21 Mar Pocket WiFi for Travel: A Tep Wireless Review

Tep Wireless Review

As a travel blogger WiFi is my everything.

This might sound like I have a problem and need to go to Internet Addicts Anonymous, but it’s the oxygen of blogging.

The first thing a blogger tends to ask upon entering a restaurant or a hotel is “Do you have WiFi?” or “What’s the Wi-fi password?” It’s not uncommon to see a group of bloggers on a blog trip huddling around the nearest Ubee modem or Wi-Fi spot, cursing the connection speed.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always convenient and if you want to update social media in real time, it’s better to have a mobile data connection. Unfortunately mobile phone companies are living in the dark ages and if you’re not careful, you can be hit by huge bills. Hopefully this will change one day and data will be free for all, but right now, that’s not the case.

Avoiding Data Roaming Charges

I’m currently on O2 and several months back I received a mobile phone bill that came to £210!! My monthly iPhone tariff is £38.15 per month but on several occasions my mobile phone bill has cost me about £70-90 because of data roaming charges. It’s ridiculous, but at the moment mobile phone companies are charging a small fortune for using the Internet abroad.

At this point you might be thinking, ‘why not just turn your mobile data off?’ Well I do…but there are sometimes situations where I just can’t help myself and I turn it back on again. There have been lots of emergency situations abroad where I have needed the Internet;  many of them involve being lost and needing to quickly access Google Maps to find out where the hell I’m going. There was one time when I desperately needed to get in touch with my friend on Facebook to find out where I was meeting her (my US telephone number didn’t work in Canada so we could only communicate over Wi-Fi) and another time where I needed to access my email for a booking reference so I could check-in for my flight without paying a fee to use the desk.

When travelling in Europe O2 give me a free 15 MB per day, which is completely useless and runs out faster than you can say ‘selfie’. After that I can text ‘MOREDATA’ and they will give me another 15MB for £1.99, which soon adds up. In Barbados I received a text saying it would cost me a whopping £6/MB! They promised me I wouldn’t be charged more than £40 on my current bill and I could use up to 50 MB, but those rates are just astronomical.

Bottom line, using my phone to access the Internet is just ridiculous and wasted money. Obviously I could just try to find accommodation and cafés that have Wi-Fi, but sometimes you just want Wi-Fi when walking down the street. In some countries it’s really difficult to find places that offer free Wi-Fi and some airports make you pay to access the Internet. Often these hotspots can be difficult to connect to or the connection is stupidly slow.

So then I started looking at other options and the most obvious one is using a pocket Wi-Fi device.  Step in, Tep Wireless.

Tep Wireless MiFi Device

So what’s this Tep Wireless All About?

I had been thinking about looking into MiFi (mobile WiFi) devices for a while and then Tep Wireless got in touch. They rent pocket Wi-Fi to travellers so they can remain connected to friends, family and colleagues while abroad, without paying absurd data roaming charges.

What’s in the Box?

When you book the Tep wireless device you are able to select your travel dates and enter a delivery address. This is a rental device so you can collect it from select airport or have it mailed to your home. My Tep Wireless device was shipped using a tracked service and I received several emails notifying me of the estimated delivery date. In the email I had the option to track the parcel and to make some ‘in-flight’ alterations such as changing my delivery date, asking to have it delivered to a preferred neighbour and arranging to collect from my nearest depot. The package was delivered on time and I had to sign for it.

Inside the box there is:

  • A Tep Wireless soft carry case
  • Laminated instruction manual
  • Huawei E5331 Pocket Wi-Fi (there are 4 different models so yours might not look quite like mine. If you have a preference, email them before the start of your rental and they will try to accommodate your request.)
  • A spare battery
  • Charger with European plug and UK adaptor
  • Prepaid bag for returns

TEP Wireless Pocket WiFi

How does it work?

The device is really easy to use and doesn’t require any setup or software. You simply hold down the power button to turn it on and the display will light up to indicate it is on. On your laptop, smartphone or tablet you open the list of available Wi-Fi networks and click on the name of your device. Enter the password shown on the back of the device and away you go!

Battery Life

To charge it, plug it in to a power outlet using the adaptor provided. When in use, the battery lasts for 4-5 hours, but you can save the battery by turning off the pocket Wi-Fi when you don’t need it. There is a spare battery inside the case, so you can switch batteries by taking off the removable back cover of the device.

Data usage

Some models have a screen that displays the data usage but mine did not. If yours doesn’t, you can track usage at www.tepwireless.com/data-usage

Otherwise you can contact them to find out how much you’ve used and they’ll send you an email when you’re near the limit.

TEP Wireless Mobile WiFi

Super Portable for Travel

The best thing about any MiFi device is that you can simply pop it in your bag and you have Internet wherever you go! When travelling abroad, this is a godsend. You can connect up to 5 devices to it at a time, so you can share it with your friends if you like (just watch out you don’t use your data allowance too quickly as doing so amplifies your data usage). You can use it to connect your phone, your tablet, your laptop, or all three at the same time, and  it works to a distance of 15 metres around you.

