Housing Your Startup in a Broadband-less Building? Try a Mobile Hotspot.


Let’s say you’re a New York City tech startup moving into a prewar commercial space. It’s totally trendy, you probably told yourself, until you realized that the Internet connection consisted of a bunch of old, dead wires—or nothing at all. What the heck will your small business do?

Fiber broadband might be your tech-savvy startup’s first choice, but if you’re not based in Kansas City, let’s face it: fiber’s not always feasible. The City of New York estimates that the average cost of a commercial fiber installation is $50,000 per business—a price your landlord might not be willing to shell out.

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JetpackAnd although Verizon rep John J. Bonomo has said that Verizon is now willing to install fiber cables in commercial buildings for free, the fact remains that laying the fiber requires weeks of construction and road closures. In other words, it’s totally tedious and takes up time and stress that your fledgling startup may simply not have to spare. (We presume you want to worry about growing your business—not finding a way to access your office’s front door because the sidewalk is ripped out of the ground.)

So we got on the line with a Verizon customer service rep and asked what Internet option he’d recommend for a small business housed in an old, broadband-less building and itching to get on its feet (without having to worry about complicated wiring and massive construction projects).

His first recommendation was the Jetpack, a mobile hotspot that’s “like the size of a man’s wallet—a little bit thinner,” he said. The Jetpack—which comes at a base fee of $49.99, plus a monthly fee for data usage—provides wireless Internet access within a 30-foot radius to a maximum of 10 people at a time. And since it’s so small, it’s useful for traveling; a worker can slip the Jetpack into her pocket and have Wifi wherever she goes. The Verizon rep also said that it’s so easy to use that you can install it yourself.

Two weeks ago, PCMag’s Alex Colon reviewed the Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MGS291L after testing it in New York City. He ended up naming the Jetpack an “Editors’ Choice,” and gave it an overall editor’s rating of “Excellent.”

“It’s got an interactive status indicator that puts a lot of useful information at the tip of your fingers, along with real-time data usage reporting, so you can stay within the limits of your plan,” he writes. “It also has the longest battery life we’ve ever seen on a hotspot.” Mr. Colon concludes, “So while the data doesn’t come cheap, the Jetpack 4G LTE MHS291L is the best hotspot on Verizon, as well as one of the best hotspots around, period.”

We asked the Verizon rep if small businesses in old New York buildings had ever reported problems with their Jetpacks. “We have had some issues where the building materials do interfere with the frequencies,” he said, specifying that concrete was the primary culprit. Another obvious drawback is that the more your company grows, the more Jetpacks you’ll have to buy—though the Verizon rep said he knows companies with 50 employees who share five Jetpacks quite happily.

Fiber is obviously your startup’s top choice, but a wireless hotspot like Verizon’s—which runs on batteries and literally requires zero wiring—isn’t necessarily a bad backup.