If we’d talked about car WiFi a decade ago, it would have sounded like the stuff of science fiction. However, it helps to keep in mind the fact that ten years ago nobody had yet laid eyes on an iPhone or iPad!
The world is very different now; These devices are ubiquitous. For many, they’ve changed road travel in all kinds of ways. Consider the following:
- Many people now use their smartphone as their key satellite navigation device.
- Many individuals also store music on their phones, or use Internet streaming services such as Apple Music or Spotify as their main source of music. The “iPod input” of 2006 is now more than likely to be used as an input for a smartphone.
- Families often use Internet-connected devices to provide entertainment during long journeys. An iPad with access to streaming movies or a Kindle book can make such road trips far less stressful, as many parents will surely attest.
With all this in mind, it actually makes complete sense to have WiFi in the car when traveling. While a smartphone with data connectivity is useful to a point, it’s not much use to a family, who may all want their own connectivity for different devices. Furthermore, unlimited WiFi on smartphone tariffs is increasingly rare, and will soon add up if multiple people are all using data at once.
How to get Car WiFi
New cars are starting to appear with onboard Internet hotspots, but it’s just as easy to add one to an existing vehicle.
Essentially, all you need is a router for mobile broadband. These connect to the Internet using the same cellular network as your mobile phone, but also create a mobile hotspot that multiple passengers can connect to. For example, your passenger can stream music to the car stereo while your kids watch YouTube videos on their tablets in the back.
While any 4G router will serve the purpose to a point, devices have started to appear that are specifically designed for car WiFi use. One example is the Buzzard 2 device from EE (pictured). As you can see, this is designed to plug directly into a cigarette lighter socket in order to stay powered. Passengers just connect to it like any other WiFi hotspot.
Taking Things Further
Something like the Buzzard device is great for UK travel, but can get rather expensive if you travel further afield. Some of the tariffs available at the time of writing include some EU roaming data, but only 100MB’s worth.
This may sound like a lot but it’s really not – it actually amounts to about 10 mins of YouTube playback! It’s therefore not an awful lot of use if you’re planning a road trip through Europe (or elsewhere) unless you’re prepared to pay a lot of extra charges.
Another option is to take a look at a company called MIOWIFI. This firm does things rather differently, offering a service they describe as “portable WiFi for travellers.”
Essentially, MIOWIFI uses mobile broadband routers just like traditional providers. This is basically the same technology we’ve already talked about above. However, they’ve geared their service specifically to travellers to over 110 countries, who wish to avoid those roaming charges everyone dreads. The other most significant difference is that MIOWIFI rent out their devices as well as selling them.
The idea of this is that you can borrow a device for the duration of a holiday or business trip. When you arrive you switch on, connect to a local cellular provider, and have unlimited data to share with up to ten people.
This means you can, for example, hire a device, fly to the USA, and switch it on in your hire car to give yourself and your family unlimited car WiFi abroad. Prices range from £4 to £8 per day. When you’re done you post the device back to them.
Taking the Internet with you
It’s worth noting the MIOWIFI device isn’t only intended for car WiFi. You can use it wherever you want. So, you can use it (in the UK or abroad) in the car, in hotels, in rental properties and anywhere else. If you consider what it can sometimes cost to hook up to WiFi whilst travelling (and how pitifully slow this can sometimes be), the prices are really rather low when you consider that up to ten people can connect at once.
If you think about it, MIOWIFI is actually worth consideration for a UK holiday too. The reason being that traditional mobile Internet plans often have data caps and long contracts. If you only go on one or two long road trips each year, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay when you’re not using the device – and pay as you go options are never unlimited.
As you can see, there are plenty of options for car WiFi, but MIOWIFI does provide an interesting and slightly different proposition, especially if you want an absolute guarantee you won’t get hit by roaming charges abroad. Parents who rely on Kindles and tablets to make long journeys tolerable could find renting one of these devices makes the road trip part of the summer holidays more enjoyable than they thought possible!