This 3G device can allow you to stay connected all over the place. You could use it to upload an Instagram of you in front of the Eiffel Tower, update your Facebook status at a festival or do some work on your laptop while riding the train. It has so many uses!

Use it to do things like:

  • Send and receive emails on-the-go
  • Read your Twitter news feed
  • Upload pictures to Instagram
  • Update your Facebook status
  • Make Skype calls to your friends and family
  • Using Google maps for directions
  • Finding good restaurants and cafes using Yelp

Prices

The Europe pocket Wi-Fi costs around £4.50 per day for 150 MB of data per day. So a 7 day trip would set you back £31.50.

On my o2 mobile phone, 150 MB per day would set me back £19.90 PER DAY, amounting to a total of £139.30 for a one-week trip, so the pocket Wi-Fi wins hands down.

If you need more data than that, the Europe pocket Wi-Fi with unlimited data costs £8.25 per day, which is £57.75 for a one-week trip.

Tep Wireless WiFi for Travel

My Tep Wireless Review

I tested my device in the UK and had no problem connecting to the Internet. It was easy to connect to the wireless network and the Internet speeds were decent. I didn’t notice it to be any slower than my ordinary Wi-Fi at home. I was able to surf the web, respond to emails and watch Youtube videos easily.

I found the device to be small and lightweight, so it was certainly easy to carry around.

Speeds and Network Coverage

Speed depends on network coverage. It should work well in populated areas, but might not work so well in exceptionally remote locations. In general, the better the reception, the faster the connection. When connected to a 3G network you can expect to get download speeds around 7.2 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 5.6 megabits per second, which means you could download a 4 MB music track in 20 seconds or less.

Click here to see a list of countries covered. If you are planning to travel to multiple countries in Europe you can choose the European pocket Wi-Fi, which works seamlessly in Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Note it does not work in France, so  if you are traveling to multiple European countries, including France, select “Going to France?” in the extras when booking your European pocket wifi. You will then receive a separate pocket wifi exclusively for France, which includes unlimited internet. Alternatively, you can place another order for a French pocket wifi.

Returning the Device

You can post back the pre-paid envelope or return to airports and select city locations.The pocket Wi-Fi device needs to be returned up to 4 days after the rental period ends, so don’t leave it in your bag and forget to do so! If it’s going to be a problem you can contact them to sort something out; you might want to extend your rental period or change your data plan. You can contact Tep via live chat, telephone or email.

To return my device in the UK I had two options:

1. Leaving my device at the Excess Baggage Company in the arrivals hall at London Heathrow or at Paddington Station in Central London

2) Using the enclosed pre-paid return envelope and posting it at any mailbox or Post Office.

Thoughts

The Tep Wireless device is definitely a great option to avoid data roaming charges, but obviously it depends on the type of trip you are going on.

Good for:

  • Short trips 1-2 weeks
  • Business travellers and digital nomads who need to stay connected for work (especially bloggers like me!)

Not so good for:

  • Long term travel and round-the-world trips (you might want to get your phone unlocked and buy a local sim if you’re going to be in a country for a while)
  • Those who don’t need to use the Internet much while away
  • Travelling to remote locations that may not have good mobile phone signal (e.g rural areas, mountains villages, cruises)

It’s a great device for someone like me who needs to update social media, reply to emails and do work while on the road. I would definitely use it next time I have a quick jaunt to Europe to avoid racking up those phone bills.

For more information about the Tep Wireless pocket Wi-Fi device, visit their website http://www.tepwireless.com and check-out their FAQs.

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Victoria Brewood
victoria@pommietravels.com

Hi I'm Victoria, a British girl from Manchester. After graduating from university I decided there was more to life than the hours between 9 and 5, so I packed my journalism degree into my suitcase to travel the world and find a way to make money at the same time. I now call London home, although I still travel whenever I can. I hope to inspire you to be your own boss, live life and see the world.

14 Comments
  • PK
    Posted at 09:36h, 24 March Reply

    awesome review! Truly money saver for international travelers.
    Personally I am traveling for about 4-5 months per year.
    Rented device in the past, no problem at all. Great service and coverage.

    Highly recommended

  • Sebastian Wolfe
    Posted at 11:41h, 25 March Reply

    Thanks for this review Pommie. I used Tep last summer throughout Rome and I was impressed with the service. I will be using it again and August in Nice. It looks like they sent you a spare battery in your pouch which is awesome. I’ve been searching around and it looks like they’ve started to do that now. Nice touch. The one complaint that I had in Rome is that there was only 1 battery, so if you are out ALL DAY (5+ hours) which I was a few times, you had to bring the charger with you. Not the biggest deal in the world but I kept thinking that 2 batteries would have been a life saver.

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  • Carla Montanez
    Posted at 13:04h, 01 April Reply

    Tep wireless was recommended by a good friend of mine after her great experience on the device. Pommie thanks for giving a review on this product. I’m planning to have this on my next trip and stop first on having roaming fees.

