Personal wireless access points (known by some as PWAP), also known as personal wireless hotspots, are becoming increasingly popular, as people are less and less willing to go without their Internet fix one minute longer than necessary.
So just what is a personal wireless access point, or personal wireless hotspot? It’s essentially a wireless cellular or 3G modem that allows some number of computers to connect to and through it in order to have access to the Internet.
One of the most popular of these is Verizon’s MiFi (pronounced “my-fi”, although some like to say “miffee”). The Verizon MiFi is about the size of a credit card, and about as thick as three credit cards stacked together. When turned on, this tiny device allows up to 5 computers to connect through it, wirelessly, to the Internet. From the end-user perspective, it is functionally identical to sitting at your local coffee shop and using their wifi hotspot. The only difference is that instead of being housed in a coffee shop, it’s in your pocket or briefcase or purse.
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Another version of the personal hotspot is the Cradlepoint Personal Wi-Fi Hotspot. However, unlike the MiFi, the Cradlepoint is an add on for an already-existing 3G connection, such as one of the USB modems offered by Sprint or Verizon, or a 3G-enabled smart phone with a good data plan. The Cradlepoint allows you to connect your 3G data device, and turn the combination of 3G device + Cradlepoint into a personal hotspot to which you can connect other devices wirelessly.
Here at the Internet Patrol, we have been using a Verizon MiFi for several months, and we think that it’s the bees’ knees. The cost for the data plan is exactly the same as for a single-user USB modem, and being able to not only connect to the Internet from just about anywhere, but to share that connection with up to four others, is pretty spiffy.
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