back to article Ten... Mi-Fi HSPA 3G wireless mini-routers

Reg Hardware Mobile Broadband Week If you want cellular data connectivity when you're out and about you can cough up for a laptop or tablet with a Sim card slot, but they are hardly cheap. Or you can tether your phone if your telco lets you. Another alternative is a portable router. These can be bought with data contracts …


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  1. Neoc

    Some info missing

    Having shopped around for one of these last year, I found out that some of them (especially the ones sold by Telcos) are tied to a specific network. (e.g. if I's bought a Vodafone MiFy, I could put any SIM I wanted in there... so long as it was a Vodafone SIM).

    It might be a good idea to differentiate between devices locked to a specific network and those who can be used anywhere.

    (PS: I eventually bought one which would allow me to use *any* SIM anywhere is the world... except maybe for the USA and their damn GSM networks)

    1. arns44

      Re: Some info missing

      I'm thinking of getting an unlocked miff as well, so I can use it in multiple countries. Is it difficult to adjust the settings of the mifi to accommodate the network of the new SIM card you put in?

      1. Neoc

        Re: Some info missing

        The one I eventually got (from Dick Smith of all places) automatically reconfigures itself to the SIM (same as most unlocked phones). And since my WiFi settings remain the same anyway...

    2. goldcd

      I think most of them are relatively easy to unlock

      Maybe an advantage of using a separate USB stick with a separate travel router. Sticks themselves are usually pretty easy to unlock - and a new one either locked, or with correct local freqs, is relatively easy to pick up when you arrive.

  2. Danny 14 Silver badge

    "None offer a better Wi-Fi throughput than 150Mbps"

    I want whatever you are using for your provider if you need a connection better than G (even with WPA overheads).

    as for hotspots, I use an old LG android phone. It gets about 2 hours battery. I did need cyanogen flashing on it first though.

  3. Richard Jukes

    Telecom FM Dataroute ftw

    I had a good look about last year and found the Telecom FM Dataroute to be the best for my needs, the fact that it will ping a server and auto reconnect if needed really sold it to me. Coupled with an 88cm aerial I have never been without signal.

  4. Manolo
    Paris Hilton

    Don't understand

    "Or you can tether your phone if your telco lets you."

    I don't understand this.

    - Is there anything my telco has to say, legally, about what I do with data after it entered my phone?

    - Is there a way, technically, that my telco can prevent me from sharing my data / tethering my phone?

    With a (recent) Android phone, you just set up tethering and off you go.

    Or am I missing something?

    1. Dcope

      Re: Don't understand

      Three seem to be able to intercept the traffic, or did so last night as im moving house and my virgin dosnt get installed till next week, so had to cough up the extra fiver for the months teathering and looks like it take a few hours before the update gos through.

      1. MrXavia

        Re: Don't understand @Dcope

        You probably have unlimited data, and you'll use way more if you tether, hence they have tethering and non tethering plans...

        So an extra £5/month for unlimited tethering seems fair to me...

        1. Dcope

          Re: Don't understand @Dcope

          I recently upgraded to the Galaxy note on the Unlimited internet 1000 plan, so i have unlimited internet, i think your thinking about the One plan that had teathering included and was when i looked just 5 quid a month more so decided against that plan, noticed this has come down to just quid difference may change across.

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Don't understand @Dcope

            I still dont see how they can see what you are doing if you wifi hotspot your phone (short of browser ID's), afterall the phone is being a router so will preset itself the same as always. Being a "modem" is different. That being said, it is fairly easy to spot traffic trends and I doubt even the mightiest phones have TF2 binaries or full on wow clients.

            I have hotspotted on 3 since I got the damn thing. Never missed a heartbeat for me. That being said I have always hotspotted and NOT USB tethered.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Don't understand

      Your telco can put anything they like in their contracts - as long as it is not illegal in itself. A lot of phone OSes also include functionality to tell the Telco that you are tethering. The telco's usually manage by sending you through a different APN.

      Most of the Telco's have tethering clauses these days.

      Interestingly enough - in contrast to the other Poster I dont believe 3 do charge extra for tether - I know they didnt up to Feb when I last used it for my ipad. It was one of the reasons I left vodafone for Three.

      1. Rameses Niblick the Third (KKWWMT)

        @Gordon 10

        I agree about 3, I actually used my Desire HD as my primary internet connection for about 4 months last year and they never so much as batted an eyelid.

        Then again, maybe my contract allows this and the OP's doesn't?

        1. Great Bu

          3 Tethering

          3 used to not care about tethering but recently have changed so you can only get it on the unlimited data plan.

    3. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Don't understand

      It's in your contract T&Cs - I'm not sure if that's ever been tested in court, though.

