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Vodacom MiFi Device

Marc
  • On July 1, 2010
  • http:/www.marcforrest.com

After a week with the beloved iPad, I am starting to see the bigger potential for the device. admittedly in the beginning I was a naysayer (sorry to all), but after using it for the last week, I truly see the bigger picture.

That said though, my biggest gripe about the iPad is the WiFi. Well, I suppose I can’t really call it a gripe, I think it’s got more to do with the fact that South Africa still hasn’t seen the WiFi wave that you have in say America or Europe. Internet access is hard to come by in SA unless you have an ADSL line, which means you can’t use a mobile device, or 3G. although the higher spec iPads do have 3G connectivity, the model I received is a WiFi unit.

So that’s that were the Vodacom MiFi device comes in. The awesome team at Vodacom kindly sent me a MiFi device to use with my iPad, and WOW, what an amazing piece of hardware. The MiFi is a 3G broadband router which is capable of speeds up to 7.2MB/sec, AND it also acts as a Wireless hotspot. What this means is that you can have 5 wireless devices connected to the MiFi hotspot, all sharing the 3G connectivity.

So I picked up the MiFi (marketed as the Vodafone MiFi 2352) yesterday from the swanky new Vodacom offices in Umhlanga Ridge. They have just completed the building, and it looks awesome, although no where near as pretty as Vodaworld :) Earlier in the day, I had bought a pre-paid simcard for 99c (Bargain), which I had to RICA before I could use it. Surprisingly the RICA process was pretty painless, and I did all my sims, and I was out in 5 minutes. I then loaded the sim with a prepaid data bundle (R88 for 110MB). Once I had the new gadget in my hands, I put the sim card in, switched it on, and it just worked. Boom. Just like that. No config, no setting up, no messing with advanced settings. It JUST worked. Easy.

Once the MiFi is up and running, you can search for a wireless hotspot using the iPad, or any wireless device, it will pop up with the name of the MiFi, usually something like VodafoneMobileHotspot_XXXX. It will then ask you for a WEP key password. They key can be found on the back of the battery compartment, and once you have entered it, it stores the key and keeps you connected. You can also change settings by navigating to http://vodafonemobilebroadband.hotspot/ from any of the connected devices, which will allow you to log in and change some of the options.The rechargable battery lasts up to around 4 hours, so you can use it while you are on the go.

And that’s it really. It is by far one of the easiest pieces of equipment I have ever needed to set up. I am looking forward to getting out and about and using the MiFi device, and seeing what it is capable of. You can pick up a MiFi device from most Vodacom retail outlets, for around R2500. The price may seem steep, but it is well well worth it if you travel and need constant internet access. If you don’t come right, pop me a mail, and I will try to point you in the right direction. I will also post some of my findings in the future about the MiFi and how it handles the networks and the different devices.

Comments

  1. Do you know if you are able to use an existing 3G USB with the MiFi?

  2. Awesome man!! Been looking into the mifi as well. Looks pretty cool. Put it through it’s paces and let us know how :)

    @Shaun – I think you can use it with USB like a normal 3G card. @Marc – can you confirm this?

  3. Vernon

    Hi Guys

    Also love my MiFi…my 5c worth

    Yes you can use it as a USB – 3G device but then you only get 1 connection, It disables the 5 Wifi Hotspot option…

    Marc – Get the MiFi – iPhone Apps to see usage, Conenciton strength etc etc wtihout logging onth the “Router/Device”

    I must say after using mine for the last 2 months with my WiFi iPad and am leaning toward rather Jailbreaking my iPhone and using my iPhone as a WiFi Hotspot….

    I find loading data bundles onto the Mifi a mission cause you have to take the sim out and put in in a phone. Load data bundle etc etc

    Also using app like Whats App – It sms you a verification code and you can read sms on the device… That I can see…

  4. holger

    I got my mifi for “free” with a vodacom topup 200 contract

  5. Psicboy

    Very interesting read! Thanks Marc

    Prices for data are still very expensive, but weighing that up against the possibility of it being totally mobile I guess they can somehow warrant the extortion.

    Funky device though.

