Mobile WiFi Hotspot – XComGlobal to the rescue

xcom global mobile wifi banner
xcom global mobile wifi banner
Post Updated to include Fair Use considerations, June 2017
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As spring fever hits, those of us with wanderlust start packing and planning how to stay connected on the road. There are dozens of APPs and social media connections but you need Internet access. In urban areas around the globe, WiFi is abundant but can be spotty, if you can log in at all, and it might not be secure. If keeping a tether by phone or computer to family, work or GPS in a foreign country is important, on-demand WiFi is more necessary than ever. That’s why I’ve come round to using the Xcom Global Mobile WiFi hotspot.
Mobile Hotspot Options
I’ve gotten pushback from my travel buddy. He has a huge cell phone data plan through work and needs to be reachable by phone. With a Verizon plan, he can pay about $10 a day for the service and then can use his phone as a Mobile WiFi hotspot for his laptop. We’ll see how well his strategy works!
mobile wifi hotspot compared to the expense of roaming data
Check with your Cell provider
It’s not as easy for everyone. Sometimes your cell phone provider will have an affordable plan but read the fine print. Will you need more data than you use at home? Data charges can skyrocket if you’re sending pictures and videos, or watching videos when you’re out of the country. Turn off your data, put the phone in Airplane mode and make another arrangement.
Here’s a video about my experience with staying connected overseas:
Digital freedom with a Mobile WiFi hotspot
I need access to the internet pretty regularly and have found that traveling with a Mobile WiFi hotspot is best. A personal hotspot tethers to existing cell signals. It was of no use while I was bobbing around in the middle of the Sulu Sea on a dive boat for five days. We were 90 miles from land, far from cell towers and the captain had only satellite signals for navigation. I knew that might happen in advance and took a digital break – not a bad idea! (See more about that adventure here.)
How a mobile wifi hotspot works
Three mobile hotspot players
TEP Mobile Hotspot
Last year while traveling in Switzerland, I arranged to use the TEP system. The Mobile WiFi hotspot can be mailed but I arranged to pick up and drop it off in Heathrow Airport while on layovers between flights. On arriving it would have been simple enough but I had to visit a different terminal and luckily had plenty of time to do so before catching my connecting flight.
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TEP worked well enough. I needed to be in the range of cell service and found the only drawback was dropout as my trains dipped in and out of tunnels. The unit was a bright red color, which made it easy to find in my bag and it was easy enough to charge electrically (provided I had the correct adapter for the country.) I did notice that more I used it, the more daily data I drew, the signal would slow down and battery life diminished fairly quickly. Still, it was reliable and made my life easier.
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One Tep wrinkle – when I dropped it off in Heathrow, I asked for a receipt. It was lucky that I did as the company contacted me later saying the unit had not been returned. What could’ve been an expensive administrative mistake for me was avoided with the receipt. Ask for and keep your receipt!.
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Skyroam and Purchasing a Mobile Hotspot
As that system worked so well and I have been traveling in and out of Mexico more frequently, it made sense to purchase a Mobile WiFi hotspot. The advantage is that once it was paid off there’s only a daily use charge.
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My local electronics store carried the Skyroam hotspot and I snapped one up to avoid shipping costs. Five free days of WiFi were included – a nice perk. What wasn’t as nice was the fact that the unit didn’t work. It looked like the same device as TEP, which I thought would speed up the learning curve, but it wasn’t working. I had several people check it out and ended up contacting support to replace it.
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Again, save the receipt! I luckily did and several months later returned it (with that pesky shipping charge after all.) Will they return a working model? Will they reinstate the extra days I paid for? I’ll update this post once I know more.
xcom global mobile wifi kit is set up for easy internet connection in over 150 countries

Xcom Global Mobile WiFi hotspot kit

The Xcom Global Mobile WiFi Hotspot
My hero hotspot now is the Xcomglobal unit. The company has offices in San Diego, not far from my home and I was able to meet the team, then pick up the package. It came in a nice leather case with documentation and instructions, a charging cord and a multi-country plug. The unit was nested in a small pocket inside.
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  1. The Xcomglobal hotspot is small and ergonomic. It’s lightweight and easy to tuck in a pocket.
  2. The password and model number are on the front – Easy to access.
  3. Once I turned it on, it tethered to the closest and strongest cell signal within 30 – 45 seconds.
  4. A personal Mobile WiFi hotspot is much more secure than using public WiFi. You are the only one with the password.
  5. You can connect up to ten devices!
  6. The screen is small but clear.
  7. There’s only an on/off button – no multi-option display or buttons to toggle.
  8. My Samsung Android phone loves it. The WiFi signal pops up quickly and once connected it recognizes the device every time I turn it on.
  9. A personal mobile WiFi hotspot is secure
  10. The device covers over 150 countries.
  11. If you have a multi-country trip coming up, the second country is free.
  12. It’s cheaper per day than other systems at $7.77 US
The few downsides I’ve encountered in a week of use – the battery runs down fairly quickly, so I need to recharge and it’s slow to fully load. I’m working a strategy of turning off and on only as needed. That’s not a problem but with a gaggle of chargers and plugs to manage, I run into prioritizing what charges and when. It just comes with being a digital nomad!
The Xcom Global Fair Use Policy reminder comes in the Mobile Hotspot package.

