Novatel Announces ‘Smart Hotspot’

Novatel on Tuesday announced the MiFi, an “intelligent mobile hotspot” that combines a 3G modem, router, and embedded Linux-based PC to create clouds of Internet connectivity wherever you go.

About the size of a deck of cards, the MiFi gets rid of all of the confusing configuration issues around setting up 3G connections and WiFi routers. The device has a processor and Linux-based OS built in, which can run various applications, including security programs, VPNs, and drivers for home appliances.

Some consumer applications could include auto-email-sync, where the MiFi caches email on its own MicroSD storage card that you can then download when you pop open your laptop. The device will have 40 hours of standby battery life and about four hours of continuous connection time on a charge.

Cellular PC Cards and USB modems have been popular for years, and there are also several devices that bridge 3G networks to Wi-Fi networks, such as the Kyocera KR1 router. Sprint even officially supported cellular-to-Wi-Fi routers for a while. But none of those routers have yet offered the ease of configuration or the built-in applications that the MiFi promises.

The MiFi will start out supporting EVDO Rev A and HSDPA, the major technologies in the US. It could be sold though wireless carriers, but thanks to the new “open network” initiatives from Verizon Wireless and AT&T, it could appear branded by retailers or other companies, with unusual service plans. Hadley said to look at devices like the Amazon Kindle and the Peek, a budget-priced email device running on T-Mobile’s network, for ideas.
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