  6. @Vernon – what bank you with? I know FNB allows you to buy data bundles directly from their online banking – no need to buy airtime and then load a data bundle with the airtime :)

  7. I used FNB to buy my data bundle, and it was pretty painless. The data bundle got added straight onto the sim. Worked like a charm !!

  8. These are nifty little devices, but it’s something else that you have to carry around.

    I just use the ‘aNetShare’ app on my phone (free), which turns it into a WiFi hot spot that anyone I allow can connect to, piggybacking on the HSDPA connection.

  9. Vernon

    @Charlie – I think the prob was with MTN, I have Vodacom on my iPhone and was trying to spread my 3G reception issues by getting MTN (Pay as you Go) Data Bundle on the MiFi…. Will try again next time with FNB

  10. Marc, thanks for the article.

    Disappointed in the battery life… and the price. For R2500 I’d rather buy the more expensive iPad with 3G

    Also, if I’m going to carry around ANOTHER device, it must be my iPhone, so I think going for the iPhone-WiFi-Jailbreak route is a better option.

  11. Waldo

    I’ve been using the MiFi/iPad combo for a month now, and find it very good indeed. Firstly, I don’t use it at home or the office, as I have reliable WiFi networks in place at both anyway. So the MiFi only gets used when I’m out an about, and away from WiFi hotspots. It starts up quikly, it connects quickly and it allows me to use my iPhone, iPad and my Laptop on the same connection instantly. This is especially handy when I stay over in a hotel somewhere, and want to use all my devices.

    With that said, the MiFi has some drawbacks: It is another device to carry around, yes. But worse than that, you need to carry around either a wall charger or a cable to charge it from your laptop as well! From that point of view it positively sucks, though I’ve managed to find a nice iPad sleeve that houses the MiFi (without charger) as well.

    Personally I don’t think the 3G iPad is the solution to my personal situation either, as I then still need to carry yet another deivce to connect my laptop when I need to use that! So the jailbreak/Netshare option looks like the best one so far – except I don’t particularly want to jailbreak again…

    What to do, what to do…

  12. matthew

    @Vernon you don’t have to remove the sim card to load data bundles. data bundles can be load on vodacom4me.co.za. you just register login with that sim’s cell phone number, and go to the account tab, services, and add a adhoc bundle.

  13. Conrad

    Got my Mifi at Vodaworld today, no other Vodashops I tried had stock. Playing tonight. 1 thing I hate immediately is the non-standard USB interface. Another cable to drag along!

  14. Steph

    I have been using the MiFi for over 3 months. It’s convenient albeit in wifi mode the battery life is disappointing. When plugged in USB mode (Non standard mini-USB) it draws power from the port but then WIFI is disabled. The current firmware has a few issues of freezing that requires a removal of the battery to “restart” the device. For Once bundled Vodafone connect comes with MAC & PC. Gr8 to fool Skype for iPhone that you are on WIFI. (you can now call skype contacts over 3G but not yet PSTN contacts)
    For an upgrade yes, to pay 2.5K it’s perhaps heavy

  15. @Steph – I know it’s slightly off topic, but Skype does allow PSTN calls over 3G now – use it to call landlines in Aus all the time :)

  16. Steph

    @Charlie Thanks for that! When skype 2.0 was approved it said skype to skype only.

    You right works superb! thanks again!

  17. @Steph – schweet!! Enjoy :)

  18. Hey Marc,

    I know its an old post, but would this MiFi device work with the new CellC data sims? That would really make it worth while :)

  19. Steph

    The MiFi future is a bit uncertain, but it would work on CELL C.

  20. yea. It would work, but you would only get 3G speeds and not HSDPA+ speeds that the CellC USB modem offers you…( I think)

    Will actually test it and let you know ;)

  21. Thanks for the comments! I wouldnt mind the reduced speed, even if its just 3G speeds :)

    Would appreciate it if you can check and post back here Marc.

    Hopefully the other players (MTN, Vodacom) come to the party and lower their data charges now that CellC has reduced their data rates.