The Xcom Global Fair Use Policy reminder comes in the Hotspot package.

IMPORTANT: Manage your Data and pay attention to Fair Use Policies

I came late to this part of the mobile hotspot situation. While using Skyroam in Switzerland my internet access slowed. The fact that I was sending pictures to social media and uploading short videos had an impact but the device still worked.

Farm stay near Plitvice Lakes

Farm stay near Plitvice Lakes

On my next trip, during a farm-stay in Croatia, I spent an evening catching up with online work. I was hooked up to WiFi through the Xcomglobal device and all went well. Thunder shook the windows and a heavy rain fell, then the lights went out. My computer wasn’t plugged in so I wasn’t worried about possible damage from surges. Amazingly, the WiFi stayed connected. I didn’t lose my work or have to reboot. All great.

However, the following day my hotspot stopped connecting. I didn’t know what the problem was but I didn’t start investigating until we arrived at our next destination. I contacted Xcomglobal support and thus began my enlightenment about Fair Use policies. They informed me that could take 12 hours for the device to “refresh my data,” and if it didn’t automatically, they emailed detailed instructions on how to manually refresh should I need to. Luckily that wasn’t necessary.

Suggestions from Xcomglobal to lower data consumption:

 

  1. Close All Applications That Send Or Receive Data Automatically – On the iPhone, this can include iCloud, Photo Stream, and Document & Data backup
    2. Cache Maps Before Traveling – If you know where you’ll be going, you can search for that area and view it while you’re online, then that data should be stored in the app ready to view when you’re offline
    3. Disable “Push Content” – Push content is any data that’s automatically “pushed” to your phone without user interaction. A high volume of push button alerts from email or other programs can increase data usage over time.
    4. Avoid Streaming – Avoid streaming audio or video as it requires large amounts of data.
    5. Don’t Update Apps Or Operating System
    6. Use A Data Monitor App To Keep An Eye On Usage

If you need to download apps, maps, videos, make Skype calls, etc. connect to public WiFi that is password protected (hotels, restaurants, etc.) and subscribe to a VPN service for security. I’m certainly no internet expert but I imagine that while Fair Use limits might be reached, you won’t risk blocking your hotspot.

Easy going with a mobile hotspot

Stay in touch with a Mobile WiFi Hotspot
Postcards are wistfully nice but if you’re traveling abroad they’ll arrive after you get home. I’m banking on my digital systems and photos for memories and look forward to keeping up with work and family with my Xcom Global Mobile WiFi Hotspot.
Have you used a Mobile WiFi device? Let me know how it worked in the comments section!
For more information: https://www.xcomglobal.com
Disclosure: I didn’t receive compensation or a free mobile WiFi unit to test. All opinions are mine. 

53 comments

  • I’ve never considered using such things, but there are some places that offer limited or no connectivity so it might be actually a good idea to have one!

  • It’s amazing how far technology has come in such a short period of time. The mobile wifi hotspot seems really convenient!

  • So far I’ve coped on my travels by using local wifi. But for longer term travel I think I’d look into my own hotspot. It looks to be worth it!

  • I’ve used TEP quite a few times and after a few initial hiccups find the system is pretty reliable. Glad to learn about XCom as well. I often travel to off the beaten path areas and would really love to find a system more reliable!

  • Very timely info! I’m leaving soon for a 3-week trip through Eastern Europe and have been thinking of getting a mobile hotspot.

  • Your advice is excellent! As time goes on, I think more and more restaurants and other public spaces will provide WiFi. Hotels are coming around too; making it complementary. All good when you must be online to keep in touch or work when you’re away from home.

    • Thanks, Marilyn, for the response. It’s become imperative to have a hotspot if I’m going to be abroad for any length of time. Even hotels and restaurants are iffy and too often, I’ve returned picking up viruses from using public WiFi.

  • I am just starting to look into mobile wifi hotspots for travel this coming winter, because of convenience and security. I’ve used the travel plan on my phone and it’s been affordable and convenient, but in some places did not allow me to use the phone as a hotspot for my laptop. Being based in Canada, I don’t know if Xcom Global is the right company to choose for me, but I will look into it.

    • Interesting to hear of your experience using your phone as a hotspot. If I’m outside of the US, Mexico or Canada, Verizon gets expensive as an option in comparison to other mobile hotspots. I’d be devastated to plan catching up on work and not be able to connect my laptop to the phone hotspot.

  • I hate the idea of paying a daily rental fee which is why I have my own hotspot. I used it in a France last summer and had to keep an eye on it as the battery also ran down quickly. Love not having to depend on weak (and insecure) wifi.

  • I personally avoid going to my service provider for “travel” packages like the plague. The best option for me is to invest in a older unlocked smart phone (iPhone 5 or even 4). Or when your contract ends and you upgrade to a new phone keep your old one. (If it gets stolen then you wont be too upset.) Also, most service providers will allow you to unlock you phone after being in a contract for a few months.
    Get a local sim and use your phone like a local. It will change you phone number but you can use facebook messenger to text and call or skype or what’s app etc..

