The best pocket WiFi and WiFi dongles available

Questioning your NBN choices? Pocket WiFi might be the answer.

Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro
Telstra 5G WiFi Pro
Device repayments from
$16.63
/mo
Network
Telstra 5G/4G
Data plan
Starts at 30GB for $25/mth
ZTE 5G Portable WiFi Modem
ZTE 5G Portable WiFi Modem
Device repayments from
$12.08
/mo
Network
Optus 4G/5G
Data plan
Starts at 20GB for $20/mth
Telstra 4GX USB Modem
Telstra 4GX USB Modem
Device repayments from
$6
/mo
Network
Telstra 4G
Data plan
Starts at 30GB for $25/mth
Optus 4G USB
Optus 4G USB Modem
Buy outright for
$39
Network
Optus 4G
Data plan
Comes with 4GB of data
Vodafone 4G Pocket Wi-Fi
Vodafone Pocket WiFi 4
🔥 Deal: Includes 60GB of data
$99
outright
Network
Vodafone 4G
Data plan
Starts at 30GB for $20/mth
Brodie Fogg
Sep 04, 2023
Icon Time To Read6 min read

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In this guide:

In the age of widespread NBN, smartphone tethering and more recently, unlimited mobile data plans, the old Pocket WiFi dongle is becoming a bit of a fossil. Once a saviour amongst students, the humble dongle has more or less seen its day, but it’s not quite ready to take its place in the Smithsonian next to the Nokia 3310.

Families on the move and folks who regularly travel for work still require the kind of bandwidth and consistency that wireless hotspotting or tethering can’t offer. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the very best pocket WiFi and WiFi dongles you can get in 2023 for 4G and 5G internet on the go.

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The best pocket WiFi devices

Telstra portable 5G WiFi Pro

Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro
Telstra 5G WiFi Pro
For fast 5G on the go, it's hard to look past Telstra's WiFi 6-capable 5G WiFi Pro device. It boasts up to 9 hours battery life and can support up to 30 connections but only weighs about 200g.
Type
Pocket WiFi hotspot
Network
Telstra 5G/4G
Device repayments from
$16.63
/mo

The Telstra 5G WiFi Pro offers 30 simultaneous WiFi connections, support for WiFi 6, and an ethernet port for wired gigabit speeds. The 4,500mAh battery lasts up to 9 hours, and the device weighs a light 200g. It's a portable powerhouse is a future-proof 5G modem that fits in the palm of your hand and a solid NBN alternative.

There are 4G WiFi devices with better battery life if that's a major consideration. Still, if you're able to take advantage of super-fast 5G speeds, Telstra's 5G WiFi Pro is one of the better portable solutions currently available on the market.

No need to worry if you can’t get Telstra 5G yet either, as the Telstra 5G WiFi Pro also supports 4G, so you can expect the same reliable 4G speeds when you're not within 5G coverage. The one downside to Telstra's 5G pocket WiFi is that it doesn't come cheap. It will set you back a whopping $598 outright, or an additional $16.63 per month over 36 months if you add it to your monthly mobile broadband bill.

Here's a small selection of Telstra's most popular mobile broadband plans that the Telstra 5G WiFi Pro is available on.

Optus ZTE 5G Portable WiFi Modem

ZTE 5G Portable WiFi Modem
ZTE 5G Portable WiFi Modem
The ZTE 5G Portable WiFi Modem is the first and only option for Optus customers looking for a 5G pocket WiFi modem.
Type
Pocket WiFi hotspot
Network
Optus 5G
Device repayments from
$12.08/month

For those who want a 5G-powered portable WiFi modem running on the Optus network, the ZTE 5G Portable WiFi Modem is here to provide. Learn more about Optus 5G Home wireless broadband plans here.

Available on either a 12-month, 24-month or 36-month postpaid plan, this portable WiFi router boasts 5G and WiFi 6 connectivity with support for up to 32 connected devices. It's also got a 4500mAh battery with fast-charging and 2.4-inch touch display that can be used to manage the device with minimal hassle. While eagle-eyed readers may notice that this one comes in a little cheaper than its Telstra counterpart, we're gonna give the edge due to the more comprehensive coverage.

