Your own personal Internet bubble

image of internet bubble conceptMore REALTORS® are purchasing mobile devices that are dependent on Internet access. You may have an iPad, netbook, notebook, tablet, smartphone or a combination of devices. I have discovered that many REALTORS® have multiple data plans with multiple cellular providers based on the device in your arsenal of technology.

If being mobile is mission critical then here is one suggestion. Why not have your own personal Wi-Fi hotspot and eliminate the multiple data plans?

Imagine getting online anywhere you liked—at a meeting with your clients, sitting at a open house, at the beach, in a hotel (typically offering overpriced limited Wi-Fi). This is not the same as the hotspot you will find in coffee shops, local libraries or other public establishments that offer wireless access. A personal Wi-Fi hotspot is just that; it’s “personal.”  Its function is to grab the Internet using cellular radio and allow five devices, depending on the cellular provider, to get connected. You buy the device, you pay the fee, you have control and you have access to the wireless signal.

Let’s talk about the device. Typically, it can only be used with the cellular provider for which it is branded, so do your research before purchasing. Also, make sure you are getting a router with a built-in modem. Some devices need a cell phone tethered to it via USB or a wireless USB modem card, purchased separately. This setup can be bulky and inefficient. If your cell phone is tethered (connected as just a modem) to your router…you will no longer get calls in or out. Most devices come with proper controls so you can set a strong password, create a unique SSID, forward ports and even set filters so only YOUR devices get connected.

Wi-Fi signal range is usually between 30 and 100 feet. If your plan is to use this as a primary Internet connection at home then this might not be for you. Your coverage may be affected by obstructions (e.g., building walls and doors). Thirty feet should be enough when you’re out in the field.

When choosing a cellular provider here are some questions you should be asking.

  • What download speeds do you offer? (You should expect to get between 600-1000kbps)
  • Are there speed restrictions?
  • Will I have access to 3G and 4G?
  • What are my monthly fees?
  • Are there any activation fees?
  • Is a contract required?
  • Is there a fee for the device?
  • Will I have unlimited bandwidth?
  • How many simultaneous connections can I have?
  • What is the battery life of the device?
  • Do you offer a phone that also functions as a Wi-Fi hotspot?

Do your research. Prices, coverage and speed may vary based on your area. I would recommend reading the January 2011 Consumer Reports magazine. This issue focuses on cell phones, plans and providers.

Note, don’t offer the use of your personal Wi-Fi. Never share your Wi-Fi connection unless you are aware of the law and the penalties for not following it.

Steve Volkodav is the CIO for the North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS® and always looking for new ideas.

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