Planhacker: Prepaid 3G Wi-Fi Hotspots 2011

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If you want to connect multiple devices to the Internet while travelling, a 3G Wi-Fi hotspot can be the perfect solution. Planhacker rounds up the prepaid contenders available from major carriers.

The idea 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 other devices you have. That means you can connect multiple PCs, tablets and other devices with a single connection. It can also be a useful way of connecting a phone, even if it has Internet access; for instance, if you were overseas and had purchased a data-only SIM, sharing with a hotspot might be more useful than simply plugging it into your phone.

Buying a hotspot device from a carrier or ISP isn’t the only alternative; you can also purchase Wi-Fi hotspots as standalone devices from an electronics store. If you have an Android smartphone or an iPhone 4 running iOS 4.3, you can also use that phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

In this listing, we’ve concentrated on the carrier-based alternatives, since they often offer good data deals, and looked at prepaid options rather than month-to-month deals. If you have bought a standalone device, check out our Planhacker guide to prepaid mobile broadband for some deals to get data onto your device.

For each carrier, we’ve listed what they charge for the hotspot hardware (prices have fallen since we last looked at this category) 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: you can also access the details in a PDF file for easy printing.

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.

Lifehacker’s weekly Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.

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