As with Optus' 4G Pocket WiFi modem (seen below), the ZTE 5G Portable WiFi Modem is designed to be paired with one of the telco's mobile broadband plans. Here's a round-up of what those currently look like:

Optus 4G pocket WiFi modem

Optus Pocket WiFi
Optus 4G Pocket WiFi Modem
For more affordable 4G data wherever you are, we recommend the prepaid 4G Pocket WiFi modem from Optus.
Type
Pocket WiFi hotspot
Network
Optus 4G
Outright
$99

Optus offers the E5577 4G WiFi modem. This compact 4G pocket Wi-Fi device supports up to 16 connections at once and comes with 50GB of data at purchase.  At 80g, it’s also a lot lighter than Telstra's pocket WiFi device.

Optus no longer offers its pocket WiFi devices on a month-to-month payment plan so the 4G WiFi modem will cost you $99 upfront (but it does come with 50GB data). After that, you're required to recharge every month or switch over to a postpaid mobile broadband plan. Here's a look at Optus' month-to-month prepaid and postpaid mobile broadband plans.

Vodafone Pocket WiFi 4

Vodafone 4G Pocket Wi-Fi
Vodafone Pocket WiFi 4
Vodafone coverage restrictions aside, the Pocket WiFi device from Vodafone has long been a reliable and affordable mobile data solution.
Type
Pocket WiFi hotspot
Network
Vodafone 4G
Outright
$99

For Voda customers, there's the telco's branded Huawei modem, the 4G Pocket WiFi 4.

At only 6 hours battery life (and running on the Vodafone network), this might not be the best choice for those who travel to remote areas for work. Still, it does offer up to 16 connections at once, and if you’re living in a metropolitan area, you shouldn’t really struggle to get Vodafone reception these days.

The Vodafone Pocket WiFi 4 4G is available as an upfront payment of $99. That gets you 60GB of data to use over your first 30 days after which you'll need to recharge or switch over to a month-to-month mobile broadband plan.

Nighthawk Nighthawk (M2, M6 and M6 Pro)

Netgear Nighthawk M5
Netgear Nighthawk
The Netgear Nighthawk Pocket WiFi has long been a favourite for speed-freaks and it recently got even faster with the release of the 5G-capable M6 and M6 Pro.
Type
Pocket WiFi hotspot
Network
Telstra 4G (M2) or Telstra 5G/4G (M6/M6 Pro)
From
$10.66
/mo

Next up is another from Telstra, the old faithful Nighthawk M2 portable modem. This robust pocket WiFi device has been around for years now, and it’s still one of the best on the market. This pocket rocket offers 20 device connections, up to 16-hours of battery life, and an LCD touchscreen that offers usage and signal updates.

The one downside is that the M2 isn't 5G ready. If you're keen to take advantage of those next-gen speeds, you'll need the more expensive M6 ($549 over a 12, 24 or 36-month period) or M6 Pro instead ($748 over a 12, 24 or 36-month period). Not only is are these two 5G capable, they can be connected to your existing home router (via Ethernet) to bring 5G speeds to your home network, too.

You can grab the Nighthawk M2, M6 or M6 Pro on any of the plans below.

Spintel pocket WiFi (Netgear AC800S)

Netgear AC800S
Netgear AC800S
Spintel's Pocket WiFi hardware also comes from Netgear's manufacturing line. This 4G device runs on the Optus network and boasts 11 hours of battery on Spintel's wallet-friendly mobile broadband plans.
Type
Pocket WiFi hotspot
Network
Optus 4G
From
$6
/mo

Spintel offers the Netgear AC800S modem. This pocket WiFi device offers up to 15 simultaneous connections and 4G speeds courtesy of the Optus network. It boasts 11 hours of battery life (continuous usage) and is light enough at 132g that it's not a hassle to carry around in your pocket.

The best WiFi dongles


Telstra dongle 4GX USB Modem

Telstra 4GX USB Modem
Telstra 4GX USB Modem
The Telstra 4GX USB Modem is available for purchase outright or on a 12, 24 or 36 month payment plan with attached data plans starting at $25 per month.
Type
WiFi USB Dongle
Network
Telstra 4G
Device repayments from
$2.75
/mo

As it turns out, there aren’t a lot of USB WiFi dongles these days. With USB-C slowly becoming the norm (even with laptops), it’s not hard to see why. Though there are still a few telcos offering a classic USB modem as an affordable mobile broadband solution.

