The new Sprint MiFi reviewed and tested for today and tomorrow

August 10th, 2009 by Daniel DiRico

sprint-logoWell we can think of no better place to fire up a new technology gadget for the first time than on the lush green spaces of Boston Common on a perfect August afternoon. So that’s what we did.

The gadget is of course the Sprint MiFi 2200 — your own portable 3G wireless network bubble that follows you where ever you go. Initial setup of this device was as easy as it gets. Turn it on (you’ll see a green LED indicator light up) and your laptop and/or phone will
pick up the new wireless network immediately.

sprint-mifi-2200

Of course, you don’t want to keep that network wide open, so the first step is to setup a network password to protect your newfound bubble of internet access.

To configure the network settings, just type the default web address into your address bar: 192.168.1.1 and you’ll see the Sprint MiFi ADMIN panel via your web browser window. Here you will first need to setup an ADMIN password for the device settings. Once you do that, you can then setup your WiFi network password and other network settings.

The ADMIN panel has some nice features. There you can see the signal strength of your 3G connection, the battery life of your MiFi device, and all of the network settings you’d expect to find on a wireless access point.

Another nice feature is the ability to setup a temporary wireless network. Let’s say you are meeting with a client somewhere and you want to allow your client to hop onto your MiFi network, but you would rather not give them the master password to your network.

sprintMIFIadmin

Well no problem, on the ADMIN panel you can setup a temporary network with a unique wireless name and password. And you can even limit the number of simultaneous users (the maximum is 5 users) who can connect. Your primary wireless network settings are unaffected.

The Sprint plan basics

In the Boston area, Sprint 3G coverage is pretty well laid out and accessible. After a 2 year contract with Sprint and a $50 mail in rebate (really? a mail in rebate?) the device itself will set you back $100. The monthly access, after fees and taxes will run you about $70. The bandwidth limit is 5GB per month. If you exceed this, there is a hefty overage charge on any additional bandwidth used.

What this device is good for

If you find yourself traveling around for work (or play) and internet access is essential, then you have a few options. You could buy a wireless USB stick for your laptop (all major mobile companies offer them now) but that will only provide internet access to your laptop.

Nowadays however, people carry a laptop and a WiFi capable phone (iPhone, Blackberry, iPod Touch, etc.) and it would be nice to be able to share your mobile internet access with your phone and your laptop and perhaps with anyone else around you (a client or friend for example).

What it is not good for

If you are thinking of using this device as your sole source of internet access at both home and out in the lush green parks, you will find that 3G speed simply cannot compare to your home’s broadband wireless speed. Going from home broadband wireless to 3G wireless on the laptop felt like going back to a 56K modem.

So if you are hoping to consolidate your expenses on internet access, you may want to wait until Sprint, AT&T and/or Verizon release a 4G version (WiMax / LTE) before attempting to use one of these as your one and only source of internet access.

Implications for the future

One thing you can count on being a future trend in the world of technology is “look mom, no wires!” as we have seen for a few decades now. If you look at the evolution of internet access at home, it started with LAN cables snaked through the walls and phone jack style installations.

This later gave way to home wireless (thankfully) which is now the prevalent setup for most homes and small businesses.

The shift from LAN cables to WiFi did not greatly disrupt the broadband cable industry (Comcast and others) in a negative way. If anything, it ultimately drove more broadband business. However, this next leap in “no wires” will most certainly be a competitive threat to broadband cable companies.

In the not too distant future, you will be able to carry around with you the same high-speed wireless internet access that you enjoy at home. It will start out as a device like the MiFi 2200, but later the chip will simply be built into the laptop, the phone, the tablet, etc.

And if your internet access needs are now supplied to you anywhere and everywhere you are by Sprint or Verizon, why are you paying Comcast every month for internet access?

Well, you won’t be.

We are about to enter the next evolution of wireless and it is going to blend devices and internet into one seamless experience. After that, you’ll never think of the two as separate entities again. Your children won’t comprehend picking up a device that is not already connected to the internet.

And as we discussed in the previous post, it is these devices that will forever change how we receive digital media.

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