What is MiFi and how does it work?

A MiFi is a mobile hotspot device that allows you to enjoy the Internet virtually anywhere using mobile data from cellular networks. Connect connected devices like phones, tablets, and laptops to one of these portable Wi-Fi hotspots to connect. Learn all about MiFi devices, including what they are, how to use them, and how they differ from Wi-Fi.

What is MiFi?

Although MiFi is used interchangeably with terms like pocket Wi-Fi, it technically refers to Inseego (formerly Novatel Wireless) mobile routers. Just as Kleenex is a brand commonly used synonymously with tissues, MiFi has become the umbrella for portable routers. The name is likely a symbol for “my Wi-Fi” or “mobile Wi-Fi”, but there is no official explanation.

How does MiFi work?

A MiFi device uses mobile broadband instead of traditional landline internet like cable or fiber. Therefore, MiFi routers require SIM cards or eSIM cards that provide a 4G LTE or 5G cellular signal. This mobile internet connection is distributed to connected devices such as your phone, laptop, tablet or Nintendo Switch. To get started, you’ll need a MiFi device, a data plan, and a SIM card. Once up and running, connect to the MiFi as you would any Wi-Fi network.

In a traditional home internet setup, the signal is brought in, usually via cable or fiber. The modem interprets this information and sends it to the Wi-Fi router, which wirelessly distributes the Internet connection to devices in your home, such as streaming boxes and laptops. Similarly, portable routers receive an Internet signal—the same one your phone receives—then connect to Wi-Fi-enabled electronics so you can access the Web almost anywhere.

MiFi vs Wi-Fi: What’s the Difference?

Simply put, Wi-Fi is the technology that allows you to connect to the wireless Internet, while MiFi is a device that provides mobile broadband. MiFi creates a Wi-Fi signal to communicate with various electronics.

What is the speed of MiFi?

Mobile hotspots offer download speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps over 5G connectivity and even 100 Mbps over 4G LTE. However, actual speeds vary depending on several factors, including Wi-Fi type and signal strength. Check out our 5G footprint maps for mobile phone coverage in your area.

MiFi and mobile hotspots

MiFi routers are perfect for working remotely or streaming Netflix on your iPad at the airport during a long layover. While you can use your Android or iPhone as a mobile hotspot, a dedicated pocket Wi-Fi device allows you to conserve your phone’s battery. Also, you avoid Wi-Fi hotspot data with a phone plan, as MiFi requires a separate service.

However, a phone-based hotspot connection is convenient because you only need one device. We generally recommend MiFi Mobile Broadband:

  • Frequent travelers

  • Digital nomads and remote workers
  • People regularly connect multiple devices away from home
Advantages of MiFi:
  • Save phone battery life
  • Save your phone’s hotspot data
  • Access the Internet wherever there is a cellular signal
  • Works with multiple devices connected at the same time
Disadvantages of MiFi:
  • Need your own data plan
  • Another portable device
  • More expensive than using your phone as a hotspot (additional device and plan costs)

The best MiFi devices

Our favorite MiFi hotspot devices include:

The best MiFi plans

Telus Rogers
Monthly price 10-150 USD $10-$60
Distribution of data 100 MB-50 GB 100MB-5GB

MiFi portable routers require data plans to connect to Wi-Fi. Expect to pay between $10 and $150 per month for a data-only plan that provides between 100MB and 50GB of monthly data. Browse popular mobile hotspot plans in Canada using our search tool.

What is MiFi and how does it work?: FAQ

What is MiFi and how does it work?

A MiFi device is a portable router that uses cellular data from 4G LTE and 5G networks to connect to the Internet anywhere there is a cellular signal. Choose a data plan, insert a SIM card and enjoy portable Wi-Fi on your mobile devices.

Is MiFi as good as Wi-Fi?

No, MiFi is not as good as Wi-Fi, slower and less reliable than traditional DSL, cable or fiber internet. However, MiFi supports speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps with a strong 5G signal.

How much does MiFi cost per month?

MiFi costs anywhere from $10 to $150 per month for a data plan, depending on what plan you need.

What is the difference between a mobile hotspot and a MiFi?

MiFi and mobile hotspot are the same thing; MiFi is just a brand name of Inseego (formerly Novatel Wireless). Other common terms for mobile hotspots are pocket Wi-Fi and portable routers.

Will MiFi work anywhere?

Yes, mostly. MiFi works wherever you have a mobile data connection, from the city to the remote countryside.

How long does MiFi last?

MiFi devices last for up to 13 hours, though the exact battery life depends on your connection — a 5G signal drains your pocket’s Wi-Fi connection faster than 4G LTE. Also, the more devices you have connected at once, the faster you’ll burn the MiFi’s battery.

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