You may have noticed that I have been travelling around a lot. Some of the places I have stayed at have good WiFi, some not so good, some not at all. So how have I been keeping in touch?
It is easy enough to tether a phone to a laptop, notebook, or other device, and use the data allowance in your contract, but I have found an alternative. This was driven by the need to find something that would work inside a narrowboat, where the steel cabin obstructs signals.
So, I went with the HUAWEI E5577C mobile WiFi. Essentially, this replaces a landline, but is a one-off purchase, so there is no line rental. It is a portable hotspot. Admitted, you need a landline for unlimited traffic, so if you are a heavy user, for example gaming or streaming video, it is probably not for you. But if, like me, you are a light to moderate user and plan on travelling, it could be ideal. I get 20GB per month for £15 with 3 UK. So far, I have averaged about 12.2 GB, and that includes quite a few hours’ live TV. To date, I have had no trouble getting online.
Inside it looks like any mobile phone, with the usual battery and SIM card (right, top right). There is also a 32GB mini SD card (right, top left), purchased separately, a useful back-up device when on the move. Essentially, it works like a mobile phone – actually has a phone number – but has no voice or keypad functions.
I tried putting the HUAWEI outside (only sensible if dry) to see if I could get a stronger signal, but was only able to get a 3G signal, 3 bars out of 4 (above left). On the floor indoors I got 4G, 2 bars only, but actually better. This inconsistency of signal is odd. In some places I have been able to get strong 3G and strong 4G at different times without moving the HUAWEI at all. And, perhaps more typically, I have been able to get strong signals on 3 UK when my phone signal, piggy-backing on Vodafone, is weak – the sort radio stations cut off to try again.
Okay, so your smart phone will do all this and more. After all, you can actually use it to talk, text, and so on, but it won’t do this next bit.
A small panel in the side opens up to reveal two sockets that will accept co-axial cable from an antenna. Sadly, the recent demise of my last laptop took some of my pictures to its grave and the antenna is among them (it’s in storage). Suffice to say, that it is a weatherproof aerial that attaches with a magnet to a boat, or caravan, or other metal box, so that a signal can pass through the co-ax, to the warm, cosy interior. Happy days, well, some day …
One bugbear of other people’s WiFi is Kidsafe, or similar, so I have to use my own data to bet on the geegees!