Using a Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot with Square Terminal
What is a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot or “Mi-Fi”?
A portable Wi-Fi hotspot (sometimes referred to as a “Mi-Fi”) is a pocket sized mobile router which can be used to set up a Wi-Fi connection either on-the-go or in a stationary setting. A mobile hotspot taps into 3G or 4G LTE cellular networks (and soon, 5G) just like a smartphone does. Most wireless carriers offer mobile hotspot devices and the wireless data plans required to enable them.
Why purchase a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot?
Although many smartphones today can be used to create a hotspot, benefits of using a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot include:
- Better performance, since a hotspot can be placed in a fixed location. A hotspot can have better data service than your phone typically has available in your back pocket.
- Having a separate service plan than your phone gives you better visibility into cost and does not count towards your phone or tablet’s monthly data quota.
- Security - a hot spot’s Wi-Fi network is protected with WPA-2 encryption, making it just as secure as any home router.
- Does not drain your phone’s battery or require using a personal device like a phone/tablet in a professional setting.
Important factors to consider when purchasing a Mi-Fi
Since Square does not sell a Mi-Fi hotspot on the Square Shop at this time, we’ve created an overview of features if you need help deciding which Mi-Fi to purchase.
Network “locked” or unlocked device
Many mobile hotspots are sold by wireless carriers (e.g. Verizon or AT&T) and require a data plan and subscription to use. However network-unlocked routers are also widely available, (made by companies like Netgear or Huawei) which can be used with a data-only SIM card of your choice, generally with much lower monthly payments.
Choosing a cellular network
The primary factor that will influence how well your Mi-Fi performs is:
- The coverage area
- The speed and strength of the cellular network you use (e.g. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint)
Since network strength varies from region to region, be sure to take this into consideration when deciding on a cellular network. The OpenSignal app is a good resource, showing where networks are strongest and weakest.
Note: For many sellers, the most economical option is to add your hotspot line to your existing carrier’s phone plan, as a separate line. This could get you the most data for your dollar. Be aware that if you have an unlimited data plan, that may not carry over to hotspots.
For some merchants who plan to use Square Terminal (and their hotspot) on-the-go, a built in battery with sufficient battery life can be especially important. If you plan to use your Mi-Fi hotspot at a stationary location or plugged in inside a vehicle, a wired power connection will be sufficient power for your hotspot.
Key questions for consideration:
- Is a lengthy battery life important to support how you do business?
- Will the battery of the hotspot you are evaluating last a full workday without charging?
- How long does it need to be plugged in to generate a full charge?
Day to day, your Square Terminal needs minimal bandwidth to operate and process transactions. Downloading software updates generally requires more bandwidth - approximately 2 GB (gigabytes) required per month.
Key questions for consideration:
- Do you have the ability to connect to Wi-Fi or ethernet overnight to help facilitate software updates?
- If so, your day to day data needs to operate Square Terminal will be minimal.
Note: Most sellers using a mobile hotspot in a countertop setting will likely not view this as a concern.
Cost of plan
Costs range, but depending on the model and carrier you select, you can expect to pay $20 to $25 per month for a Mi-Fi device with 2GB of data, $40 to $50 for 5GB, and $40 to $90 for 10GB.
For optimal performance Square recommends choosing a dual band (vs. a single 2.4GHz band) Wi-Fi hotspot.
Is having a small lightweight option important to you? Most sellers using a mobile hotspot in a countertop setting will likely not view this as a concern.
Do you value having a touchscreen? Many hotspots have displays which report the strength of your signal, your hotspot’s name, data usage, and the network password right on the device.