The 7 Best Global Wi-Fi Hotspots
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in January of 2017. In today's increasingly digital world, internet access is, effectively, a necessity at all times, regardless of where we are in the world. International travel, in particular, can pose some serious obstacles to staying online, but global WiFi hotspots are a solution you can depend on in a pinch. Pick up one of these top choices to ensure connectivity wherever you may find yourself. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 25, 2020:
Despite 5G's new emergence, it's likely to be a while before it becomes the standard service in global coverage. Until then, 4G hotspots will remain king in mobile internet services. With that said, we made significant changes to our list of global WiFi hotspots.
Many items on the list, including the GlocalMe G4 Pro, Verizon Inseego Jetpack 8800L, MightyWifi Cloud, and Huawei 4G Hotspot, have been updated from their previous models. These have faster internet speeds, support for more devices, and some new features regarding security and privacy settings.
The Skyroam Solis X is a new addition to the list. It offers very affordable data plans with coverage in over 130 countries. It's also equipped with a built-in camera, which you can live-stream from. Despite the inclusion of a camera, the unit is considerably small and can easily fit in a bag, purse, or even a pocket.
The GlocalMe G4 Pro kept the top spot of its predecessor, the GlocalMe G3. This is probably the best suited for travelers as it works in over 130 countries and doesn't require a SIM card. Additionally, it has translator and navigation apps built in to aid in your adventures.
June 03, 2019:
If you don't want to buy an expensive international smartphone just for a single trip overseas, a simple hotspot may well do the trick. The GLocalMe G3 is one of the most common choices and it's reported to be one of the easiest to set up, because in many countries you don't even have to bother with a SIM card. If you plan on using the hotspot in the USA as well, consider the Verizon Jetpack. We've highlighted one of the best versions of it. It's worth considering partially because it's compatible with CDMA networks, and in the United States, Verizon's coverage is far-and-away more comprehensive than any GSM service.
The Netgear is useful for anyone who's on a real adventure, as it's particularly durable compared to most. The Huawei is the least expensive, but don't get it if you need to use it North or South America. The MightWiFi is another that's easy to use, however it's slightly limited because it doesn't operate using a SIM card, so it's restricted to the countries for which it has baked-in support.
Finally, if you really need worldwide coverage everywhere you go and don't want to spend multiple thousands on a marine-grade system, the Inmarsat iSavi is a worthwhile consideration. It's definitely not very fast, and be sure you research it well before purchasing, but it can get the job done on land or at sea.
Cobham Sailor If you're outfitting a vessel for an excursion to the deep sea, one of the various members of the Cobham Sailor family may be your best bet. It comes in several versions with various levels of connectivity, though they're all exceedingly expensive. Then again, if you're sailing around the world, you may not want to skimp on communications, so the investment is likely a worthwhile one. cobham.com
Ground Control MCD-4800 Also known as "The Football," this global broadband area network device provides conenctivity on land or at sea with impressive reliability. It weighs 25 pounds and has an internal battery that lasts for up to 5 hours in case of emergency. It claims to pull up to about 500 Kbps from the satellite network, though in real world use it may not go quite that fast. groundcontrol.com
Thales MissionLINK Thales Group is a leader in industrial-grade technology around the world, and one of their areas of expertise is satellite communications. If you have the need, their MissionLINK 350 terminal can provide up to 700 kilobytes per second in the most remote parts of the world. It costs about $7,000 and includes a specially designed Ethernet router. thalesgroup.com
Freedom And Liberty
There's a nearly endless field of how-to and self-help videos, blogs, and bulletin boards.
In the beginning of the 21st century, the United Nations declared internet access a human right, and resolved that no country should unreasonably restrict an individual's ability to connect to the World Wide Web. It's actually considered a violation of international policy to completely close someone off from connectivity. In light of the wealth of utility, expression, and knowledge contained on this impressive, unprecedented network, it's easy to see why it's that big of a deal.
