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Vodafone has followed 3’s lead by launching a wireless mobile broadband gadget that allows users to share their connection between multiple Wi-Fi internet-enabled devices.

The Mobile Broadband Hotspot allows up to five users to use the same mobile broadband connection simultaneously and is compatible with any mobile phones, games consoles, MP3 players or laptops which support Wi-Fi. In order to allow sharing, however, devices must be within a ten-metre radius of the gadget.

Users can expect a connection speed of up to 7.2Mb, depending on location. The Hotspot is powered by a rechargeable battery which offers up to four hours of active use on a single charge.

The device also doubles as a means of storing documents, files and pictures, with up to 16GB of space when a microSD card is fitted. Content can be stored in this way by all users accessing the internet via a single Hotspot.

Huw Medcraft, mobile broadband director at Vodafone, predicted that the gadget would have broad appeal and that the flexibility it offers customers would be its key selling point.

He said: "The Vodafone Mobile Broadband Hotspot offers mobile professionals, students and families a one-touch connectivity solution that turns Wi-Fi enabled devices such as MP3 players and laptops into connected mobile internet devices.

“This product brings even more flexibility to our customers, and ensures that Vodafone’s market leading mobile broadband can be rolled out to even more devices to give customers greater convenience."

The broadband provider has yet to confirm whether a UK release is planned for the Hotspot, with initial stocks going on sale in Romania, Spain and Germany.

News of developments comes as 3 is preparing to launch a similar device. Due to go on sale September 18th, the broadband supplier’s router sells for £69.99 when customers sign up for a contract at £15 per month. This entitles them to monthly usage of 5GB and a broadband connection speed of up to 3.6Mb.

Alternatively, consumers who would rather choose a pay as you go plan can opt to pay £99.99 for the router and get 3GB of data to last them three months. They can then add credit as and when required.

Jessica McArdle, marketing manager at Top 10 Broadband, said: "Vodafone's entry into the Mi-Fi market will certainly push these devices into the mainstream.

“Top10 sees these Mi-Fi devices as "ones to watch" in the run up to Christmas as families seek to save money on their broadband connections. Mi-Fi has the potential to change the whole mobile broadband market the way that wireless broadband transformed people's experience of home broadband years ago."

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