      Rumour has it that changing the MAC address of the NIC you use to tether to the phone to match that of your phone will fool some operators, but YMMV, IANAL, etc... This kindof makes sense as I don't think I've seen anything that allows an operator to distinguish the end point of the data stream from the signalling used to establish the Radio Access Bearer or even PDP Context, so there must be some delving into the stack above the 3GPP signalling layers...

  5. mrdalliard
    Thumb Up

    3 MiFi

    As a 3 MiFi owner, I can certainly sing its praises - speeds have generally been pretty good. Whilst you can "only" connect up to five devices to it, I certainly don't see that as a big deal, having never hooked up more than about three.

    The battery life on this one seems to be a bit worse than its predecessor, which managed 5 - 6 hours. I should also add that you can get cheaper deals than £10/month. I've managed a fiver - it's just a case of keeping an eye out for the right discount codes.

    1. Dcope

      Re: 3 MiFi

      I have one but with andriod tethering and larger phones it sits on a draw getting unused, in reference to the original article, im sure on mine you could access the sd card contents but you had to go through the built in web pages to do it not from windows filesharing.

      1. 1Rafayal

        Re: 3 MiFi

        I disagree with this.

        I have a 3 Mifi dongle and it is excellent.

        When I try to tether my phone, the connection to the Internet is signigicantly slower than using my dongle.

        Also, you can get one of these for £100(ish) from 3 on PAYG with roughly 12GB of data. I have had mine for a year and have only used 478MB, you can see your data count go up on the screen whilst it is running.

        I use mine mostly on the train as it is cheaper than using the wifi provided, as long as you have decent coverage, its faster as well.

        This means that my phones battery isnt drained by tethering (you only get one socket on the train)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Android seem not to charge you for tethering. iPhones do.

    That was a primary driver for me opting for an Android phone when my iPhone contract ran out. their greed cost them.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Tethering

      I like the sound of this android tariff. Where can I get it?

  7. frog

    is it only me...

    ...that want to connect one of these to a femtocell

    1. Joe Harrison

      Re: is it only me...

      What a good idea as that would give you a nice wireless signal. Then you could buy a femtocell to use on the wireless. Which would give you a nice wireless signal if you got another wireless router.

  8. Alex Walsh

    Tethering with a phone does have it's place but mifis come into their own when you don't want the battery drain. We were out and about at the Nurbergring last weekend. Our German host enabled tethering on his Galaxy SII but we wiped his battery out in around an hour or two with only 4 devices connected to it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think if your planning to tether, plug in, or carry an extra battery pack, it is still lighter than a separate mifi, still cheaper than two contracts..

      I get maybe 2 hours on my mobile tethering if its not plugged in, but I just stick the usb cable into one of the devices I am using wifi on! Or into my pebble.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge


        get one of those 7AH battery packs witha few outlets. Makes a massive difference. The 10AH ones tend to be a bit bulkier I have found. Must be the sweet spot for densities.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not sure I see the point of these, just pay a bit extra and get tethering on your mobile why not?

    Only use I see is in fairly static situations, for any 'oh I need a wifi now' your mobile is better suited for tethering.

  10. regorama

    ZTE MF60 for 65 quid?

    Where are you getting a ZTE MF60 for 65 quid from?

    1. Richard Ball

      Re: ZTE MF60 for 65 quid?

      Ebay from ShenZhen

  11. spegru


    I can vouch that whereas Three used not even mention tethering in their Ts&Cs, now you can only get it on their One Plan. Presumably recent phones are phoning home to Three about that even though they didn't used to.

    On the other hand why are we talking about 3g wifi routers since we must almost by definition be considering non phone devices? If you have a simple dongle you can use your own laptop. wifi to share the 3G. I certainly can do that in Mint 12, and surely you can even do that in windows

    I seriously doubt that that kind of tethering could be detected

  12. Peter Galbavy
    Thumb Up

    Also add the D-Link DIR-457U

    I just bought a D-Link "myPocket" here in Hong Kong for $699HK and a spare battery for $99HK - about £65 - there are a number of version but when I looked online for UK sourced versions they were all about £130+ but this maybe with a USB PSU (bloody expensive PSU in that case) while this just comes with a USB cable. Frequencies checked and this one will work when I get back to the UK.

    There are plenty of the Huawei models here with the 21Mb ones about £200HK more.

    I wanted something to use a local SIM while I left my UK SIM in my phone and also like Alex says above to save battery on said phone, which is usually more important.

    So far, it works fine and has two modes *either* USB modem or Wifi hotspot and the memory card works in both. It also charges from USB in both modes which I believe one of the other popular ones here doesn't. I got a few hours out of the first charge and we shall see how it goes.

    One downer - it gets VERY hot when left in a bag...

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Also add the D-Link DIR-457U

      aye, its a downside of using an S2 as a wifi hotspot - it gets very very hot.