It's true that nearly every aspect of life has been integrated with the internet, in some shape or form. We have the most obvious players, like social media, streaming sites, and news resources. There's a nearly endless field of how-to and self-help videos, blogs, and bulletin boards. Many love to build community online with fellow readers, writers, or professionals. The meteoric rise of online shopping may have increased some frivolous spending, but it's also decreased the money we've wasted on low-quality products, thanks to high-quality, in-depth product reviews. Plus, thanks to Amazon, the average American practically never has to physically go the store again. Furthermore, there's mind-blowing artistic collaboration, and efficient corporate organization, but you get the idea — this internet thing is pretty cool. In fact, it looks a lot like it's here to stay. But how it works and how we use it are a little bit more complicated than pressing a button and typing in a password.
What Is The Internet?
For starters, it's not actually one single thing, but a massive conglomerate of countless nodes around the world called servers. These are repositories of data, organized into websites, file libraries, and the server's own operating instructions. They're generally very large, as public servers must be able to handle a lot of users at once, although many people use private servers for high-security purposes. These hosts are connected to the internet via service providers, the largest of which are the highest-level of the hierarchy, and the current gatekeepers of the digital realm. The vast majority of personal computers and servers are designed to access the internet and surf the World Wide Web, using the HTTP language.
In the beginning, this resulted in blazing-fast speeds of as high as a few kilobytes per second.
The most-used addresses for pages are called URLs, and underlying each one is an IP address that contains information crucial to finding the site in question. When a PC wants to talk to a site, it pings the nearest router with the address, which ships the request off to the next-closest router en route to the destination. Ultimately, the signal reaches the target computer, which gives the user's PC access to the page and any files, resources, or other local pages therein referenced.
Just over two decades ago, the only way to connect to the then-innovative internet was by plugging a beeping and buzzing dial-up modem into a telephone jack. In the beginning, this resulted in blazing-fast speeds of as high as a few kilobytes per second. in 1997, the 802.11 standard was developed, paving the way for the now-ubiquitous Wi-Fi that unifies entire homes at the touch of a button. It's true that there's not much like that old-fashioned, plugged-in feeling when it comes to ultra-low latency and consistently high speeds. Nowadays, most home networks use either DSL or cable technology, which operate on standard phone lines, or a coaxial cable connection, respectively. Fiber internet is also emerging, and it promises to increase throughput to unheard-of levels. But the truth is, the Web is at its best when the user is completely un-tethered, free to roam the earth while surfing the 'net at the same time — without roaming fees.
Navigating The Sea Of Servers
During the development of Wi-Fi, engineers were also hard at work perfecting mobile communications. The first digital mobile networks, in the 2G family, were developed in 1991 and slowly gained traction. 2001 saw the release of 3G, and 10 years later we received 4G, whose latest incarnation, LTE, brought streaming video to more mobile handsets than ever.
What these 4G LTE units do have is bandwidth every bit as fast as a modern smartphone, which in some places can be quite fast.
This late in the game, almost every populated region in the world has cell service. If you can get a couple bars in any remote region, then you can still receive data, although it might not come in as quickly as it would were you in a city center. On the other hand, many powerful, portable Wi-Fi hotspots use the most sensitive antennas available, and they're tuned to pick up data feeds as consistently as possible, especially at long range. These 4G LTE-based hotspots most often utilize a Mini or Micro SIM card to identify the user, then connect to the ISP, exactly like the common smartphone —aside from the lack of standard voice communication. What these 4G LTE units do have is bandwidth every bit as fast as a modern smartphone, which in some places can be quite fast.
Some of the most expensive options are mated to particular networks of transmission-ready satellites. These are intended for people who regularly spend time far away from society or in areas with severely inhibited communications networks. To name just a few, this includes the military, scientific researchers, incredibly dedicated travelers, and workers in isolated fields such as logging and fishing. As you might expect, signals beamed to and from orbiting satellites have more latency and lower overall speed than high-frequency, cell-switching local networks. But let's be honest: in the middle of the ocean, or a remote indigenous village, even 3G bandwidth is a blessing.
Options like 3G vs. 4G support, a physical USB connector, and a variety of payment plans differentiate the various models. They'll all function as a standalone network access point for your mobile device, though they may vary in the 802.11 protocol used. Also, you might have to pick up a local SIM card when traveling to a new country, but these devices are built to make such adjustments easy. Make sure to select a hotspot that's reliable and suited to your itinerary, and you're sure to keep browsing, even in the middle of nowhere.