In December 2008 Novatel Wireless announced the MiFi - a pocket size portable WiFi hotspot allowing several (laptop) users to share a 3G mobile Internet connection. After GRPS/EDGE (2,5G), 3G mobile connections allow high-speed Internet using cellular / mobile UMTS based networks.
NEW : Share 3G over WIFI including the Mifi and other devices.
The idea is not new - even The Machine has it's own WiFi hotspot since 2006. Sharing weak WiFi signals and 2,5G connections through a local WiFi network. It involves quite a bit of equipment, however with a 10 Ton truck there's a bit of space to do so.
The MiFi add's 2 new dimensions; Portability and access to high-speed cellular 3G networks. This opens up new modes of on-the-spot collaboration among laptop users. Like a instant Internet Connected Office or Internet Cafe with high-speed internet access wherever there's a 3G capable cellular network. Even 2,5G - EDGE cellular capability would do as a fall-back - however it's not clear if the MiFi can share that too.
|EVDO based MIFI's - works in the US / Australia
Although 3G hasn't really made it (yet) in Middle-East and West-Asian countries, the MiFi might set a new direction. GPRS/EDGE is already raging because of MMS capable cellular phones in the region. 3G requires a bigger investment / upgrade in new cellular equipment for providers as well as end-users.
|HSPA based MIFI's - works in Europe/Asia
Converting your iPhone / Nokia Smart Phone into a WIFI access point?
Read Micro WIFI Hotspot with Nokia N95 - iPhone
Also flat-fee based or pay-as-you-go 3G cellular data connections are rare - usually clipped by a monthly limit in the GigaBytes or requiring a year based subscription. With a few laptops connected to the MiFi, the GigaByte limit can be reached fairly quickly - arriving at the horrendously expensive "pay by the MegaByte" fee.
Until cellular networks have "the guts" to offer affordable unlimited flat-fee based 3G, the MiFi most likely will not hit the spot that quickly. With the 2009/2010 recession, already branded as the "Age of Thrift", spending is clipped - and wallets stay closed.
However the idea is great and allows even backpackers to carry WiFi hotspots around - till that day WiFi and 2,5G will most likely be the word.