The best mobile hotspots can be a vital tool for staying connected, whether you’re hitting the road or stuck somewhere with a shaky wireless network. Even if you’ve got a smartphone and a plan that includes hotspot data, having a dedicated device that keeps you connected can be essential to staying productive on the go.
It’s true that a phone can be perfectly adequate as a hotspot in a pinch. But for anyone regularly out and about, a standalone hotspot makes more sense. Your phone is often busy doing other things — making phone calls, sending and receiving email, catching up on Slack, Twitter, or the latest news — which also require access to a cellular network. If you don’t want the potential disruption or bandwidth limitations of your phone’s hotspot, a standalone hotspot can provide additional connectivity.
What’s more, that smartphone you’re carrying around is likely your personal device. If so, you’re not going to want to burn up your cellular data allocation for anything other than personal use. That’s why a mobile hotspot is a very important tool for mobile workers and frequent business travelers.
Whether you’re stuck someplace with dodgy Wi-Fi or you want to stay connected no matter where you happen to roam, the best mobile hotspots can keep you connected. And with 5G networks expanding, 5G hotspots are now more widely available with the promise of faster download speeds.
Here’s a closer look at the best options for a mobile hotspot.
What are the best mobile hotspots?
Mobile hotspots are generally offered through wireless carriers, and unless you’re willing to create an account with a new wireless provider, it’s usually best to add a line of data for a hotspot with your current carrier. Our recommendations, like the ones above, note which hotspot works with which wireless carrier.
To that end, the Orbic Speed 5G UW is the best mobile hotspot for staying connected to Verizon’s 5G network, supporting not just the carrier’s nationwide 5G coverage but also faster C-Band and Ultra Wideband networks as well. Otherwise, Inseego’s Jetpack 8800L remains the best option for Verizon’s LTE coverage.
AT&T customers should turn to the Netgear Nighthawk M6, the more affordable mobile hotspot. But if you happen to be in an area that connects to AT&T’s fast 5G Plus coverage, the more expensive Nighthawk M6 Pro might be a better buy.
T-Mobile has the farthest reaching 5G network, and its T-Mobile 5G Hotspot is the least expensive option for high-speed connectivity.
Normally, we’d recommend the Skyroam Solis Lite as a hotspot you can take overseas to stay connected. But the product appears to be out of stock at the moment. Once it returns, we’ll look at adding it back to our best mobile hotspot picks.
The best mobile hotspots right now
Verizon customers will want to turn to the Orbic Speed 5G UW, which not only connects to the carrier’s nationwide 5G coverage but also its super-fast Ultra Wideband service in the areas where the mmWave-based 5G connectivity is available. Up to 30 Wi-Fi-enabled devices can connect to the Orbic Speed, and the hotspot’s dual-band Wi-Fi 6 support should translate to fast data speeds.
At 9.91 ounces, this is one of the heavier hotspots we’ve seen and the promised 12 hours of continuous battery life is nothing to write home about. Still, the reason to turn to the Orbic Speed is the promise of faster 5G speeds via the C-Band 5G support this hotspot offers to Verizon customers.
At $299, this is pricier than T-Mobile’s 5G hotspot, though you can spread out monthly payments of $8.33 over 36 months.
Like Verizon’s 5G hotspot, the Netgear Nighthawk M6 weighs about the same and promises up to 12 hours of continuous use. This AT&T-friendly hotspot includes a removable battery, though, so you can always swap in another power pack to keep the 5G connectivity going.
You can connect up to 32 devices to the Netgear Nighthawk M6, which is two more than Verizon’s 5G hotspot supports. The M6 costs a hair more than the Orbic Speed 5G UW at $309, but 36 monthly payments reduce the cost to $8.62 per month.
You’d think there’s little difference between the Netgear Nighthawk M6 Pro and the standard M6, save for the black exterior that the Pro offers. But there’s an important difference hidden in the specs — the Nighthawk M6 Pro can connect to AT&T’s 5G Plus network for the fastest speeds.
5G Plus isn’t exactly as widespread as AT&T’s nationwide 5G network — as of this writing, it’s only available in 43 cities as well as a number of stadiums, arenas and airports. If your travels take you to where 5G Plus is an option having a hotspot that can deliver those faster speeds should help justify the Nighthawk M6 Pro’s higher price.
And you will pay more for this hotspot over the M6 despite the fact that they share many other features. (The Pro model does support the more cutting-edge Wi-Fi 6E instead of Wi-Fi 6 in addition to its 5G Plus compatibility.) The Nighthawk M6 Pro costs $459, though that breaks down into monthly payments of $12,78 over 36 months.
