31 Aug Pocket WiFi for Travel: A 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 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 portable Wi-Fi device. Step in, Tep Wireless, which offers Portable WiFi in Europe.
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
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
- 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.