XCom Global MiFi Hotspot Review

By Jonathan Spira on 23 November 2011
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Over the past few years, I’ve become accustomed to having Wi-Fi everywhere I go in the U.S., thanks to the various portable hotspots my colleagues and I have been using.  But I spend a considerable amount of time in Europe and I need to stay connected for work while underway. In addition, using your own hotspot is more secure than using whatever Wi-Fi signal happens to be coming your way, even if you happen to be in a hotel or café.

If only I could borrow someone’s portable hotspot.  Fortunately, there is a solution: the XCom Global MiFi Hotspot, and it’s available for you to rent.

I recently took the MiFi on two trips, covering a total of five countries (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands).  Xcom Global provides a single hotspot that can work just about anywhere and it’s smaller and lighter than a mobile phone.  It comes with the company’s Unlimited aXcess data plan.  The company sends you the hotspot, an extra battery (optional), a power cord (it uses Micro-USB) with adapters for local power outlets, and instructions, all in a carrying pouch.

How It Works

I didn’t need the extra power cords or plugs so I just carried the hotspot and the battery along on my trip.  I charged the MiFi before each trip in case I needed Internet access en route.

Using it is as simple as pressing the power button and entering a password.  It can support up to five users or devices at once, which came in handy for me during meetings, but I typically used it only with my ThinkPad laptop and iPad.  

In one hotel room where mobile phone reception was particularly bad, I used the UMA feature of my mobile phone to place calls and call quality was excellent.  UMA, or unlicensed mobile access, which T-Mobile calls Wi-Fi Calling, allows users to attach a mobile phone to the mobile network via Wi-Fi and place and receive phone calls, with an added benefit that calls to the U.S. made from anywhere in the world using UMA are charged as local calls.

In my hotel room, I kept the MiFi plugged in to provide 24×7 Wi-Fi. The first device I had required frequent rebooting but the second device (on my second trip) worked perfectly.  In both cases, connection speeds were quite fast and, as an example, I regularly saw over 5 Mbps download speeds in Maastricht in the Netherlands.  My experiences in other hotels in other cities as well as on the road were similar.  Of course, a lot of this has to do with the local network provider but the service was faster than the DSL service many people have at home even today.

On these two trips, I only used the MiFi in five countries but it will work in 42 European countries, 16 countries in the Asia Pacific region, three Latin American countries, as well as Israel, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.  Speed will vary by location.

It’s $14.95 per day for members, $17.95 without membership, and other fees may apply.  Considering that some of the hotels I stayed in charge €30 (roughly $40) for 24 hours of connectivity, I consider the rental price to be a bargain as well, with portability thrown in to boot.

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