One of the most popular choices in Australia is Telstra's branded 4GX USB modem. This lightweight plug-and-play dongle will connect you to the Telstra 3G/4G network via your laptop’s USB port. Once plugged in, you can connect up to 5 devices to the WiFi network.

The Telstra 4GX USB modem costs as low as $2.75 per month on a 36-month mobile broadband plan but you can also opt for a 12 or 24-month plan if you want to pay it off quicker or simply pay $99 upfront and sign up for a month-to-month mobile broadband plan or prepaid plan (more on that below).

The best prepaid internet dongles


Optus 4G USB modem

Optus 4G USB
Optus 4G USB modem
This prepaid number runs on the Optus 4G network and comes with 4GB of prepaid data out of the box. You can find it for as little as $39 outright, but you'll have to pair it with a plan to use it after the first month.
Type
WiFi USB Dongle
Network
Optus 4G
Outright
$39

Optus also sells a branded Huawei E3772 prepaid 4G USB modem at $39 outright. For that price, you get a pretty barebones prepaid Wi-Fi dongle. It's a lightweight (50g) USB-powered 3G/4G dongle that comes with 4GB of data out of the box. After that, you simply recharge monthly like any other prepaid service.

After your included 4GB is used, you'll need to recharge with a prepaid mobile broadband plan through Optus. Prepaid data SIMs start at $30 for 25GB through Optus and include 200GB of rollover data (essentially a pool of your monthly unused data).

If you end up using more data than anticipated, you're not locked to prepaid. You can always pop a postpaid Optus data SIM in the same dongle if you'd prefer to get a bill. Here are some of the most popular mobile broadband plans from Optus this week.

Telstra Prepaid 4GX USB WiFi modem

Telstra 4GX USB modem
Telstra Prepaid 4GX USB Modem
This prepaid USB WiFi dongle from Telstra offers just about everything its postpaid option does, just on a more manageable prepaid data plan (and a reasonable outright purchase price).
Type
WiFi USB Dongle
Network
Telstra 4G
Outright
$49

We've already touched on Telstra's popular 4GX modem above but that same dongle can be purchased outright and put on a prepaid plan (rather than a month-to-month arrangement). If you buy it directly through Telstra, the 4GX USB modem will cost you $49 but you can also find it marginally cheaper through Officeworks at $47 outright.

Once you've purchased the device, you'll need to remember to recharge your Telstra prepaid mobile broadband plan every 14 - 28 days or every 12 months if you'd prefer a long-expiry option. Here's a quick look at some of Telstra's most popular prepaid mobile broadband plans.

Telstra Prepaid 4GX WiFi Plus

Telstra Prepaid 4GX Wi-Fi Plus
Telstra's prepaid 4G Pocket WiFi device comes at a very nice price and gets you 8 hours of battery life, 10 connections and 3GB of bonus data with any purchase.
Type
Pocket WiFi hotspot
Network
Telstra 4G
Outright
$79

Another solid prepaid solution for your mobile internet needs is the Telstra Prepaid 4GX WiFi Plus pocket WiFi device. It's available at $79 outright through Telstra and Officeworks. That upfront cost nets you 3GB out of the gate.

The Telstra Prepaid 4GX WiFi Plus offers 8 hours of battery life and can support up to 10 connected devices at once. Here's a quick look at some of the Telstra's prepaid mobile broadband plans that can be paired with this device.

