What is a MiFi dongle?

A MiFi dongle is a wireless device that allows several users to connect to the internet on the go via a single wireless broadband connection. MiFi dongles use your mobile network to create a localised internet hotspot.

Here’s how a MiFi dongle can help you use and share a single mobile broadband connection on the go.

A MiFi dongle is a wireless device that allows several users to connect to the internet on the go via a single wireless broadband connection. MiFi dongles use your mobile network to create a localised internet hotspot.

Here’s how a MiFi dongle can help you use and share a single mobile broadband connection on the go.

Holly Niblett
From the Digital team
4
minute read
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Posted 18 JANUARY 2021

How does MiFi work?

MiFi devices use a 3G, 4G or 5G mobile signal to create what’s called an ‘ad-hoc’ network. This ad hoc network can allow multiple devices to connect to the internet, sharing the signal between any mobile internet-enabled device within network range, including mobile phones, laptops or even games consoles.

What is the difference between MiFi and a mobile broadband dongle?

The main difference between MiFi and a classic mobile broadband dongle is that a standard WiFi dongle only allows one person to connect at a time.

Using a MiFi network will give you the freedom to connect multiple devices, so you can share and access information on one secure signal. MiFi can also enable groups of friends, colleagues or travellers to access the internet at the same time.

How many people can use MiFi at the same time?

A MiFi network can be shared with up to 10 people at a time, but only if users stay within a 10-metre distance of the device.

MiFi is still a relatively new technology. As it evolves, it’s likely that more people will be able to connect to one device and that the signal range will increase.

Is MiFi hard to set up?

No, MiFi is very easy to set up and can get you online in a matter of seconds. All you need to do is switch on the dongle and wait for your device to detect the signal. 
 
Unlike other types of dongle, there’s no need to install any software. Simply connect just as you would to a standard wireless network.

How fast is a MiFi connection?

The speed of your internet connection will vary depending on the internet provider, the device and your location. Like all 3G and 4G connections, the strength and speed of your internet signal may also depend on factors like weather and local demand.

If you’re sharing your device with multiple users, you should also expect a slower connection.

Why would I need a WiFi dongle?

It’s true that internet access is almost everywhere these days, and dongles are no match for the type of superfast broadband you might have at home.

But there are occasions when these little sticks could come in handy:

  • If you travel a lot with your laptop and need constant internet access
  • If you don’t want to use public WiFi networks
  • If you’re somewhere that doesn’t have a reliable internet connection, for example, a country pub or a holiday cottage
  • If you only have basic ADSL broadband but your mobile signal is 4G, you might get faster speeds with the internet stick than your home broadband

Which providers still offer USB WiFi dongles for laptops?

If you’re dead set on getting one of these little gadgets, Vodafone still offers a stick-style dongle. However, on the same type of plans, you could get a USB MiFi device which will give you a mobile WiFi hotspot that you can use with other devices.

The other major mobile providers have done away with USB internet sticks altogether in favour of MiFi and pocket hotspot devices.

What alternatives are there to WiFi dongles?

MiFi is a great alternative. Otherwise, many mobile broadband providers now offer a ‘tethering’ option with their SIM packages. This allows you to create your own personal hotspot using your phone as a router. Like MiFi, it can be used by multiple devices as long as they have the password.

If you want to find out more about the UK’s top mobile broadband providers, check out our guide to mobile network operators (MNO).

How can I get MiFi?

MiFi is offered by several UK mobile networks, including Vodafone, Three and EE. You can get mobile broadband on a contract or pay-as-you-go basis depending on the network you choose.

Choosing a pay-as-you-go tariff will usually mean you have to buy the MiFi dongle up-front. But if you opt for a pay monthly contract, you may be able to get a bundle that includes the dongle and possibly even a tablet.

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