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Best Mobile Hotspots for Digital Nomads
Mobile hotspots make digital nomadism possible, and without them we could only work out of random Starbucks and McDonalds on the road. Thanks to mobile hotspots, we can take our Wi-Fi with us on the go and essentially work from anywhere we want.
You’re probably reading this article on a hotspot device—your phone! Basically every cell phone carrier offers hotspot data along with wireless data, but the quality and quantity of data you get depends on the plan. If you’re looking for an even stronger mobile Wi-Fi signal, you can opt for devices specifically made to act as a hotspot point. Read on for the best mobile hotspots for digital nomads.
Laptop with Mobile Broadband Chip
Did you know that you can buy a laptop with a SIM card and a cell phone chip preinstalled? I found out about mobile laptops recently, and my current laptop suddenly feels completely antiquated. With a mobile chip installed to your laptop, your laptop will automatically connect to the internet wherever you get cell service. Wherever you can stream a YouTube video on your phone, you can take out your laptop and enjoy the same internet connection.
You can purchase a laptop prebuilt to include everything you need. (Dell offers this service.) You just need to specify what cell phone carrier you’re using for mobile service and you can get a laptop with the broadband chip and SIM card installed and ready to go. Just like a new cell phone, you’ll just need to activate the service when you get your laptop.
Currently you can’t get a MacBook with a broadband chip installed. The only way you can get Wi-Fi on the go on your MacBook is by tethering to a hotspot on your phone or a public Wi-Fi signal. Here’s hoping that the first MacBook with cellular connection comes out within the next year or two.
Once you pick out a PC laptop with a broadband chip, you’ll need to purchase a hotspot plan from one of the big three cell phone carriers. Here’s a breakdown of the best hotspot plans from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile (spoiler: we’re going to refer to this table a lot in this article).
Best Hotspot Plans for Devices
*Once you pass your data cap, your data speeds will slow down to somewhere between 1–3Mbps
**Price only good if you already have a Verizon unlimited plan
Choosing a hotspot plan depends on what kind of digital nomad you are. Do you need as much data as possible to stay connected to your business and host Zoom meetings? Verizon hooks you up with tons of high-speed hotspot data and excellent 4G LTE coverage on top of that.
If you don’t need tons of data, but want high speeds, T-Mobile offers the widest 5G network across the country. As usual, AT&T falls somewhere in the middle between T-Mobile and Verizon.
With everything set up properly, you can literally open your laptop just about anywhere and get a Wi-Fi internet connection like you’re at home. If that’s not digital nomad nirvana, I don’t know what is.
Best cell phone plans for hotspot data
You can bypass the whole custom laptop thing and simply use your cell phone to create a hotspot Wi-Fi signal wherever you have service. Just about every carrier offers hotspot data, but you’ll get the most value out of one of these three data plans:
Our plan pick
$40 Unlimited Plan
Unlimited (5 Mbps)
Do More Unlimited
15 GB (high-speed)
Most high-speed hotspot data
30 GB (high-speed)
Visible $40 Unlimited plan
Visible Wireless gets our pick as the best budget option due only costing $40/month for unlimited talk, text, and data (including hotspot data). Before you get too excited, know that your hotspot data speeds cap around 5 Mbps with Visible.
You can still participate in Zoom meetings, send messages back and forth on Slack, and surf the internet with 5 Mbps, but everything will feel much slower. Expect some lag on Zoom calls and to wait more than a few seconds to open up a web page.
Verizon 5G Do More plan
If your travels will take you to some remote areas of the United States, Verizon offers the most reliable coverage. For example, if you’re down the I-15 freeway on your way to California and decide to stop somewhere in the Nevada desert for a night, you’re more likely to get coverage with Verizon than you would with AT&T or T-Mobile.
The 5G Get More Plan offers 50 GB of mobile hotspot data (the max amount from a Verizon cell phone plan), but it costs you a whopping $90/month. You can save $10/month and get 25GB of mobile hotspot data every month, along with free cloud storage data (another essential for digital nomads) and six months of Disney+ included.