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  • Connie Chen
    Posted at 19:58h, 27 July Reply

    I do not think that your review can be unbiased when it was Tep who contacted you to try their product. I agree that the product when it works is what we all want, but you also need to look at how they deal with their customers should there be a problem.

    When you are travelling abroad, the last thing you want is to have a problem, but we all know it can happen. The sign of a truly good service is how they deal with you when you need them.

    We rented a Tep wireless wifi for 2 weeks vacation in the UK. We are from Canada and thought since Tep was a UK based product and had been recommended on the visit Britain website, it would be perfect for us. Unfortunately, the product did not work when we picked it up at Heathrow, then calling customer service at Tep with the help of the lovely gentleman at Excess Baggage only proved to be very aggravating.

    Instead of looking for a quick solution, we were told the service would not be available for another 2 days. (started with being told 12 hours extending to almost 3 days before it finally did work!) Then multiple calls/emails and we weren’t given the refund we were promised but instead suggested that we take a credit for our next rental! Would you rent a product with a customer service that only gave you difficulties even if the product might be good?!!

    To give an unbiased review, I think reviewers should only use the product without the company’s knowledge and go through the process like the rest of us.

    Sorry, but I will no longer be trusting reviews such as yours as it only looks at the tip of the iceberg and doesn’t really let me know how the product will work in real life.

  • Marco prata
    Posted at 21:01h, 15 August Reply

    Watch out for the suprises after the trip i purchused the unlimeted oachage and after i was direct charged from my credit card because i used too much even thu they have to notify you that you are using too much that never happened the just charged my credit card just another scam bussines BE CAREFULL THEY ARE ALL OVER
    SISTEM DID NOT ALWAYS WORK PLUS XTRA CHARGES

    JUST ANOTHER UNHAPPY CUSTOMER

  • Meredith
    Posted at 18:21h, 08 October Reply

    TEP Wireless has the poorest customer service I have ever encountered. Device arrived days late and did not work, after I paid more for a rush delivery. I returned the device in August using the label provided and was charged two months later (yesterday) for $250. I have tried reaching out to them but have heard NOTHING My FB post was deleted by TEP and I am now unable to post to their page and noticed that any negative comment has also been deleted (I recalled seeing some in July). LIARS.

  • Ronald
    Posted at 12:31h, 18 November Reply

    I, like hundreds of others, have been ripped off by this company. See http://www.notquitemainstream.com/tech/2013/01/10/an-awful-experience-tep-wireless Be very careful before using this company. I also suggest that Ms Bretwood do a little more research if she wants her reputation as a blogger to stay intact. Unbelievably bad company.

  • Lee Robbins
    Posted at 20:21h, 21 November Reply

    Summary re TEP: YOU’LL BE SORRY!

    The letter I wrote them last month (no reply from them of course):

    10-31-2014

    Dear TEP team:

    You have asked for feedback, and I already tried to give it as an email response but (big surprise!!) this seemingly didn’t work any better than the rest of your process and, as far as I know, simply disappeared.

    So here it is.

    SUMMARY experience:
    My attempts to use your device though occasionally useful (mainly in the last 4 days of our 22 day trip in your home country of UK) came close to ruining our trip and was at least severely stress producing. Worst of all was the Huawei Mobile Wifiapp which, following your instructions, I downloaded on an Apple 5s-iphone and a new mini iPad. It would give readings like 50% or 60% and then, 10 minutes later, 30%. And no, I was not downloading video or audio. Other times (this in the UK) it would stay at 100% even after 4 or 5 hours of use (and despite the fact that it kept charging for a long time right after that). It proved quite impossible to know how much the battery was charged thus making it unsafe to depend on for navigation while driving or walking. It made the first two days of my stay in Paris fairly miserable as I attempted to deal with this and it only became easier as I acquired a SIM chip and data plan from Orange Telecom in France and Spain. To be fair, it worked OK and usefully in London if you don’t count the useless Mobile Wifi app.

    Customer service: erratic like the rest; did a good job of replacing the Franc device which wouldn’t charge at my temporary address in Beaune, France. But often didn’t respond at all, certainly not with the promised call-back. In fact, I was finally able to get attention only by presenting myself through the new purchaser channel on the website.

    SUMMARY evaluation: It’s a good idea destroyed by poor execution. And that’s why I was only able to use a small portion of the data plan I paid for.

    ADVICE to prospective customer:
    You’ll be sorry.

    Well, nothing personal to the reader of this (should someone read it) as these issues are ordinarily about the management rather than the front-line workers.

    Suggestions to TEP should anyone care:
    Make an investment and get all the same kind of devices so (a) they all have screens with power usage available and (b) the battery can be charged in one while you are out using the other if you have French and European devices and (c) rent out rechargers for those who want them along with the spare battery for the same reason as in (b) and (d) don’t promise customer service availability which is not there (i.e., hire some more people to do this in a timely manner).

    Lee

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