I’ve discussed in previous articles the importance of having backup internet as an online ESL teacher so that you don’t loose classes in the event of a power outage.
One of the recommendations of that article was having a portable Wifi hotspot that can be used in conjunction with a world SIM card. In this article, I am going to list the best portable hotspots for ESL teachers (both online teachers looking for a back up as well as teachers who travel frequently). We’ll discuss what you should look for in a mobile hotspot as well as 4 of the best on the market right now so that you can find the best device for you.
What To Look For In A Hotspot
Before you even begin to look for the perfect hotspot for your needs it is important that you understand what you are looking for. Whether you are looking for a mobile hotspot purely as a backup source of the internet or because you are a teacher that travels frequently, the most important thing is that you purchase a hotspot that is unlocked which you can use with any SIM card you need to. If you get a mobile hotspot from a major carrier that comes with a data plan, then most likely this is not unlocked as it is set so that you can only use it with that carrier. All of the portable hotspots we are going to be talking about (with the exception of the Skyroam Solis) are unlocked and, usually, any hotspot you buy that isn’t attached to a data plan already will be unlocked.
You are also going to want to figure out what features you are going to need from your hotspot. There are few features such as extra security or the ability to use as a battery pack and more that may or may not come in handy depending on when and how you plan on using your portable hotspot.
For example, if you mostly teach at home and take off from classes when you travel so that you don’t have to worry about teaching, then you will most likely be using a portable hotspot as a backup internet source if your primary internet goes out. In this case, you probably won’t care as much about extra security layers as you will be primarily using your hotspot at home with a data SIM. What you might care about, however, are USB charging capabilities so that if your power goes out you can teach classes off of your computer’s battery and connect the portable hotspot to a battery pack and still teach.
On the other hand, if you are an online teacher who travels quite frequently and oftentimes teaches out of hotels and other locations with public Wifi, then the extra security is probably of more importance. In this case, you are probably going to be using your hotspot more often to help strengthen the signal of the hotel’s Wifi or in conjunction with an international SIM card so you will be using your portable hotspot more often and in more public places.
This will make more sense when we begin to look at different portable hotspot devices and some of the different features each is capable of. For now, needless to say, it is important that you know when and how you will be primarily using your device so that as you look at each one you can figure out whether or not it has the right features to meet your needs.
The 4 Best Mobile Hotspots
The cheapest of all of the mobile hotspots we are going to review, the E5330Bs is a great combination of price and performance and can serve as a good entry level mobile wifi hotspot. It can operate in countries throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa, and is unlocked to use with any carrier.
- The price of the E5330Bs-2 is such that even part-time teachers working less than 20 hrs each week should see an ROI using it as a backup internet source.
- This device is unlocked which means it can be used with any carrier throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. It can also be used with global SIM cards such as World SIM and One SIM. This also means it can be a great option for teachers who travel frequently or who are living on one of the three listed continents.
- Another great feature for teachers who might use this for more than just backup internet is that multiple devices can be connected at one time. Up to 10 simultaneous devices can be used which means you should have no trouble using it as a primary source for internet while traveling with family or as a group.
- The battery life of this device is relatively short when compared to other mobile hotspots on this list. The total time listed is a short 5-6 hours. This will be fine for most teachers who are looking for a simple backup internet source to teach a few classes when there is technical trouble, however, as a primary source of internet it may not work if frequent and continuous use is expected.
- As this device does not work in North America, many teachers will be unable to use this. It can still be used by teachers in this area who travel abroad frequently, however, for teachers who work only in the United States they will instead need the slightly more expensive E5330Bs-6.
- Some users of this device have complained that the panel which displays details such as battery life and signal strength can be inaccurate at times. Also, there is no warning that the battery is about to finish which can be a hassle if it does so before you can save documents.
The KuWFi Outdoor 4G is the lightest of all of the mobile hotspots which are on this list. It is also the most powerful in terms of capabilities. The KuWFi 4G can serve as a bridge to boost an existing wireless connection, or, can be used in conjunction with a SIM card to create a mobile hotspot. This can be a major advantage to teachers who often find themselves in hotels with weak Wifi. This device is for use in the United States.
- The KuWFi Outdoor is named due to its durability. The device is dust proof and water resistant with an IP66 rating (meaning it is resistant to water up to and including heavy blasts or sprays such as from heavy rain or waves). This is good news for teachers who would like to use the device for more than just teaching.
- Because the router can act as a bridge, teachers can use this to boost a Wifi signal such as at a hotel. This can save data costs and, in the event of an internet outage, the SIM card can still be used to create a hotspot as a backup internet source.
- This is also the lightest device on this list meaning it will fit well into carry on luggage and backpacks. The total weight of the device is 1.05 pounds. It is also compact and easy to stow.
- Some users of this device have complained that the initial set up was frustrating due to the difficulty in understanding the instruction manual. This may affect some users more than others, especially, if this is your first time using a portable Wifi device.
