This is the Rover Puck 4G mobile hotspot from Clearwire. If you’re wondering, a 4G connection is indeed on par with an average broadband connection. It will make you love the future.
In the last 24 hours, I’ve used the Puck to pull down an average of about 6Mbps in airports outside New York, Minneapolis and San Francisco. Clearwire Corporation, mostly owned by Sprint, calls its consumer-facing arm “Clear Wireless,” and offers the Rover for direct sale via its website and in retail stores. (It’s being piloted in the Midwest to start, but should trickle down to the East and West coasts soon.)
The beauty of the Rover Puck is its prepaid, contract-free billing structure. You buy the device for $150, then pre-pay as you use it: $5 per day, $20 a week, or $50 a month. The monthly fee is $10 less than what you’d pay if you got a contract 4G hotspot like this one directly from Sprint, but the Sprint device is only $100 with a 2-year contract. In other words, the Rover is cheaper, but it can’t do 3G like the Sprint device can — so if you’re out of 4G coverage, you’re offline. (There are several dozen wireless markets covered so far, and you can see the map here.)
The Puck connects eight devices via Wi-Fi for what the company claims is four hours, but in practice, it has seemed like less. The Puck will stop transmitting data and go into a kind of “sleep” mode if none of your devices talk to it for a while.
No wonder I’m excited about the Rover: it’s marketed directly to my 18-36 demographic. The Rover site gives you “the 411” on service, encourages you to “stick it in” and then to “re-up” your prepaid account, “freak on” if you’re a “speed freak.” Then there’s this marketing gem:
Stilted advertising copy doesn’t make this device any less impressive, and neither do appearances. While the Puck itself is ugly as hell — it looks like the anemic sibling of the electronic game Simon — it’s impossible not to feel some kind of primal human attraction to this little disc, which manages to yoke the entire Internet to you as you ramble. The more you think about it, the more it looks like a pucking wonder.
Rover Puck 4G hotspot, $150. Available soon.