The Best Mobile Hotspots for 2022 in the UAE and Saudi Arabia
Jun 12, 2023
Most modern smartphones have a hotspot mode, but cellular modems and Wi-Fi hotspots have historically been your best and most flexible option if you have a lot of devices that need web access.
Hotspots can connect more than just laptops to the web. They also work with a tablet, a camera, and pretty much any other Wi-Fi-enabled device. They support more devices at one time than your phone's hotspot mode, don't drain your phone's battery, and can hook up with the better antennas from your phone. Your company might even cover its service plan.
With that in mind, here's what you need to know to pick the right service and hardware, along with the top-rated hotspots we've tested.
Why We Picked It
The T-Mobile Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 hotspot is the slam-dunk portable 5G device we've been waiting for. Up until now, T-Mobile's hotspot lineup has been a parade of relatively weak 4G products with slow modems. The M2000 is far faster, hooking you into T-Mobile's 4G and 5G networks at the very respectable rate of $50/month for 100GB, offering broad connectivity to many phones and computers at a reasonable price. That makes it well suited to both home and professional internet use on the go, and an easy Editor's Choice for T-Mobile hotspots.
Why We Picked It
The first gigabit LTE hotspot is here, on AT&T. The Nighthawk LTE from Netgear ($199.99, or $89.99 with a two-year contract) is the finest mobile hotspot in all the land. It's also a travel router and a backup battery. It's an easy Editors' Choice for mobile hotspots if you've chosen AT&T as your carrier.
Why We Picked It
Verizon's new MiFi 8800L ($99.99) is the pinnacle of 4G hotspots, but it's coming just as 5G is about to round the corner. If you need a Verizon hotspot for your business right now, this is a great one to buy, and our Editors' Choice. But if you can hold off until March 2019 or so, the 5G situation will be much clearer and you'll be better prepared for the next five years of Verizon's network.
Why We Picked It
America's only unlocked 5G hotspot, the Netgear Nighthawk M5, works on all the major US and Canadian networks and gives you unparalleled flexibility to access the internet wherever you go. It's also the first C-Band hotspot in the US, ready for the fast new networks that AT&T and Verizon will install over the next few years. While the $699.99 Nighthawk M5 is pricey, there's simply nothing else like it on the market, earning it our Editors' Choice award for unlocked hotspots.
Why We Picked It
Verizon's fresh C-band network showed up about 20% of the time in our recent Best Mobile Networks tests and generally unlocked speeds at least twice as fast as the rest of the carrier's 5G nationwide coverage. But older phones with a hotspot mode can't take advantage of those mid-band speeds as well as a dedicated hotspot, such as the Orbic Speed 5G UW ($299.99). This device is currently the only one that can handle the carrier's new 5G network, and that support should make a big difference in network performance if you live in a C-band zone. We’re not fans of its bulk or middling battery life, but those issues are worth working around to get the best possible network speeds. Because of its unrivaled network performance (for now), the Orbic Speed 5G UW is an Editors’ Choice award winner.
Why We Picked It
With remote schooling becoming the norm, it's absolutely critical to get everyone connected. The unlocked ZTE ZMax Connect MF928 hotspot works with AT&T- and T-Mobile-based prepaid services to offer the ultimate service plan flexibility. But its performance isn't up to that of a recent smartphone, so if you have the option to use your phone as a hotspot instead, that may work out better for you.
Hotspots are available from all three nationwide carriers, as well as several virtual operators that use the larger carriers' networks.
Along with the three major carriers, you can get hotspots from Boost (T-Mobile), Cricket (AT&T), H2O (AT&T), Karma (T-Mobile), Metro (T-Mobile), Net10 (Verizon), and Simple Mobile (T-Mobile), along with other minor players.
Hotspot plans change all the time. On AT&T and Verizon, your best bet is to add your hotspot line to your existing carrier's phone plan, as a separate line. That gets you the most data for your dollar. If you add a hotspot onto an "unlimited" phone plan, you get up to 50GB of high-speed data with Verizon, up to 40GB of data with AT&T, and 40GB with T-Mobile. After that, the carriers deprioritize your data or throttle it unpredictably. (T-Mobile's Magenta Max plan says it has truly unlimited data, but it isn't designed for use on dedicated hotspot devices and so you may get cut off unexpectedly.) You can find more details on the carriers' constantly changing hotspot plans at RVMobileInternet.com.
