Sprint Says Wi-Fi Is Mi-Fi Too

The personal hotspot is catching on, apparently: Sprint-Nextel Corp. has become the second carrier with plans to market the Novatel Wireless MiFi 2200, a portable device that can let consumers go Wi-Fi anywhere.

What it means is that users no longer have to locate a hotspot to use Wi-Fi because the MiFi device creates one for them: It connects Wi-Fi-enabled laptops and gadgets like gamers, MP3 players and cameras to the 3G network for anytime, anywhere access.

This un-tethering from the Starbucks/airport/hotel hotspot hegemony is something Sprint is targeting to consumers and businesses alike. One example is portable retail: Say five vendors at a local art fair have kiosks in close proximity. MiFi lets each run a credit card point-of-sale device over Wi-Fi and have secure backhaul.

“Supporting more than one Wi-Fi-enabled device, businesses can enable their employees to cost-effectively share a connection when mobile with other employees, vendors or customers,” said Steve Elfman, president of network, wholesale and product development at Sprint, in a statement. “Now business professionals like claims adjusters, mobile professionals, retail employees and field service technicians can easily perform multiple functions using various WiFi devices, all over one connection.”

Sprint will sell the MiFi device, which fits in the palm of the hand, beginning the first week of June. It will go for $99.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate with a new two-year service agreement. Plans are either $59.99 per month for mobile broadband only, or $149.99 per month for the Simply Everything voice/text/data + mobile broadband. Both plans include up to 5GB per month and a 5-cents-per-megabyte overage fee.

Sprint will launch the service under the Sprint Mobile Hotspot name, and unlike Verizon Wireless, which will launch MiFi on May 17, Sprint will support MiFi’s GPS capabilities, allowing users to take advantage of select location and mapping applications.

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