Turn Your Virgin Mobile Aircard Into a Wi-Fi Hotspot

Last Updated Nov 15, 2010 10:28 AM EST

Regular Business Hacks readers know of my love for the Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go, the only USB aircard (that I'm aware of) that offers pay-as-you-go service.

The only thing that makes it better? The CradlePoint PHS300 Personal WiFi Hotspot, which effectively enables the Broadband2Go to work like Verizon's popular MiFi card. In other words, it shares the broadband goodness with multiple devices, not just a single PC.

All you do is plug the aircard into this compact, battery-powered Wi-Fi router and presto: You've got MiFi-style functionality from a pay-as-you-go provider.

What's more, the PHS300 supports up to 16 simultaneous users/devices, versus just five on the MiFi. The latter's undoubtedly a bit more elegant, but it'll cost you more -- possibly a lot more -- over the long run.

The PHS300 has a list price of $179.99 (ouch), but it's currently on sale at Amazon for a more reasonable $94.80. Add in the price of the Broadband2Go modem (available at Walmart for $78.54) and you're looking at an initial investment of around $180.

But you're not locked into paying $60 monthly like you are with the MiFi card and Sprint's similar package. You pay for Virgin Mobile service as you need it, with blocks of airtime starting at just $10.

This is a particularly good solution for anyone traveling with a Wi-Fi iPad: The Broadband2Go/CradlePoint combo effectively turns it into a 3G iPad, while at the same time opening the door to any other Wi-Fi devices you care to connect. Awesome.

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.