Mobile
Commentary
6/29/2010
01:37 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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Virgin Mobile Intros Pre-Paid Wi-Fi Hotspot

Hate contracts? Virgin Mobile is now offering the MiFi 2200 mobile hotspot device with no commitment. It costs $150 and data plans runs as little as $10.

The Novatel MiFi 2200 is a great device. It collects 3G signal from Virgin Mobile USA's network (a.k.a., Sprint), and creates a Wi-Fi hotspot that can be accessed by up to five other devices. It doesn't offer the sprightly WiMax-powered experience that the Sprint Overdrive does, but it trades raw speed for better budgetary options.

The device sells for $150 and can be used with Virgin's pre-paid Broadband2Go Web service. Users aren't charged activation fees. Data can be added to the Broadband2Go Top-Up cards for the low price of just $10. The plans are the same as Virgin Mobile's other pre-paid data plans.

The lowest plan costs $10, and that buys 100MB of data, which expires in 10 days. Virgin Mobile says 100MB is good for about five hours of Web browsing. For $20, users will get 300MB, which is good for 15 hours of browsing. The 300MB also expires in 30 days. For $40, step it up to 1GB, and $60 buys 5GB -- each expiring after 30 days. So if you pay $40 for 1GB and only use 500MB, you lose access to that unused 500MB. For reference, Virgin Mobile says that 5B of data allows for a whopping 250 hours of browsing time. That's way beyond a 40-hour work week for an entire month.

Most of Virgin's competitors -- including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless -- all charge $60 for 5GB of data with one big catch: They all require contracts. Virgin's plan offer more monthly flexibility and no contract if you need to change how you consume data on the go.

The MiFi 2200 has enough battery power to provide four hours of surfing time, and about 40 hours of stand-by time. It is small, light, and fits into a shirt pocket. For businesses concerned with security, no need to worry. It offers WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK, WEP and SPI Firewall for protection.

If you consistently chew through more than 2GB of data, it may be worth looking at some of the contract-laden hotspot devices. But Virgin's offer is as flexible as it gets. If you only need data for rare emergencies for when Wi-Fi isn't available, the MiFi 2200 from Virgin Mobile USA makes perfect sense.

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