  13. Leona A

    Like the Edimax

    this requires a 3G dongle as well, but a lot cheaper/smaller, TP Link TL-WR703N, you missed that one (and its 702 sibling).

  14. Parax

    Take 2 mobile contracts into the shower?

    The only argument that ever stood up for not using tethering was it drained your phone Battery, so well done "D-Link Le Petit Router DWR-510" you win a prize. surely if the user brings along a power tank then tethering is the most viable solution once again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Take 2 mobile contracts into the shower?

      And the "Option XYfi" also!

  15. arns44

    Foreign data SIM

    Has anyone figured out a good source of foreign data SIMs? For example if I wanted to get a French or Spanish data SIM to go in an unlocked Mifi, do I need to get these from a local store in country, or can they be purchased online?

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Foreign data SIM

      just buy a telefonica pre paid sim with data on it. I got one in the airport for about 18 euros with 1gb. You generally have to hand over passport details and that is about it.

  16. goldcd

    Or Asus WL330N3G

    You need to pop a dongle into the side of it, but has a load of extra functionality. I use it for travelling, so it's useful to have a single SSID all your kit connects to, and you can just swap on PAYG wifi dongles or share a single paid account (e.g. hotel room or airport) to all your other kit.

    Only downside is maybe the lack of battery, but comes with car, EU Plug, USB & RJ45 leads/chargers in one useful little bag I can sling in my big bag

  17. The Infamous Grouse

    E586 and the "security" key

    I took delivery of a new E586 and PAYG SIM from Three yesterday, an expensive but worthwhile upgrade as my last 12 month / 12 GB PAYG SIM is about to expire and the battery in my old MiFi is on its last legs. The device is a lovely bit of design and the OLED status screen a generally welcome addition, but I'm completely taken aback by this feature:

    "Usefully, the router has a pre-defined SSID and security code - just press the key button on the side and they scroll past."

    I've Googled for reviews of this device and every one I've read sings the praises of this "convenient" feature that prevents you having to look inside the battery compartment (home of the default password on earlier models) when connecting a new device. What they don't tell you is that even if you change the default SSID and password to something more secure, there is NO WAY to disable the option to display it at the press of a button.

    Insanity! Colleague left his MiFi on his desk while running an errand? Display that SSID and password and grab yourself a few MB of downloads on his dime. Found a lost E586? Free bandwidth and/or all that pre-paid data is yours at the press of a button.

    OK, so a savvy thief might be able to lift the SIM from a more secure device and make use of it elsewhere. And not everyone works in an environment full of potential freeloading hacker wannabes like I clearly do. But why make it easy for them?

    To mitigate some of the risks with this new MiFi I've had to do two things. I've enabled MAC filtering, which of course adds massively to the time taken to set up a new, legitimate, client and so makes a mockery of the "convenient" time-saving security display key. And I've turned on the SIM lock, which is even more inconvenient in that it requires logging in to the device via a browser to unlock the SIM every time it's turned on (and as long as the MiFi is left on, the SIM lock offers no protection whatsoever).

    Apparently users complained about the cryptic status lights on the old style Huawei MiFis, hence the shift towards OLEDs. But at least those devices were impenetrable black boxes if you didn't have the SSID and pre-shared key. Not like the new one, that literally gives up its secrets at the press of a button.

    Making things easier for the average punter is very laudable. But leaving a gaping physical security hole, without even an advanced setting option to disable it, is simply inexplicable.

    1. Richard Ball

      Re: E586 and the "security" key

      Is the offending pushbutton required for any other, desired, feature?

      If not, get a stanley knife and cut the track to the keyswitch. It's a bit invasive but why not - a cut track can always be bridged back later with the old soldering iron.

  18. leexgx
    Thumb Down

    HSPA is not HSDPA

    fucking ad on the left of the emtpy space

    was expecing HSPA (21mb )devices not HSDPA devices (7mb)

  19. BB
    Thumb Up

    MF60 for us

    We used an unlocked Three E586 for years whilst travelling, but in Australia Telstra's "Next-G" network uses an unsupported frequency so we picked up a rebranded MF60. In comparison:

    - MF60 is more reliable (the E586 drops out and needs a reboot every few hours)

    - MF60 feels more solid, is thinner and has better battery life

    - the web interface of the E586 is better than the MF60, but we really only use it to change APNs when swapping SIMs

    - the Telstra interface of the MF60 doesn't support sending and receiving SMSs but the unbranded ZTE interface does

    - both types can be unlocked for a few £s online

    Picking up a cheap data SIM (e.g. €10 for 1GB-1mth in Austria) and connecting all the iPads, Blackberries, laptops to it when travelling saves a bundle on hotel internet and roaming fees.

    If our Telstra MF60 gives up its life, we will definitely look at getting an unbranded one to replace it, hopefully an LTE MF90 will be out by then!

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