Verizon Wireless will begin selling a device from Novatel Wireless that allows mobile users to connect multiple devices to a 3G connection. The MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot, uses Verizon's EV-DO Rev. A network to create a personal WiFi cloud that can connect up to five WiFi-enabled devices, such a digital cameras or an iPod Touch, to the Internet.
The product appears to be a way for Verizon to keep devices on its 3G network rather than accessing public WiFi hotspots. WiFi access is becoming a critical feature in many smartphones. A recent ABI Research report on behalf of the WiFi Alliance shows consumers view WiFi as a "must-have" feature for mobile handsets. The firm found that 77 percent of mobile phone users want WiFi on their next handset and three-fourths of the people who have WiFi capability in their smartphones use it regularly. Devices such as the iPhone have created demand for WiFi access. To date, Verizon has shunned WiFi access on mobile devices.
"With projected growth rates of over 30 percent for WiFi mobile phones, MiFi will be of great benefit to both business customers and consumers," said Mike Lanman, vice president with Verizon Wireless, in a statement. "It gives customers the flexibility to transform their WiFi-enabled consumer electronic into mobile broadband devices and to choose how and when they need to be connected at a price point that will match most budgets."
The MiFi device, which weighs a little more than 2 ounces, will be available on May 17 for $100 after a $50 mail-in rebate. Users can sign up for a $40 monthly plan for 250 MB of data, or a $60 plan for up to 5 GB of data. Additionally, customers will be able to sign up for 24-hour access for a $15 fee.
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