A 3G Wi-Fi hotspot lets you share your Internet connection with all your devices at once, and many are now offered as part of a prepaid bundle. Planhacker rounds up the contenders.
The concept of a 3G Wi-Fi hotspot is pretty simple: you plug a SIM into the device to get a 3G broadband connection, which is then shared via Wi-Fi with any devices you have. This means that you can (for example) connect multiple PCs to a single device, rather than requiring a separate 3G dongle for each of them. You could also potentially connect a mobile phone for Internet access if (for example) you were overseas and using a SIM purchased for the purpose.
Obviously, if you buy a standalone 3G Wi-Fi hotspot device you can (at least in theory) plug any kind of SIM into that you wish, and you might want to check out our Planhacker guide to prepaid broadband deals and our assessment of how much postpaid plans really cost you. However, hotspot devices are also now offered as an alternative to a conventional single-machine dongle on the prepaid plans offered by some providers, so we've assembled this table as a supplement to our recent prepaid 3G broadband guide. The general points in that guide about selecting networks are worth revisiting if you're considering this kind of purchase. (Note that we're only covering "pure" prepaid here, not month-by-month contracts.)
In a hotspot context, download limits become more important than ever: you might not use much data on each device individually, but it can quickly add up. Telstra's hotspot device is due out at the end of the month; the others are all already on sale.
For each carrier, we've listed what they charge for the hotspot hardware and how much 'starter data' is offered to get new customers going. The main factor for most prepaid buyers is the recharge details: what they cost, how much data they include, and how long that data lasts. For each plan, we've calculated the cost per megabyte (to the nearest tenth of a cent). All 3G broadband plans include both uploads and downloads when calculating your usage.
Here's all the details:
If you want to dig into any given plan, here are the relevant sites:
Know of any other prepaid 3G Wi-Fi hotspot deals? Tell us in the comments.
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