Hotspot plans aren't designed for primary home use. They cost much more per byte than a home DSL or cable setup.
The median US home broadband subscriber uses more than 355GB of data per month, mostly because of video streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix. All of those Zoom calls for work and school are likely to eat up a data cap quickly, as well. So, if your needs don't involve video or music streaming, a wireless hotspot may be a viable alternative for your home. But if they do, you are going to quickly run up against those data bucket limits.
There is such a thing as wireless home internet, however, and it's differently from hotspots. It relies on larger, less portable routers that generally stay in one location. Recent wireless-internet plans are more likely to have truly unlimited data than hotspot plans. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all sell wireless home internet in various parts of the country, along with a wide range of smaller, local wireless internet service providers (WISPs).
So, who's using hotspots, for now? Before COVID-19, it was road warriors—business people who need reliable connections on the go that support multiple devices and don't drain their phones' batteries. Now, food trucks and other outdoor-dwelling small businesses use hotspots to light up their POS systems and get their Seamless orders. Vacation home and RV owners might also use hotspots for their roaming, part-time homesteads. And folks who can't get the carriers' dedicated wireless internet plans may still find they fall back on hotspots. Now that road warriors are out and about again, these devices are more important than ever.
The three big carriers have been frantically upgrading their networks recently, and in many cases, network capabilities have now outstripped the quality of older hotspots running on them. That means recent phones will get better speeds than older hotspots do.
Quality 5G hotspots such as the Verizon Orbic Speed 5G UW Mobile Hotspot and Netgear M5 use the Qualcomm X55 modem. That's two generations behind the latest phones, but it's the best you can get right now.
The best 4G hotspots, including the MiFi 8000 and MiFi 8800L, use the Qualcomm X20 or X24 modems. Other hotspots out there, including everything the virtual carriers currently sell, use three- or four-year-old modems that have lower speeds and worse signal strength than the best new phones. That means you may get 5Mbps to 10Mbps whereas your phone gets 25Mbps to 30Mbps, for instance.
Many high-quality hotspots have TS9 external antenna ports to help you improve your signal using inexpensive antennas you can purchase online. TS9 is a standard, and these antennas cost much less than a cellular signal booster does. Unfortunately, 5G hotspots that support millimeter-wave generally don't have external antenna ports.
Make sure your hotspot supports 5GHz Wi-Fi, which is typically faster and less congested than 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. Some hotspots also support guest networks and access controls, such as MAC filtering and time-based access controls. Those features are on pretty much all dedicated routers nowadays, but you can't take them for granted on mobile hotspots.
You can use hotspots with big batteries as power banks to charge your phone or hotspots with microSD card slots as tiny servers to share media over Wi-Fi. That said, we've never found a real use for that media server functionality.
We really like the displays on the front of many current hotspots. They often report the strength of your signal, your hotspot's name, data usage statistics, and the network password right on the device.
If you decide to make the jump, hotspots and cellular modems aren't the only options. Smartphones have a Wi-Fi hotspot mode, and if you have a 5G phone, you might get better performance in that mode than you would with a 4G hotspot. That said, phones support fewer devices at once, have fewer network management features, and can run out of battery quite quickly.
To help narrow down your decision, head over to our explainer on the tethering vs. dedicated hotspot debate. And check out our tips on how to turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot.
US hotspots generally allow you to roam in Canada and Mexico, although rates may be high—make sure to check with your carrier in advance to find out.
One of the only good unlocked hotspots with international bands available in the US is the Netgear M5, but it's quite expensive. If you plan to buy a local SIM to take advantage of much lower local data rates, you may want to buy a cheap Android phone abroad and use it as a hotspot, instead.
Finally, before you commit to a hotspot or a plan, make sure to check out our most recent hotspot reviews.Why We Picked It Why We Picked It Why We Picked It Why We Picked It Why We Picked It Why We Picked It