  22. Steph

    There is a new one coming from Vodacom, the old one (novatel wireless 23xx series, the one with the round on/off push button) will be discontinued I believe. I have seen the new one it has a Slide switch, a small digital display for battery and signal level. I did not see anymore a micro SD card slot, maybe it is internal memory or they just did away with file sharing. Also construction seems much more robust. And I believe the specs are HSDPA+. I can follow up on general public release

  23. Steph

    Update did a little bit of digging :)

    It is out, will have a pic to post later on today

  24. Great! Thanks @Steph :)

  25. Do anyone know, if I buy any of the Novatel MiFi 23xx series in the UK, would I be able to just buy a Vodacom Pay-as-u-Go sim card – top up with data bundles and it will work? As far as I understand, 3G USB sticks are limited to the service provider you get it from?
    Here is a link of the one I am thinking of: http://amzn.to/bv74s7
    Basically, I am after a device for travelling that I can use in the UK and in South Africa.

  26. Donna

    Hi – delighted to see that MiFi is an option when travelling to South Africa as I’m heading off on Saturday and keen to have internet access while I’m away.

    I have a Wifi Ipad so this will be brilliant. I live in the UK and have a UK 3 mifi at the mo and will be looking to get it unlocked later this week so I can use it in South Africa.

    Only think is… I’m not sure of the best SIM to get when I arrive so any help would be much appreciated.

    Once unlocked, will it be as simple as just inserting the new Sim?

    Look forward to hearing from you :)

  27. Steph

    Hello Donna,

    It depends of the areas, like in every country, signal differ from on operator to another at a location. But as a general rule they all work nicely almost everywhere in SA.

    Price-wise
    CellC, MTN, Vodacom.–> bit.ly/eIK9uY (add http://)

    South Africa requires you to “RICA” SIM cards. So when purchasing one you’ll need to bring your passport, and some kind of proof of residence in SA. (a pro-forma from the hotel bill, or a co-inhabitant form + his/her ID and proof of address)

    The Novatel Mifi and the new Huawei R201 mifi, both can use UMTS 900MHz band (CellC), but it will be limited to HSPDA speeds of 7.2Mbps. To be realistic we should be happy with a third of that speed during business hours.

    There is a third solution, albeit not so mobile, to buy data over hotspots providers like axxess or others. They are easy to purchase on the web, so there is no need for RICA or queues :) Very few place offer free to air hotspots (Vida e Cafe offers a daily 50 Mb)

  28. doctorfresh

    I recently spent three weeks in Cape Town and brought my UK MiFi with me – which worked fine. All I did was bought a sim, loaded with data, from Vodacom (on the Waterfront), put it in the MiFi and – this is important – reset the APN on the MiFi to Vodacom. It worked fine.
    I bought my MiFi unlocked from ebay for about £65 (ZAR650), which is a lot cheaper than some people are talking about.
    Incidentally, data charges in SA are exorbitant. In the UK, we are used to there being many FREE wifi hotspots and cheap data plans.
    Just to reiterate, the APN data on the MiFi will need to be reset for your carrier in SA. You can get the values from the internet.

  29. Phil

    I agree this was a breeze to buy and set up. My problem is that my family, using multiple devices, managed to somehow burn through 2.3 gig of data in a prepaid plan in less than half a day. It made me nervous about how much data we were burning through in the capped setting we find ourselves in SA.

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  31. Rupert

    Is this Mifi the same as a dongle? It sounds the same. You have one central little gizmo then you can access the intermet etc with ipad , phones etc…the problem I found was that it was really expensive and i was constantly having to top up the data bundle on the sim…

  32. Steph

    @Rupert The dongle does NOT have Wifi capabilities. You can use the dongle on a mac, and the subsequently activate internet sharing via wifi. (System preferences–>Sharing–> internet Sharing)

    Mobile data prices came down dramatically since this post. Various providers fighting to grab the market. Prepaids are getting very interesting, grab while you can. The pricing of this is not viable for the providers and will not be there forever.

  33. Angela

    I live in an area with no 3G coverage, only EDGE and GPRS. Does the MiFi only use 3G or can it also work with EDGE?

  34. michael

    F.A.O. “doctorfresh” which model unlocked Mifi did you buy from ebay as I would like to buy the same one to send to my folks in S.A.?
    Also my other question the same as angelas is does it support EDGE?

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