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Verizon’s MiFi hotspots to hit stores soon

Verizon Wireless has launched another breakthrough in wireless mobility and will soon make it available in stores. It is a device that will enable its subscribers to share Internet connectivity to a maximum of five other people with Wi-Fi-ready gadgets like computers, phones, and gaming and portable media devices.

This battery-powered device called the MiFi 2200 is manufactured by Novatel Wireless and allows shared connectivity if one user is hooked up to the Verizon 3G network. It serves as a personal Wi-Fi “cloud” or mobile hotspot.

Unlike regular mobile-broadband cards which only work with a sole computer at a time,  the MiFi can share a single EV-DO Rev A connection with 5 devices through its integrated Wi-Fi router.

Verizon says the device is easy to set up. The user only has to turn the portable device on anywhere there is a Verizon broadband signal, and he can instantly start sharing Wi-Fi to others.

The device is especially useful for travelers or for families going on a trip who need Internet connectivity for more than a single device at the same time. The Verizon MiFi 2200 can network with five devices via Wi-Fi or to one unit via the microUSB data cable.

When connecting through the MiFi 2200 Wi-Fi feature, the user is required key-in a password which is found at the back of the MiFi 2200. When using USB, he needs to install and run the ZV Access Manager software,  which supports Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000 and Mac OS X 10.4 or higher.

The MiFi 2200 is about as small as a credit card and weighs just a little over 2 ounces. According to Verizon, the unit has a rechargeable battery which can last up to four hours when in active use, and 40 hours on standby mode.

The MiFi 2200 will be available in stores starting May 17 at $99.99 after a $50-rebate and two-year contract. The kit also includes an integrated internal CDMA and Wi-Fi antennas and  security authentication.

Users can choose from several service options. With a $40-monthly subscription, a user gets 250 MB of data transfers, while a $60 subscription gives him 5 GB. Another option would be to get a $15 day pass, but the user has to buy the MiFi 2200 at full price.

Online review sites said that while the MiFi 2200 is still not as fast as residential broadband, it is still a good alternative for people who need Internet connection while on the go.

Phonearena.com tested the device with a Windows 7 computer using the microUSB. The device was ready for use after only several minutes. Phonearena.com also tested the device in its EVDO Rev area and reported getting an average download of 800 kbps to 1.3 MB and an upload rate of 500kbps.

When used with Wi-Fi, Phonearena.com says the MiFi 2200 had the same upload and download speeds as with the USB, but noted that when used simultaneously with several devices, the speed went down.

“Downloading a 99.5MB file from the nVidia site took a little over 12 minutes and had a transfer rate of 134KBs.  Most web sites will load in a reasonable five seconds, depending on how complex they are,” says Phonearena.com.

Critical Issues This Week – FCC

The FCC will deal with several key telecom issues in the coming week.  Some these issue include the unlicensed use of television white spaces, Verizon’s acquisition of Alltel and the merger of Clearwire with Sprint’s WiMAX division.

The most important issue will be the commission’s decision over whether to allow unlicensed use of television broadcast spectrum known as “white spaces.”  Google, Microsoft and Dell, having been lobbying the FCC to vote in favor of letting wireless data devices operate freely on the spectrum, much as laptops and smartphones can currently operate on unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum.