Public Wifi hotspots are very convenient, but if there is no handy hotspot nearby, TP-Link’s TL-MR6400 could be the answer.
This connects to the internet using 4G mobile broadband, then shares the connection with any Wifi-enabled device.
To connect to a 4G network, the TL-MR6400 requires a 4G USB dongle, which cost around £30 for a pay-as-you-go model, or come free with many pay monthly deals.
The TL-MR6400 supports for many popular Dongle types.
We used it successfully with two Three dongles (a ZTE MF627 and a Huawei E160G) so it is worth checking with TP-Link first.
It is very compact, measuring just 74x67x22mm. It is powered either via a USB cable, or the supplied AC power adapter although the included power cable is a too short.
There is one network port, plus a USB port for the 4G dongle.
A small switch selects one of three operating modes – sharing 4G, Wifi access point or a ‘Wisp’ mode (for use with wireless ISPs, which are rare in the UK).
How to Configure this Device with a Dongle?
It should automatically detect and configure the 4G dongle, but this failed for us and we had to enter the 4G network details manually using information from Three – not a difficult process, but it might catch out less experienced users.
The configuration menu, accessed via a browser, is easy to use and has plenty of help, plus a wizard to help with initial setup.
All mobile broadband plans, whether pay-as-you-go or pay monthly, limit how much you can download each month.
It’s therefore handy that the configuration menu lets you restrict how much data connected devices can download, although this can be tricky to configure for inexperienced users.
Once running, PCs can connect to it just like any ordinary Wifi hotspot (it uses the latest 802.11n standard, but supports all older standards too). We found its usable range to be about 10-15 meters inside a building.
We tried it as an access point by removing the 4G dongle, connecting it to a router and turning the router’s Wifi off. The TL-MR6400 needs no configuration when used like this, and it immediately added wireless capability to the router.
It can also add Wifi capability to any device with a network port, like a game console, or work as a range extender for a wireless router, although it only works in this mode with routers that support the wireless distribution system (WDS) standard.
It’s a very versatile and affordable gadget if you frequently need a portable internet connection, and it isn’t too difficult to use, although you will need to read the instructions carefully.