If 5G isn’t a concern, the Jetpack 8800L is your best bet for Verizon’s network. It uses a new Qualcomm modem that is capable of aggregating signals from up to five carriers, meaning that it’s likely you’ll have a great connection no matter where you are, and it supports a broad range of LTE bands and supports UTMS 3G.
Compatible with Verizon’s network, the Jetpack 880L can handle international roaming and it supports connectivity for up to 15 Wi-Fi-enabled devices, such as laptops.
T-Mobile subscribers can turn to one of the more affordable mobile hotspots for 5G connectivity. And that’s great news since T-Mobile can currently lay claim to having the largest and fastest 5G network in the country.
dT-Mobile’s 5G coverage currently reaches 315 million people; of that, 225 million people have access to the carriers’s faster Ultra Capacity 5G. The good news with the T-Mobile 5G Hotspot is that it supports Ultra Capacity in addition to the Extended Range 5G.
\A massive 6,460 mAh battery promises all-day battery life, and the T-Mobile 5G Hotspot can connect up to 32 devices simultaneously. This hotspot is also pretty compact compared to what other carriers offer for 5G connectivity, so it’s easy to tote around.
The T-Mobile 5G Hotspot costs $198, though it’s currently free to T-Mobile customers who add a new line.
The Verizon 5G network relies heavily on mmWave-based technology now in 71 cities, but it’s not always going to be that way as the carrier builds out its network. As a result, the Inseego 5G MiFi M1000 that Verizon used to offer is gone, replaced by the Inseego 5G MiFi M2000.
Inseego’s new hotspot not only works with all flavors of 5G, but also supports Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), in which 5G connections can operate in 4G spectrum. That’s noteworthy, as Verizon is using DSS to extend its 5G coverage. Be aware that this hotspot is not compatible with the new C-Band 5G network that Verizon launched in January 2022 that delivers fast data speeds to wider areas.
You can connect up to 30 devices to the Wi-Fi 6-capable Inseego 5G MiFi M2000, which Verizon says will offer 4x the usual data throughput for each user. Verizon promises a full day of use from the hotspots removable 3,500 mAh battery, while an optional 8,500 mAh battery offers even more of a charge.
T-Mobile customers who don’t care about 5G can turn to the company’s LTE hotspot. The Franklin T10 is a replacement for the T9 model that used to be on offer at the carrier. This version supports Wi-Fi 5 and used a USB-C port to charge instead of the micro-USB port of its predecessor.
The T10 is fairly compact, which is great for portability, but not so much for the size of the screen or the battery. You can connect up to 15 devices simultaneously.
The T10 hotspots costs $90, but like T-Mobile’s 5G hotspot, you can get the device for free (in the form of 24 monthly bill credits) by opening a new line of data.
Before you shop for a mobile hotspot, consider if you even need one. If your cell phone plan includes hotspot data at LTE speeds, that may be good enough for staying connected (assuming you don’t plan on using more data than your allotted hotspot amount). If your mobile plan only allows 3G hotspot speeds — or doesn’t support hotspot data at all — you’ll want to consider a separate device.
After considering what network you’ll be using — unless you want separate bills for cellular connectivity, you’ll probably want to stick with the carrier who already provides your smartphone service — make sure to find out how many devices can connect to the mobile hotspot and whether that limits fits your needs.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the size and weight of the mobile hotspot, making sure it’s something you can easily tote around. How you plan to use the hotspot — is this for international travel or just about having backup connectivity on the go — is another consideration since some hotspots are designed specifically for overseas use.
5G mobile hotspots tend to cost more than their LTE counterparts, though prices have come down considerably as 5G becomes more widespread. The typical 5G mobile hotspot costs around $300, though we’ve seen some like T-Mobile’s new 5G hotspot that cost around $200.
If you’re going to buy a hotspot using your current cellular provider, you should expect to pay $10 to 15/month for the additional cellular connection, plus the cost of the device. If you’re getting new service with a new provider, you can expect to pay around $60 a month for 10GB of data.
How we pick the best mobile hotspots
We look to feature hotspots from a number of wireless providers, so that we can help people find the right device for their network. We also try to include hotspots that are capable of both 5G and LTE connectivity to meet different use cases.
We turn to user reviews to help us refine our selections, and we also consider the price, feature set and portability of the devices we include in our final list of the best mobile hotspots.