Novatel Mifi 2532 Mobile Wi-Fi hotspot review

The Novatel Mifi 2532 is a USB modem that acts as a wireless hotspot for up to five devices. We get hooked up.

Novatel Mifi 2532

IT Pro Verdict

An interesting idea that makes it easy to connect multiple devices to the internet where a fixed line Wi-Fi hotspot isn’t an option. It is expensive as a standalone unit but devices such as this are likely to be widely offered on mobile broadband contracts by the end of the year.

Mobile broadband has been one of the shiny stars of the tech world in recent years, bringing effective, usable internet access to businesses and consumers. Its influence is such that that the word dongle' is now part and parcel of many people's working lives.

However, while a regular USB dongle is a great tool for getting online, it's a rather insular experience. While a router can share an internet connection with many users, a dongle is only helpful to one user at least up till now.

The Mifi 2532 is designed to solve that problem. It's essentially a USB dongle, but with Wi-Fi built-in, enabling you to connect up to five different devices to the unit. The Mifi also has an SD card slot built in, enabling you to store, and in turn share, files, like a miniature portable NAS. It's been available in the US for CDMA networks, but now a European version supporting UMTS and HSPA has arrived and can be purchased from Expansys for just over 200 including VAT. In theory it offers 7.2Mbps download and 5.76Mbps upload, though of course, those are just theoretical maximums.

Novatel Mifi 2532

In the UK, 3 has already announced that it will be offering a branded device in time for Christmas. It hasn't revealed pricing but one would expect it to come as part of a bundle. We also envision that other networks will follow suit with similar deals.

The device could play a key role in a number of scenarios. In the home, it could be handy for connecting MP3 players, laptops and netbooks to the device. In business, it could prove useful for small teams working together, or indeed for giving presentations to clients, enabling you to get online for that crucial demo, without having to rely on the venue's connections.

You could create a temporary hotspot, and share those presentation files without having to fiddle about with paper or USB sticks. Alternatively, it could be a great way of avoiding Wi-Fi hotspot charges, or simply as a back-up internet access device.

In our tests, the Mifi proved extremely easy to get going. It's a small device - around the size of a bar of soap - and has no antenna or other protuberances. It's a smart little box, with a black gloss casing on top and a silver edging running round the sides, extending over the top to include the power button.

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.