Thursday, September 16, 2010

Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200: A “review”

This morning I was finally able to pick up my Virgin Mobile MiFi wireless access point at the FedEx Ground facility in Hunker.  My success was not due to any competency on FedEx’s part, but rather to good luck and helpful staff in Hunker.  I arrived at the FedEx Ground facility just after they “opened” at 8:00 am.  It’s clearly not a place where they intend to serve many customers in person:  You have to speak through an intercom so they can let you through the gate, and you enter through an office which has no counter or receptionist.  But a helpful guy met me there, and quickly discovered (surprise, surprise) that they had not received the instructions to hold the package for me.  He ran off to the trucks, and was able to remove the package from the truck before it left for the day.  I appreciated the effort, and the driver was actually happy that I came in.  The package was the only one for my area, so I saved the driver about 30 minutes by picking it up.  So kudos to the local staff, but the overall FedEx Ground customer service and internal procedures and communication still seem to be completely screwed up.

I ordered the MiFi with the hope of replacing my horrible WildBlue satellite Internet access with the 3G access the MiFi provides.  After an appointment in Pittsburgh, I hurried home to try it out.  The timing seemed perfect: since it was raining, my WildBlue Internet connection was, in its typical fashion, non-functional.

The device is very small (like a few credit cards stacked together).  I charged it up and turned it on.  It created a new wireless network that I could see in my laptop’s list of networks, and I connected to it easily using the credentials listed on a sticker on the MiFi.  I continued through the activation process, and once it became necessary for the MiFi to contact the mothership, it started to become apparent that the Sprint 3G signal strength here is poor.  The activation eventually completed, but I haven’t really been able to browse the web, and the MiFi status page shows that it’s “Connected,” but usually with 0 or 1 bars of signal strength.

So it looks like it’ll be going back to Virgin Mobile soon, and I’ll continue to be stuck with satellite Internet service.  When we moved here 3.5 years ago, I had to switch from Sprint to Verizon for cell phone service due to a lack of signal at our house.  I was hoping that the coverage had improved since then, and the online maps showed 3G service here, but I guess that’s not the case.

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