal WiFi hotspots that users can carry around in their pocket, leaving efforts by others like Aircel in creating a network of public hotspots behind.
Utilising 3.5G technology, Tata, Vodafone and D-Link (on MTNL/ BSNL) have all announced portable routers, which pick up a 3G signal and convert it into a WiFi signal, which can be used with laptops, cellphones, tablets and e-book readers without needing any software installation, and which can connect multiple devices to the Internet at the same time, unlike 3G USB dongles, which can only connect one device at a time.
The device can be bought from any of the providers for prices ranging from Rs 5,500 to Rs 10,800, but after that, one also has to pay for the data plans, which could make the solution an expensive one.
The first to enter the market was Tata Indicom, which introduced the Tata Photon WiFi Pocket Router, which has a max speed of 3.1 Mbps, a battery life of 2.5 hours and costs Rs 6,500. The service is available in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, at present.
D-Link entered next, with the most expensive router, the D-Link myPocket HSPDA router, which is priced at Rs 10,800, claiming speeds of 3.6 Mbps using a HSPDA/ UMTS SIM card available from MTNL/ BSNL. The device can share a connection with 16 clients at the same time, and can also be used as a USB modem when the battery runs out, if you are using it with your laptop.
The latest entrant is Vodafone, which has launched its MiFi services in Europe earlier, and has come with the cheapest router at Rs 5,500, but if it follows the data plans that the company is offering for 3G on the mobile, then it will be the most expensive option as well. Vodafone claims the device can connect to up to five users, with a max speed of 7.2 Mbps, significantly higher than the other two players, and has an announced battery life of four hours.
All in all, the new devices show the growing awareness of the value of mobile Internet, and of the increasing number of tablet devices – many of which are WiFi only. Whether the service will be popular or catch on is hard to say, but recognising the growing demand for high speed Internet connections on the move is a good first step for service providers.
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