If you’re buying one of the cheaper iPad Wi-Fi models there are still a few ways to enjoy Internet access anywhere without stumping up the extra money for a 3G version.
Sure, there’s only $170 difference between the iPad Wi-Fi models and their 3G equivalents.
But perhaps you don’t want to settle for one of the prepaid microSIM deals and the month-by-month bundles aren’t quite to your taste.
What if you can get a better deal on a regular SIM card package, and maybe through a network reseller rather than one of the Big Four mobile telcos?
Or maybe you’ve already got a contracted 3G USB modem and don’t want to sign up for another 3G account specifically for your iPad.
That’s where the new ‘portable hotspot’ 3G-to-WiFi devices step into the frame. These battery-powered devices take a standard SIM card linked to a 3G wireless broadband account, and relay the incoming 3G signal as a short-range 802.11g signal.Virgin Mobile’s WiFi Modem
(above) is a Huawei E5830 MIFI modem rebranded for Virgin Mobile, which resells Optus’ 2100MHz and 900MHz 3G networks.
It’s available on its own for $149 although it’s network locked, and can only be unlocked after spending $80 on Virgin’s prepaid plans. The same $149 gets you 1GB of pre-paid data plus an additional 2GB if you activate your account by June 30th.
As a post-paid dongle it’s listed on four plans starts at $27/month with 1GB, through to $49/month with 7GB, all on 24 month contract.
A search on eBay for ‘Huawei MIFI’ reveals a clutch of models of the same device starting at US$110 – most carry the 3 brand but are unlocked, although many don’t support 900MHz as a 3G band.
Internode’s compact Novatel MiFi
(above) sells for $399 outright and unlocked, or $299 when bundled with a 24-month Internode NodeMobile Data service which uses Optus’ 3G network.
The battery-powered device gets up to four hours on a single charge and can be recharged from a 240V socket (a charger is included) or USB port.
While Internode’s MiFi runs on the 2100MHz and 900MHz 3G bands but not the 850MHz required to support Telstra’s NextG network, a quick search on eBay for 'Novatel MiFi'
reveals Novatel’s MiFi 2372 model which runs on 850MHz and 2100MHz starting at around US$275.
Next month sees local player Netcomm release its slim MyZone Mobile 3G WiFi Router (above). Rated for 850MHz (Next G) and 2100MHz (3G), Netcomm is positioning the MyZone as the ‘ideal companion for Apple iPad, iPod Touch and Sony PSP’.
The device is claimed to run for 4-6 hours on a single charge and serve up to 10 users, although the price has not yet been revealed.