Mobile Hot Spot Vs. USB Wireless Modem

By Chuck Robert

Modem hot spots and USB modems give users more flexibility in where they connect.
i Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Internet users often take their Internet devices on the go, to school, a business meeting or simply to a cafe. Internet availability depends on whether the location has a mobile hot spot or whether a cell phone company offering Internet access provides coverage for the area. These two methods of Internet connection vary in terms of connection reliability, speed and availability.

Mobile Hot Spot Definition

Hot spots are places where people can connect their laptop, notebook, smart phone or netbook to the Internet. Mobile refers to things that people can carry with them. For example, a cell phone is mobile, but a landline is not. Mobile hot spots can include Wi-Fi offered at a business or other establishment, 3G and 4G Internet connection offered by cell phone providers and cloud computing. Cloud computing refers to services that third-parties provide for a cost.

USB Wireless Modem Definition

USB wireless modems are devices that plug into a computer's USB port. Wireless devices typically access the Internet through mobile hot spots, which are only available in some areas. USB wireless modems, on the other hand, connect anywhere that the cellular company covers. Simply get the wireless device within the carrier's coverage zone.

USB Port

For the USB wireless modem, the wireless device needs a USB port and compatibility with the Internet. Mobile hot spots require that the device has wireless capabilities, but does not require a USB port, which are difficult to fit on smaller devices. Also, USB wireless modems must have compatibility with the device.


Mobile hot spots sometimes require a password, if a third-party owns the hot spot. You own the USB wireless modem and do not need to enter a password every time you use the device. However, some hot spots let anyone access them.

Installation and Connection

USB wireless modems occasionally have an installation process. With mobile hot spots, you will usually connect to the hot spot automatically, as long as you set your computer up to connect to that hot spot. Mobile hot spots allow multiple devices to connect to the hot spot. USB modems, in contrast, only connect one device at a time.


As of 2011, the fastest modem in the United States is the Pantech UML290, a USB wireless modem. There's also two external antennas, one for 3G and one for 4G connection. However, to get the fast 4G speed, owners need to find an area that has 4G coverage. While the fastest mobile modem is a USB modem, there are some mobile hotspots that are faster than some USB wireless modems.


With a USB wireless modem, the modem will stick out of your laptop. This modem can accidentally bang against objects as you move your device, potentially damaging it. Some USB devices are bulky. With mobile hot spots, you do not have anything sticking out of your device.


Mobile hot spots are often free, though some businesses might charge for people to connect to their hot spot or only make it available to paying customers. For wireless USB modems, your cellular plan includes a monthly data plan for the USB modem, which comes with a fee.