Best 5G Hotspots in 2021: Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile


5G isn’t just for phones. It has a whole host of use-cases for connecting all parts of our lives. It is expanding into laptops, tablets, and can even provide 5G home internet. One place 5G is slowly growing is personal hotspots — dedicated devices that you can carry around to link up to a 5G network and re-broadcast that signal as Wi-Fi for any device you may have around. Hotspots were a big deal at the start of the 4G revolution, and some people still see value in them for 5G today.

Even though you can use your 5G phone as a hotspot for your devices, there are benefits to using a dedicated hotspot device — not the least of which being you save your phone’s battery. If you need a 5G hotspot, your options are limited. The Inseego 5G MiFi M2100 is available on Verizon, a very similar Inseego hotspot is available on T-Mobile, and the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot Pro is also available. Here’s a breakdown of the best 5G hotspots.

Best 5G hotspots at a glance

Best for Verizon: Inseego MiFi M2100 5G UW

Verizon Inseego MiFi M2100 5G UW
Verizon

Why you should buy this: Hotspots can provide a better signal than your phone’s hotspot function, and will save your phone’s battery from dying while pulling heavy data usage.

Who it’s for: Anyone who isn’t satisfied with hotspotting their phone to access Verizon’s 5G network, and wants a hotspot with incredibly long battery life.

Why we picked the Inseego 5G MiFi M2100 5G UW: 

Because 5G hotspots are in their infancy, you actually don’t have choices at the moment — if you want a Verizon 5G hotspot, you have to get the Inseego 5G MiFi M2100 5G UW. The hotspot supports both Verizon’s Sub-6 and mmWave networks and rebroadcasts over Wi-Fi 6 to 30 devices simultaneously. It’s controlled through a 2.4-inch touch screen, showing you all pertinent information.

Verizon quotes battery life at “up to” 24 hours, but getting that longevity requires the use of an additional battery backpack accessory that adds 8500mAh of capacity. The device’s own 3500mAh battery is likely only good for about 7 hours of use. But the battery supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge tech, using USB-C, for a faster fill-up. Altogether the device with its battery accessory is pretty big — the size of two large phones stacked together.

Verizon 5G is clearly targeting the Inseego 5G MiFi M2100 5G UW at business users, reminding us that it offers VPN pass-through and data encryption so you can work securely on the go.

In order to use a Verizon hotspot as a consumer, you need to add it to an existing Verizon phone plan. The base “Unlimited” plan is $20 per month and gives you 15GB of high-speed data, throttling your speeds thereafter. It also only includes access to Verizon’s Sub-6 (nationwide) network, and not its mmWave (UWB) network. The “Unlimited Plus” plan is $30 per month for 50GB of data, including access to its mmWave network.

Those prices are in addition to the up-front price of $400, which can alternatively be financed over two years at $17 per month. That’s a high price to pay for a separate hotspot experience, but some may find it worthwhile.

Best for AT&T: Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot Pro

AT&T Netgear Nighthawk 5G hotspot
AT&T

Why you should buy this: AT&T’s hotspot can be used without a long-term contract or being tied to an existing phone plan, which makes it a good choice for many.

Who it’s for: Someone who wants a 5G hotspot, but doesn’t want to sign up for a lengthy contract or use the same carrier as their phone.

Why we picked the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot Pro:

AT&T’s only 5G hotspot is the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot Pro, and it has all of the latest features you’d want out of a hotspot. It can take AT&T’s 5G network and rebroadcast it using Wi-Fi 6, supporting up to 32 devices simultaneously. Its battery is rated at 8 hours of use from a 5040mAh capacity, which is about average, and Netgear even quotes the battery as having fast charging capabilities.

A large screen on the front of the hotspot gives you all of the information you’ll need at a glance, and you even get a hardwired ethernet port on the bottom if you’d prefer to use it as a wired modem. We love that flexibility.

AT&T’s hotspot plans are better than Verizon’s because they simply have more flexibility. You can sign up for a prepaid hotspot-only plan without having an AT&T phone plan. Prices start at $25 per month for 20GB per month — but the catch is that you have to prepay a year in advance to get that deal. If you want to pay monthly, it’s $35 per month for 15GB, $50 for 25GB, or $75 for 40GB. Prices are similar if you’d like to add a hotspot to an existing AT&T plan.

The only issue is the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot Pro is very expensive, coming in at $510 retail. If you have an AT&T postpaid plan you can finance it for $17 per month, which is palatable, but if you’re buying it outright in order to use it on a prepaid basis, that’s a big upfront price to pay.

Best for T-Mobile: Inseego 5G MiFi M2000

T-Mobile Inseego 5G MiFi M2000
T-Mobile

Why you should buy this: A dedicated hotspot is useful for getting a ton of people onto 5G without using your phone’s hotspot function.

Who it’s for: Someone who needs a lot of 5G data, and wants to pay for it on a prepaid basis without a separate contract.

Why we picked the Inseego 5G MiFi M2000: 

This is a very similar hotspot to the Inseego model available from Verizon, with all of the same features and most of the same specs. It offers both Sub-6 and mmWave access for T-Mobile’s 5G network, and better yet it’s even a little cheaper than Verizon’s version. The only difference is that T-Mobile quotes its version as having a larger 5050mAh battery, which should provide over 8 hours of usage — but doesn’t say that it has a battery accessory for better longevity.

You do get USB-C fast charging still, though, and in a pinch, you can even use the hotspot as a battery pack for your phone.

T-Mobile’s hotspot plans are simply the best of the bunch, with the largest amount of data of the three carriers. Prepaid plans range from $20 per month for 5GB of data to $30 for 10GB, $40 for 30GB, and $50 for a massive 100GB. That’s all without an additional contract or needing to have a T-Mobile phone plan. That’s dramatically better than Verizon and still stronger than AT&T.

T-Mobile doesn’t let you simply buy the Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 online, which shows you how limited it expects the market to be. Even though it’s the cheapest 5G hotspot at the moment, at $336, it’s still a high price to pay for this dedicated device that also needs its own separate data plan.

5G hotspot research and buying tips

Check your 5G coverage first

Paying an incredible amount for a 5G hotspot and service, only to find out that you aren’t going to get consistent 5G service, doesn’t make much sense. The best way to find out if you’ll get good 5G hotspot service is to test using a 5G phone from the carrier you’re interested in. If that’s not an option, you can rely on 5G coverage maps, which at least give you a general idea of where each carrier has 5G coverage.

When you look at coverage maps, be sure to distinguish between the noted coverage of Sub-6 vs. mmWave. Sub-6 will be available more-or-less everywhere 4G is, at least in populated areas, but mmWave is only available in a tiny portion of a handful of cities. These hotspots all support mmWave, but mmWave isn’t widely available yet. You will be using your hotspot on Sub-6 for the most part.

Consider just hotspotting your 5G phone

You may have come here looking for a 5G hotspot, and now face a bit of sticker shock. These 5G hotspots not only cost as much as a mid-range phone, but also carry their own data plans with added cost and in some cases restrictions. It’s for this reason that we regularly recommend that people simply use the hotspot function on their 5G smartphone rather than buy a separate hotspot device.

If you have a 5G phone, you can turn on its hotspot and share the connection to several other devices, just like these hotspots do. For most people, this will be just the ticket — you can get other phones, tablets, and laptops online without extra hardware. Dedicated 5G hotspots go above and beyond with faster Wi-Fi, capacity for dozens of users, and a dedicated battery so your phone stays charged — but with how much they cost, those improvements just may not be worthwhile.

Best 5G phones you can buy

Editors’ Recommendations






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