AT&T Unlimited Premium plan
Ever the middle man, AT&T splits the difference between Verizon unlimited plans and offers 40GB of mobile hotspot data for $85/month. You get 15 GB more of hotspot data for an additional $5/month compared to Verizon’s Do More unlimited plan.
Your AT&T coverage won’t feel quite as reliable, especially traveling in more rural areas, but you do get a free Max subscription included with your plan. What’s better than setting up camp and unwinding with some Curb Your Enthusiasm under the stars?
Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L Hotspot
Image source: Verizon
This Verizon hotspot device retails for and broadcasts 4G LTE data speeds to up to 15 devices at a time. The device itself weighs a little under half a pound, so you can easily throw it in a backpack or in your glove compartment.
You also get an intuitive touch screen that makes setting up your Wi-Fi hotspot super easy. Just be mindful of how much data you have left on your Verizon plan, because 15 devices sucking up data all at once can drain your hotspot data really quickly.
AT&T Netgear Nighthawk M6
Image source: AT&T
This mobile hotspot from AT&T will almost certainly outperform any other hotspot device you’ve used before. For comparison, we tested the Nighthawk M6 hotspot and a generic Velocity hotspot device in the same exact same place at the exact same time. The Nighthawk created a Wi-Fi hotspot point with data speeds measuring at 128 Mbps, nearly tripling the 45 Mbps data speeds we got on the Velocity hotspot device.
The downside to the Nighthawk M6 device is that it currently costs $309.99 on AT&T’s online shop. That price point costs $100 more than the Jetpack from Verizon, but makes up for it with impressive hotspot data speeds. If you’re an AT&T user who wants strong data speeds just about anywhere, the Nighthawk M6 makes the most sense.
T-Mobile INSEEGO 5G MiFi M2000
Image source: Inseego Corp
T-Mobile offers the widest 5G network out of all the wireless carriers, so it stands to reason that T-Mobile’s hotspot device supports 5G connectivity. In reality, T-Mobile’s 5G network isn’t as fast as AT&T or Verizon, but it’s much more accessible. Still, you can expect download speeds around 150–200 Mbps while connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot from this device.
You can also connect up to 30 Wi-Fi enabled devices at once to this bad boy, so you can basically create a hotspot for a small nomadic village. Again, just make sure you have enough T-Mobile hotspot data to go around.
You can purchase the INSEEGO 5G MiFi M2000 hotspot device from T-Mobile for $336. That price point makes this hotspot device the most expensive of the bunch, but you do get fast data speeds and the ability to connect tons of devices at once.
Recap: Best mobile hotspots for digital nomads
If you’re committing to the digital nomadic lifestyle, you’ll need a dependable internet connection basically anywhere you go. Every digital nomad should choose a hotspot provider (like AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile) and get a hotspot device that can cast a Wi-Fi signal. With those two things secured, you can hop in your van now and drive just about anywhere you want in the country.
- Laptop with mobile broadband chip: You can purchase a laptop with a built-in wireless chip and SIM card. Basically, your laptop will automatically connect to the internet via a cellular network when you power it up.
- Cell phone plan with hotspot data: You can always use your smartphone as a hotspot device, but make sure you get a data plan that gives you enough hotspot data to use every month.
- Verizon Inseego Jetpack MiFi 8800L Hotspot: This hotspot device from Verizon costs , $100+ less than comparable devices from T-Mobile and AT&T. Expect decent data speeds between 50 Mbps–100 Mbps.
- AT&T Netgear Nighthawk M6: The official AT&T mobile hotspot device boasts data speeds 150 Mbps, but it costs $309.99 on AT&T’s online shop. It’s an expensive price tag, but provides fast data speeds as long as you’re within AT&T coverage.
- T-Mobile Inseego 5G MiFi M2000: Thanks to T-Mobile’s expansive 5G network, you can expect data speeds even beyond 150 Mbps with this hotspot device. The device costs $336, making it the most expensive option here, but your data speeds and overall connection should be consistently reliable.