If you travel even a little, you know the value of having a mobile broadband connection. Although WiFi is more pervasive than ever, so is security -- which means that many hotspots that I stumble across (at least here in the eastern U.S. anyway) are private.
Travelers that just need a slurp of Internet access, at a layover for example, are forced to pay exorbitant rates for pay-as-you-go access. Wireless providers at airports and train stations have a captive audience - and they know it.
Enter the Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot (SCH-11) from Verizon Wireless (PR). It's the fastest mobile hotspot in the U.S. and one of only two things that I will actually turn around to retrieve if I forget it at home (the other is my bluetooth headset).
Did I mention that it's fast?
The Sammy SCH-11 is much faster than the insanely popular 3G MiFi2200. In fact, it's the closest thing to lightening in bottle that I've ever seen.
While most 3G MiFi devices get around 1Mbps down and 500Kbps up, the Sammy 4G hotspot is specced at 5-12 Mbps down and 2-5 Mbps up. While a 5x increase is certainly attractive, I think that VZW is unpromising and over delivering. I'm routinely getting 17 Mbps down (7 Mbps up) on the Verizon LTE network in the Philadelphia metro. Yep, that's 17 times faster than 3G. (Sometimes I get over 20 MBps peak.)
The major caveat here is that 4G/LTE coverage isn't built-out like 3G coverage. Currently Verizon has LTE coverage in 45+ markets and 60+ airports. (You can find out if you've won the 4G lottery by entering your address in the VZW 4G LTE coverage locator.) The good news is that it steps down to 3G when not in a 4G covered area.
A portable hotspot like the SCH-11 is especially compelling for users of iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad, because you can replace monthly data plans on several iPhones and iPads with one 4G hotspot data plan. Mobile 4G pricing is $50 for 5 GB or $80 for 10 GB per month, with overages costing $10 per extra gigabyte.
The breakeven point is at four devices, which at $15/month would add up to $60/month on separate data plans. And let's not forget that its 4G, which makes a huge difference if you live in a covered city.
No ones likes data caps, but they're probably a fact of life in an age of YouTube, Netflix and Hulu. While not ideal, you can train yourself to live within 5-10 GB per month. Just don't expect it to replace your home Internet connection, although you'll be tempted.
It's not for everyone, but if you're a traveling Willbury like me, you should stuff a Sammy 4G hotspot into your gear bag -- pronto. It's saved my bacon more times than I care to admit and the 4G speed will satisfy even the most demanding bandwidth habbit.
Update: Here's a chart comparing bandwidth of the current crop of 3G and 4G devices from the CNet review of the SCH-11.