Get a no-contract MiFi 2200 3G hot spot for $129

Virgin Mobile's version of this popular mobile router doesn't tie you to a two-year contract. You pay for service only when you need it.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read
The Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200.
The Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200. Virgin Mobile

I've long been a drooling, slobbering fan of the Novatel Wireless MiFi 2200, a credit card-size 3G router that was first available from Verizon, then picked up by Sprint.

This amazing little device creates a broadband-powered Wi-Fi hot spot for up to five devices. The only sucky part: buying one meant buying into another two-year contract and paying anywhere from $40-60 per month for service.

What is it with the carriers and their damn contracts?

Anyway, when Virgin Mobile (now owned by Sprint) started offering the MiFi last year, it did something incredible: it took away the contract. Suddenly you could enjoy the fruits of the MiFi, but pay for service only when you needed it. Huzzah!

The gadget normally sells for $149.99, but Wal-Mart has the Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go MiFi 2200 for $129 (plus sales tax in most states). Not a huge savings, I grant you, but $21 is $21. Shipping adds another three, unless you opt for site-to-store, in which case it's free.

Virgin Mobile offers three competitive service plans for the MiFi. For $10, you get 10 days of service or 100MB of data, whichever comes first. Fifty bucks (sigh--until recently it was $40) buys you unlimited data for a month. And I believe there's still a Wal-Mart-customers-only plan that includes 1GB of data for $20 per month.

I do want to point out that your enjoyment of this device will depend a lot on where you live and what kind of coverage you get from Virgin Mobile's (i.e. Sprint's) network. In my area it's pretty good, but there are parts of town where it's downright mediocre.

Thus, I wouldn't count on this for things like streaming Netflix video or making VoIP calls with your iPod Touch. As with anything wireless, your mileage may vary.

Random thought: A smarter move might be to buy the Virgin Mobile LG Optimus V smartphone for $129.99 (though it's currently out of stock just about everywhere). It's no-contract, too, and has service plans starting at $25 per month--including unlimited data. Load up a tethering app and you're good to go. Plus, it's, like, a phone, too. Stay tuned for more on the Optimus V.