- This is a more expensive router and comes in the mid-range for pricing, however, some aspects of the router are lacking in quality compared to other devices reviewed. For example, the display for the battery and signal are simple LED lights whereas other devices at this price had touch screens that displayed more accurately and with easy to read output.
- Some minor modifications will need to take place in order to use the device properly in North and South America. The access point name (APN) has to be properly set. While this is not a major undertaking, it may cause some first-time hotspot users.
This particular Huawei mobile hotspot is a great choice for teachers who need a hotspot that works anywhere in the world. The device is 4G capable in Europe, Asia, and Africa and works on 3G globally. Either option will run fast enough to easily teach classes for any of the major online ESL companies or for running Skype or Zoom for private classes.
- The Huawei E5577Cs-321 is one of the more user-friendly devices in terms of design. The LCD screen allows you to more easily read things such as battery life and easily allows you to tell how strong the signal is.
- This device can be used anywhere. In Europe, Asia, and Africa 4G can be used and everywhere else 3G can be used. Both 3G and 4G offer optimal speeds for online teaching. You can get up to 150 Mbps on 4G and up to 43 Mbps on 3G. More than adequate for any of the major online companies.
- The battery life is listed as 6 hours of total use and 300 hours of standby. In reality, you will probably get a bit less than this from continuous use, however, this is plenty of time as a backup internet source for teaching the days worth of classes if your primary internet goes out.
- Some users have complained about battery life. The main complaint seems to come from users who had multiple devices connected and claimed that the battery life was significantly less than the 6 hrs listed. This is something to be aware of if you plan on using this as more than just a backup internet source.
- This device is one of the heaviest of all of the portable hotspots on this list. This isn’t a major factor, however, if you plan on frequently traveling with this in a carry on it may be worth getting a lighter device to help save space and weight.
- Users who used certain carriers in America had some complaints that the device worked just fine, however, there were issues with the carrier. If you already have a data SIM from a carrier in America it might be worth checking with them before buying a hotspot.
The Solis works a bit differently than the other mobile hotspots on this list. Instead of a physical SIM card, the Solis utilizes a digital SIM card that works with Skyroam service. For teachers who will regularly be using the internet abroad, or who will be using it as a backup regularly, this can be a great option. After purchasing the initial hotspot device, teachers are able to pay for monthly unlimited service at $99 a month, or, daily passes for $9.99.
- The Skyroam Solis works in over 130 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. All of the countries popular with ESL teachers such as China, Thailand, Japan, etc., are covered by the Skyroam service.
- Since Skyroam utilizes a pay-as-you-go system, the Solis ends up being a great option for teachers of all types as you only end up paying for what you are going to use. If you plan on using this often while traveling you can pay for a monthly plan, however, if you only need it for a day during the month as a backup you can also buy just a day pass for that day.
- The Solis boasts an impressive 16+ hours of battery life with the ability to securely connect up to 5 devices. This is the longest battery life of any of the hotspots we review and should be plenty for using regularly as well as occasionally as a backup. The hotspot itself also doubles as a battery charger for keeping your phone and other devices charged.
- Perhaps the biggest downside to the Skyroam Solis is the cost of the device to buy outright. This is the second most expensive hotspot on this list and, as such, probably isn’t the best option for teachers who don’t plan on using it often. Also, it should be noted that even though you are paying for unlimited internet it is throttled down after 500mb of use for the day. The speed resets the next day. This is enough for teaching classes, however, if you want to use this as your primary device while traveling and plan on streaming lots of video such as over Netflix and also plan on teaching you may want to find an alternative.
- It should be noted that there are many reviews on Amazon where people have been less than satisfied and reported having significant difficulties getting this product set up and working. There are also a great many reviews across the internet from people who have not had any troubles. Before purchasing this product you should take into consideration your comfort with troubleshooting and working with technology in the event that you do have issues.
- Many users have also complained about the size of the device. While the Solis weighs about the same as other hotspot devices on this list, the size is a bit larger and maybe awkward trying to fit into pants pockets.
What’s our pick?
Our vote for the top portable Wifi hotspot for teachers to use either as a backup internet source or as their primary internet while traveling is the Huawei E5577Cs-321. The fact that it is capable of 3G speeds globally and 4G speeds in many of the countries popular with ESL teachers who are traveling makes it a great option for teachers no matter where in the world they are when they teach online. The mid-level price also makes it a good option for teachers looking to keep their costs down. Battery life and security are all comparable to other devices of a similar price and the user-friendliness of the device itself is a bonus.
Remember, just because you buy the hotspot doesn’t mean you are ready to use the internet. You still need to get a data SIM card. There are a few different options here including using your own SIM card from your carrier or a local carrier if you are traveling. However, you can also use an international SIM card from companies such as One SIM and World SIM. These can be great options for teachers in countries throughout the world and, in some cases, may even be a cheaper option than using a local carrier.