MiFi is a brand name used to describe a wireless router that acts as mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. In many countries, including the United States, Canada and Mexico, Novatel Wireless owns a registered trademark on the "MiFi" brand name, except in the UK where mobile operator owns the "MiFi" trademark. Novatel Wireless has never offered an "official" explanation for the origins of the name "MiFi"; it may be short for either "Mobile Wi-Fi", "My Wi-Fi" or simply they were stumped for a name and turned the W on its head.
A MiFi device can be connected to a cellular network and provide internet access for up to ten devices. Novatel Wireless introduced the first MiFi device in the United States, in May 2009. 3' "MiFi" is a similar line from Huawei under the name.
MiFi brand name
Novatel Wireless owns a registered trademark on the "MiFi" brand name in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico), and a number of countries worldwide: Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, India, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, Pakistan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, and Thailand.
The notable exception is in the UK where mobile operator 3 owns the "MiFi" trademark.
Novatel Wireless MiFi 2200
MiFi 2200 from Novatel Wireless for Verizon Wireless
- Limited to five Wi-Fi clients such as laptops, cameras, gaming devices, and multimedia players; with the exception of manually editing the device’s config file to allow more clients.
- May be connected to a computer via a Micro-USB connection, though doing so disables the Wi-Fi networking, converting the device into a traditional single-client modem. (However, CNET has introduced a tweak to charge the device over USB while maintaining its functionality.)
- Includes GPS unit, which is usable on some networks like Virgin Mobile and not on others like Verizon.
- Uses 3G data network (CDMA 1xEVDO RevA).
Novatel Wireless MiFi 23xx series
Same functionality as 2200, plus:
- Accepts SD card for in-device shared media storage.
- Uses 3G data network (MiFi 2352: HSUPA/HSDPA 900/1900/2100 MHz, MiFi 2372: HSUPA/HSDPA 850/1900/2100 MHz; both support GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz).
Novatel Wireless MiFi 33xx series
Same functionality as 23xx series, plus:
- Linux-based MiFi OS with widgets:
- Messages: perform SMS-based messaging actions such as reading, writing, sending, and receiving SMS messages
- Data usage: track MiFi data usage in home and roaming networks
- GeoSearch: leverage the GPS functionality of the MiFi to display a map of the local area, search the local area, display the search results on the map
- Weather: fetch weather data for the current and defined locations
- MiFi DLNA Server: start, stop, and configure the MiFi DLNA server
4G mobile hotspot devices
MiFi 4510L from Novatel Wireless for Verizon Wireless
MiFi 4082 from Novatel Wireless for Sprint Nextel
The Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show 2011 saw the introduction of two new 4G-capable MiFi devices from Novatel:
- Verizon Wireless featured the 4510L model, which will connect to Verizon's new LTE 4G network, expected to support 5–12 Mbps download and 2–5 Mbit/s upload.
- Sprint featured the MiFi 4082, a WiMAX version.
Both devices maintain backward compatibility with existing 3G networks. Other features include:
- MiFiOS with widget support
- MicroSD card slot
- GPS receiver
- Four-hour battery life
- Front panel status display using E Ink technology. The front panel display shows battery, signal strength, and number of connected devices. The difficulty of viewing such information was seen as a major shortcoming of earlier MiFi devices.
Non-Novatel wireless devices
A number of providers other than Novatel provide personal hotspot, "MiFi"-like services:
nyx mobile "mifi LTE" mobile router
- Alcatel One Touch Link Y800 sold through EE in the UK
- D-Link DIR-457/MyPocket
- Freedom Spot Personal Hotspot
- Goodspeed mobile hotspot supports 3G/3.5G
- Huawei E5 E5830 (Series), E585, E586 with HSPA+ and Chinese market E5805 using CDMA2000 and ET536 using TD-SCDMA
- mifi LTE nyx mobile is a mobile router 3G + 4G (LTE) launched by nyx mobile for Telcel. It is built using Qualcomm technology and is expected to support up to 100 Mbps download. (Announced by June 2013 for México
- NetComm MyZone 3G24W
- Netgear AirCard 781S (Sold under the name Zing by Sprint)
- Option GlobeSurfer III
- Packet One Networks MF230 (offered as part of their P1 ToGo plan]
- Sierra Wireless Overdrive (Note: 4G capable; available only in the United States through Sprint)
- ZTE MF60, MF80
For more details on this topic, see tethering.
