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AT&T’s Mobley is its first plug-in mobile hotspot for your car

The beauty of Wi-Fi for your beat-up Ford Escort

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AT&T has a solution for bringing internet connectivity even to nearly 20-year-old automobiles. Though it sounds like a mashup of goofy tech buzzwords, the ZTE-made Mobley is AT&T's first mobile hotspot capable of plugging into any on-board diagnostics port, which means it will work with vehicles made around 1996 or later. The Mobley can power up to five devices on AT&T's LTE network and requires minor setup, the company says, as the device turns on automatically when the car engine starts and powers down when the engine is off. It's similar to Verizon's Delphi Connect hotspot, which was advertised in 2013 as a way to troubleshoot problems with your car, but also doubles as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Every vehicle made today is packed with features catering to the growing amount of smartphones, tablets, and handheld game consoles we truck around and tend to rely on for commutes or road trips. But no amount of accessories can fully retrofit a car bought before the smartphone boom. The Mobley remedies that in part, letting even an 11-year-old Corolla or a 15 year-old Civic power an in-car Wi-Fi network. Of course, you could always buy a standard mobile hotspot and keep it in your car, but the Mobley is designed purposefully for those who want connectivity that comes to life as soon as you turn the key and remains active only for the trip.

$100 outright or free with a two-year contract

Starting September 11th, AT&T is giving the Mobley away for free if you sign a two-year contract, but it will sell the device contract-free for $100. A service plan will cost you $20 for 1GB of data or $30 for 3GB. Yet for $10 extra a month, you can add the Mobley to AT&T's Mobile Value Share plan and let it pull data from your monthly smartphone cache.

Correction at 2:05 p.m.An earlier version of this article implied the Mobley was the first mobile hotspot on the market that used a car’s ODB port. That is incorrect and the article has been updated with the correct information. We regret the error.