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Rover Puck: A Mobile Hotspot With Prepaid 4G Service

Clearwire (s clwr) has recently introduced a pay-as-you-go Internet connection service called Rover. Its plans work similarly to prepaid cell phone services, except that Rover doesn’t sell phone minutes; instead, it sells data, delivered through the Clearwire network.

One of the devices sold through Rover is a mobile hotspot, called the Rover Puck. According to the press kit, it is “designed for the tech-savvy Gen Y audience” who (I guess) must be National Hockey League fans; the device does indeed look like a hockey puck. At 4-1/4″ in diameter, it’s a bit bigger than the similar Overdrive hotspot, but it fits easily in a jacket pocket.

Setup is easy. Charge it up, connect it to a 4G network, and you’ll be taken to a website where you can buy as much connectivity as you need, without a contract.

The Rover Puck boots in a few seconds, much faster than my Sprint Overdrive hotspot does. I found that the Puck got similar connection speeds to the Overdrive, which is hardly surprising, since Clearwire and Sprint both use the same 4G network. But the Puck only connects on 4G, and doesn’t fall back to 3G if a 4G signal isn’t available, like the Overdrive does. This may be problematic for some, as I have found many places, even in 4G cities like Seattle, that don’t yet have 4G coverage.

The device sells for $149.99, and data plans are available for $5/day, $20/week, or $50/month. Depending on how much you use it, this may be a better deal than the $100 – $225, plus $45 to $60 per month that Sprint (s s) and Clearwire charge for their Overdrive hotspots. During the initial rollout, the Rover Puck is available online and in brick and mortar stores in Houston and St. Louis, including Clear dealers, Best Buy stores and independent retailers.

I’ve been very happy to have a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. With it, I can make my own Internet connection for my laptop or iPod touch (s aapl), without needing to find Wi-Fi service at a local coffee shop. If you plan to be in places with 4G signals once in a while, but not often enough to pay monthly fees for an Overdrive (or a phone like the Sprint EVO or Epic 4G that have hotspot capabilities built-in), the Rover Puck may be a useful tool.

Do you use a mobile hotspot?

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