Tech Talk

Q: I'm not the smartest technology person among my group of friends. As a result, they often tease me about technological things I don't understand. Last week we were talking about the difficulties of trying to connect to the Internet when we travel. Most hotels I stay at charge an extra fee for accessing the Internet. My friends were telling me I needed to buy a mobile pocket-size hot spot. I'm convinced they are up to their old tricks and trying to make a fool out of me (again!). Is there really such a thing as a portable, pocket-size hot spot?

A: Sounds like you have a great bunch of friends!

In the old days you had to use a Ethernet cable to connect to the Internet. It seems that many of the fine hotels I stay in still offer this method of being chained to the wall to do my work.

Of course you know about WiFi, the ability to connect to the Internet using a wireless card in your computer. This technological advance has led to a rebranding of coffee shops as personal offices.

In this case, your friends were correct. Earlier this year, several cell phone companies released new products that are known as mobile hot spots. Sprint offers the MiFi and Verizon offers the MiFi 2200. These devices are a little bigger than a credit card and allow users to connect multiple devices. This means will make many new friends the next time you pull this device out at the airport.

MiFi connects to the Internet using your mobile phone provider's 3G network. While coverage is not available in all areas, it does provide an excellent alternative to high-priced hotel Internet services. The cost varies based on the data plan you add and it is not uncommon for carriers to lock you into a two-year contract.

Learn More

Hot Spot (Wi-Fi)

Watch Out WiFi, Here Comes MiFi

Wi-Fi to Go, No Cafe Needed

Sprint Official Site

Verizon Wireless