Compare pocket WiFi and WiFi USB dongles


Device
Provider
Type
5G?
Device repayment
More info
Telstra 5G Wi-Fi ProTelstra 5G WiFi Pro
TelstraPocket WiFi hotspot
proYes
$16.63
/mo
Optus Pocket WiFiZTE 5G Portable WiFi Modem
OptusPocket WiFi hotspot
proYes
$12.08
/mo
Telstra 4GX USB ModemTelstra 4GX WiFi USB
TelstraWiFi USB dongle
conNo
$2.75
/mo
Optus 4G USB Modem
OptusWiFi USB dongle
conNo
$39
outright
Vodafone 4G Pocket Wi-FiPrepaid Pocket WiFi 4
VodaphonePocket WiFi hotspot
conNo
$99
outright

That's just a small sample of the pocket WiFi and WiFi dongles available in Australia but most of them require a mobile broadband plan to go with them. 

icon-expertise

How we picked the best pocket WiFi dongle devices available

When it comes to WiFi dongles, we evaluate the pros, cons, coverage, specs and pricing of every options available through Australia's landscape of mobile providers. We look to highlight both the best WiFi dongle and pocket WiFi options available in Australia, factoring in things like whether a given device has 5G connectivity, what speeds it offers, how much battery life it has plus the number of wireless devices it can support at once.

There's no one-size-fits-all solution for mobile connectivity, but we hope that the analysis, research and categorisation on this page helps you find the one that suits your specific needs and budget.

FAQs about WiFi dongles

These are the most commonly asked questions about dongles, pocket WiFi and mobile broadband plans people ask.

What is the difference between Pocket WiFi and a Dongle?

Both pocket WiFi modem and WiFi dongles solve the same problem, allowing you to download and upload on the go. However, each comes with different pros and cons. For instance, a pocket WiFi modem will only last as long as the battery inside it does. If it runs out, you'll be offline until you recharge it. On the other hand, WiFi dongles will keep you connected for as long as whatever you plug them into has power. While they take up less space overall, WiFi dongles also ask you to sacrifice a USB port on your device since the accessory will be be parked in it for as long as you want to use it. Those are just some of the reasons why a WiFi dongle might make more sense than a pocket WiFi modem.

What is a WiFi dongle?

A WiFi dongle (or internet dongle) is a small device that is plugged into a desktop computer or laptop (typically via USB).

Some WiFi dongles use a SIM card to generate a portable WiFi network when plugged in (effectively the same as tethering from your smartphone), others enable the connected device to access the internet, without generating a WiFi signal of their own. Then there are pocket Wi-Fi devices, portable modems that generate a WiFi signal when powered on.

USB WiFi dongles are most commonly intended for a single user while pocket WiFi devices encourage multiple connections.

Most of the Pocket WiFi and WiFi dongles listed below are available as an add-on to a mobile broadband plan while others are available for an upfront cost on a prepaid arrangement.

Which WiFi dongle is best?

As is often the case, it's hard to pin down a definitive best WiFi dongle or pocket WiFi device because there's such a wide range of use cases.

In our firsthand experience, Telstra and Netgear's range of Nighthawk modems have been fast and dependable portable solutions whether you're on a postpaid or prepaid internet plan for your mobile broadband needs. But if you only need to use mobile broadband connection on the odd occasion, you might be better served with cheaper external WiFi adapter (or USB WiFi dongle). In that category, we'd recommend Telstra's 4GX USB modem for reliable speeds and the Optus 4G USB modem for a portable prepaid internet connection on a budget.

Can you get unlimited data on a WiFi dongle?

Even though mobile plans have recently shifted to an unlimited data model, there still aren't any options for unlimited WiFi data on a dongle.

Optus is the first provider to offer unlimited data on its 5G Home product but that's still a home broadband solution, not a portable WiFi dongle. Still, if you really need unlimited data on the go, we recommend checking out an unlimited mobile plan provider like Felix Mobile, which allows you to tether your phone's WiFi connection using a personal hotspot.

How do I use a WiFi dongle?

All you need to do is plug the WiFi dongle into your computer or laptops USB port and the name of the device should appear in your WiFi connections list (e.g. Telstra 4GX USB modem). Pocket WiFi devices, on the other hand, don't physically connect your computer or laptop at all. You simply insert your mobile broadband SIM card into the device, power it on and search for the Pocket WiFi modem's connection in your WiFi settings.

Brodie Fogg
Written by
Brodie Fogg
Brodie Fogg is the Australian editorial lead at Reviews.org. He has covered consumer tech, telecommunications, video games, streaming and entertainment for over five years at websites like WhistleOut and Finder and can be found sharing streaming recommendations at 7NEWS every month.

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