Using a mobile device as a Wi-Fi ‘hotspot’ – recommended for light use

The simplest option for accessing mobile internet is to use an existing smartphone or mobile data-enabled tablet as a Wi-Fi ‘hotspot’ – instructions on how to do this will vary depending on the device. This allows nearby devices to connect to the internet using your SIM’s data. This is the most straightforward option for light or occasional users, but is not recommended if you need to make regular video calls or stream high-quality audio.

Standalone mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, sometimes called ‘Mi-Fi’ or ‘mobile Wi-Fi’, essentially perform the same function but in a standalone package. These don’t offer many other advantages over a smartphone Wi-FI hotspot but may be an option to consider if a smartphone isn’t available or it is more convenient to have a dedicated separate unit. Mobile internet USB ‘dongles’ that plug into a laptop are available but these are of limited use in a care home context as they only offer connectivity for a single device.

 

Using a 4G router – recommended for heavier use 

For a more reliable mobile internet connection that isn’t dependent on battery life, we recommend using a 4G router – this is very similar to the Wi-Fi router used by a fixed-line broadband connection but connects your devices to mobile internet instead.

These routers have a number of advantages over simply using a mobile phone hotspot:

  • Better signal strength – We recommend that 4G routers are used with an external 4G antenna mounted as high up as possible on the outside of the building for a stronger, more reliable signal – as well as one or more extra Wi-Fi antennas inside to provide better coverage for devices across the whole site. Also you can connect devices to these units directly with a suitable cable.
  • Not reliant on battery life – these routers use a mains supply so there isn’t the risk of battery life suddenly failing at a vital moment.
  • Faster and more reliable – a more powerful signal strength allows for better average speed, and multiple 4G modems can be fed into one router for even faster download and upload capabilities where necessary (though this would be more expensive).

 

Choosing a 4G router

There are different speeds of 4G routers – including cat6, cat9 and cat11 – where the higher number indicates higher speeds – however the faster ones are more expensive and may only provide better speeds where the mobile network coverage is strong. We’d recommend getting the best router you can afford if you are in an area of high signal strength, but if the signal strength is weaker then a less powerful type may be sufficient. To find out the likely signal strength at your location, enter the postcode into this online tool from Ofcom.

 

5G routers – the future of mobile internet connectivity

5G is the new connections standard and is even faster than 4G – but coverage and support for devices is still limited, so this option is not practical for most users yet. If your location has an affordable 5G service already available, it may be worth upgrading.