Mobile phones with an Internet connection can often be turned into Wi-Fi hotspots using a process called "tethering", which is similar to using dedicated MiFi devices.
The following phone families have built-in features to create Wi-Fi access point:
- Android phones running Android 2.2 or later
- BlackBerry devices running OS 7.1 or later
- iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 running iOS 4.3 or later, and all iPhones on Verizon Wireless (initially released with iOS 4.2.5)
- Palm Pixi Plus and Pre Plus on Verizon Wireless, with a 5GB cap
- Windows Phone devices running OS 7.5 or later (and if allowed by operator)
For other phones there are third-party applications to allow this:
- Android running Android 2.1 or under – Wireless Tether
- iPhone 3G and later – MyWi (requires jailbreak).
- PiFi – Personal WiFi Device
- S60 phones and Nokia N900 – JoikuSpot
- Windows Mobile – WMWifiRouter
- Novatel MiFi 2200:
- Mobile Village "Mobile Star" (Portable Remote Connectivity Gear): "Superstar" Award (2009)
- Laptop Magazine Editor's Choice (2009)
- PC World "Gear of the Year" (2009)
- Mobile News "Most Innovative Product (non-handset)" (2010)
- Novatel MiFi 2352:
- Plus X Award in Technology (2009)
- CTIA Emerging Technology Award (Fashion & Lifestyle Products), 1st Place (2009)
- CTIA "Hot for the Holidays" (Mobile Internet Device or Netbook) Award (2009)
- CES Innovations Award (Enabling Technologies) Winner (2010)
- Mobile World Congress "Global Mobile" Award: Best Mobile Connected Device (2010)
- Novatel 4G MiFi
- Consumer Electronics Show 2011, Notebook Accessories Category: Best in Show
- 2010 World Communication Award (WCA) for Best Mobile Device Strategy
- Mobile Village Mobile Star Award for Best Laptop or Tablet Accessory
MiFi in the news
In January 2010, two major security holes were discovered with the Novatel MiFi 2200 which, if properly exploited, could allow a malicious user to obtain the device's current GPS location and security keys. If the malicious user were physically close enough to use the device's Wi-Fi signal, this could give access to the MiFi's 3G connection as well as any other connected devices. Novatel responded that a security patch would be available in February 2010.
The popularity of MiFi devices can also be problematic for corporate network security. Corporations generally expect to control on-site internet access: many use firewalls to reduce the risk of malware, and some enforce restrictions aimed at employee productivity. Personal mobile hotspots may provide a "back door" by which employees can circumvent these precautions.
In May 2010, the Mifi 2372 was recalled in Canada by Bell Mobility and Rogers Communications. In two documented cases, difficulty of opening the MiFi battery compartment had caused customers to use levels of force that caused physical damage to the batteries, which subsequently overheated. Novatel replaced the recalled units with a type that featured an easier-to-open battery compartment.
Customers were sent prepaid courier envelopes and instructed to send back their Mifi units for replacement of the battery and battery compartment cover. Customers were notified that Novatel would return the serviced units within 6 to 8 weeks of their return. Bell customers were provided with cellular internet access via Novatel U998 USB sticks, which were provided as temporary replacements by Bell.
Radio interference at trade shows
At two major trade shows in 2010— Google's first public demo of Google TV and the iPhone 4 demonstrations at the 2010 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference— keynote presentations using available Wi-Fi connectivity were disrupted by network unreliability. The problem was traced to massive radio interference, caused by the popularity of MiFi and similar devices for "liveblogging" from the trade show floor. In the case of the Apple conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs stated that 570 different Wi-Fi networks ("several hundred" being MiFis) were operating simultaneously in the exhibit hall