U.S.-based networking device manufacturer Netgear has launched the first unlocked LTE mobile hotspot available in Europe. The Netgear AirCard 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot (AC762S) provides users with an LTE-powered Wi-Fi connection and is available for laptop, tablet, smartphone, Kindle, game console or digital cameras. It supports up to 10 devices simultaneously and can deliver download speeds of up to 100 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 50 Mbps, according to the manufacturer, depending on operating environment and operators’ network capacity. In areas where 4G service is lacking, the hotspot will run on 2G and 3G signals to maintain connectivity.
Previously available only through MNOs as part of mobile broadband subscription packages, the unlocked version of the AirCard Mobile Hotspot can now be purchased in France, Germany, Italy and the U.K., and distribution will be expanded to other European countries. The recommended price is €149.90 (US $203.40) in Germany, France and Italy and £129.99 (US $213) in the U.K. The Netgear AirCard app, by which a hotspot account can be remotely managed, is available for download from iTunes, Google Play and the Amazon Appstore.
By creating this unlocked AirCard, Netgear is striking a blow for consumers’ freedom to have high-speed internet on the go at the click of a SIM card—and a blow against network operators, whose exclusives on mobile multi-device connectivity will doubtless be compromised. Users will be able to choose whichever service provider’s offerings fit their needs at any given time, with no obligation to sign a contract.
Certainly, this scenario has the potential to impinge on MNOs’ traditional revenue streams. However, unlike some other recent challenges (such as OTT services), it does not aim to cut out the operator entirely. If adoption of this product in the target markets proceeds vigorously, we believe it will have the effect of spurring competition among MNOs to create data packages that are attractive enough to persuade mobile hotspot users not to switch services. In addition, given that an unlocked hotspot would give travelers the opportunity to purchase short-term service from local providers while abroad, the device may well place downward pressure on roaming prices.
The launch of this device speaks to the desire of today’s sophisticated mobile customers to be connected constantly, wherever they may be—a desire that by no means applies only to smartphones but extends to a multitude of data-hungry devices. The demand for unbounded connectivity and the demand for freedom of choice with respect to service providers, it seems, go hand in hand.