    • I’m Android only but have heard of this option. As long as you have a lot of data this sounds great. It’s another option I’ve yet to try out (and yes, I’ve kept my old phone. Will put it to work next trip!)

  • Thanks for this great overview – I’ve also used TEP, but hadn’t heard of the Xcom Global Mobile WiFi Hotspot – because we’ve been traveling throughout Australia a lot I can use my normal domestic phone plan and quite frequently use the hotspot to get internet access on my laptop, works really well, though have started hevily relying on these external devices when we travel overseas. As much as you can find public WiFi in most places nowadays, I’m always concerned about connecting my laptop to an unsecure network, so would rather go without, or organize a hotspot device to travel with 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing your advice on these different wifi hotspots. This sounds like a very useful gadget to have when traveling long term where there may not be solid wifi available. Also great to know about saving your receipt! Appreciate your review 🙂

  • I have been wanting to try sky roam. Usually I just called my provider though and then look for wifi when I travel.

  • I have never tried using my cell phone as a HotSpot while traveling, need to look into it. I do have a decent plan and the kids keep using up their data plans

    • Ahh, kids and data. It was a real learning curve for my son too. The wifi hotspot has worked for me (my travel buddy has an unlimited data plan) but his signal doesn’t always show up on my phone!

  • Our mobile phone’s international plan is fairly reasonable so we’ve been using that overseas. I haven’t yet tried any of the mobile hotspot devices, but it’s always in the back of my mind. Perhaps I need to look into the Xcomglobal unit a bit more.

  • Great tips, I had a friend that was looking into SkyRoam or other alternatives, so I am going to be sending this to him, so he can check it out and hopefully find something that works for him. Sounds like the Xcom might be a good option! Thanks for sharing.

  • You talked about an issue which has become so critical to travel but not many talk about. Living in India I usually don’t have a problem with my dongle, but international travel is a challenge and I always end up buying a local SIM for data. Xcomglobal looks like an interesting option to explore…

    • I think there are some hotspot options available in India that we don’t have as much access to in the US. Buying a local SIM sounds like a great option. I just haven’t gone that route but it may be more economical in the long run.

  • Great breakdown on mobile wifi hotspots. I’ve never used one before, but have thought about it looking into it. I like the idea of having a more secure connection, with a network and password just for your devices. And, even though I have yet to get a killer bill from my cell company for overseas data, it really is only a matter of time! And based on your reviews, it looks like Xcom is the way to go!

    • Thanks, Drew. With all the travel you do I’m glad you’ve never had security issues. While traveling in Asia over the past few years I’ve had to scrub my laptop when I got home. Sneaky stuff gets in and slows things down, at the least. All the best.

  • This is so informative! My cellphone plan allows me to have 3G when I travel, even overseas, but I haven’t used a mobile wifi hotspot overseas. That would be so helpful for me when I travel for work!

    • I’ve found have the mobile hotspot has helped me be so much more efficient. If I’m waiting a half hour for a bus or train, I can catch up on things a bit without having to spend hours later!

  • When I go overseas I always try to get mobile prepaid card that’s offers very high data plan. But your suggestions sound great too!

  • The plan is important and the fine details more important.
    I have learnt harsh lessons while taking things on face value without getting into details.
    Luckily I had been careful with taking receipts.

  • Oh this sounds interesting! I’ve never heard of this before! Will need to look more into this, although my cell phone plan (in Europe) is that I have coverage anywhere we go within Europe. Hopefully this is still true as we head to the Balkans soon! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    • Thanks, Lolo. I’ve come to the conclusion that having a hotspot that can be used all over Europe is a great option. Right now, with Xcomglobal I can do 2 countries at a time and there are charges for adding other countries.

  • I recently got the hotspot functionality on my phone and it has been good, but there are places where there is no cell signal, so a solution like xcomglobal still makes sense. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • David and I have used a mobile hotspot for many years in Australia. Australia has been very slow to see the uptake of free wifi in hotels and the mobile hotspot has saved us a fortune. However it doesn’t work overseas. Since we need the internet when we travel we have always cobbled together something at our destination – usually a local sim card with plenty of data, combined with hotel internet. South America is tricky though. Maybe it is my beginner Spanish but we have never been able to buy a local sim with data there. With a trip to Mexico planned for early next year, I am going to pass this post along to D. Hopefully it will solve the problem.

  • Great post, love helpful articles like this that explain the ‘tech’ side of thing, not my area of expertise! Luckily my mobile plan provides reasonable data options for abroad, but I’m always keen to see if better options are available.

  • This would be great – my phone has international data, but I have no way to get it on my laptop which is where I so often want a connection!

  • I tried to use my cell phone as a HotSpot while traveling, but exhausted almost all my data in a few days. It all depends on the plan you have, but for me it wasn’t worth it. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • I tried once to get my phone company to put me on a plan for a specific rate and data usage while I was in Canada, and they ended up charging me an INSANE amount for a 7 day period! All those hidden fees.. I haven’t tried this, but it looks like a great alternative!

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