The Role Of WiFi In Mobile Broadband!
WiFi plays a massive role in modern cellular data infrastructure,
including both prepaid and postpaid wireless carriers. First,
let's demystify what this
technology is all about! WiFi is a
wireless technology that is found in virtually
every modern computer and smartphone, usually used to connect
Internet. It's also now commonplace to find it in a
of other electronic devices
printers, gaming consoles, smartphones, televisions, media players,
external hard drives, and
sometimes even kitchen appliances. These WiFi-enabled devices
often referred to as "connected devices," meaning that they can be
connected to other standalone devices, or to the Internet.
a WiFi enabled printer, it allows you to print wirelessly from
anywhere in the general vicinity (i.e. in your home or office).
Indoors, you'll usually be
to connect to it within 32m or 120 feet (this is the general standard).
My printer has this
feature, and I'm able to print when I'm downstairs in the family room
to the printer upstairs in the office in the opposite corner of the
house. I find this
to be tremendously
convenient, and it reduces the number of cords and wires as well!
With a WiFi media player, you can download movies and stream
directly to your TV without the need for wires or memory cards (think
Roku or Google TV).
It really is an amazing technology that opens up worlds of
possibilities, and it's a standard that's been around for so long that
you can rest assured that it's not going anywhere anytime soon.
important aspect to keep in mind is that WiFi in and of itself is not
the Internet. It's basically a wireless protocol, which is a
fancy term for an industry accepted (and regulated)
standard. It allows you to connect, or network, two
or more devices together.
if you have an Internet connection with your
cable or home phone provider, you can buy a wireless router that
uses the WiFi standard, and if your computer
has a WiFi network card, you'll be able to connect your computer to
the router and thereby connect to the Internet. In
of the wireless printer example, the printer is not connected to the
Internet, so the wireless connection you're making is simply to allow
your computer to communicate with your printer to avoid the need to use
a cable. Of course, most modern connected printers are
to the Internet to download calendars, kids activities/coloring pages,
documents from your cloud folders, etc.
Wi-Fi Stand For?
often read that it stands for "Wireless Fidelity," however, that's
actually not correct. It's actually said to be a play on
to mirror the commonly used term "Hi-Fi," and is simply a more consumer
friendly term referring to the wireless networking IEEE 802.11
technology. There are a number of version of this standard
you may have heard of, including
802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g,
and 802.11n, 802.11ac...802.11ah, etc. Generally speaking,
and security standards. Newer versions are virtually always
compatible, which means that if you buy an 802.11.g router, it will
still work with your older computer than may only have the 802.11b
standard. You simply lose the benefit of the faster speed of
the newer version.
has the advantage of being very fast and secure, and can be used as a
Local Area Network (LAN) to connect to various devices without the need
for cables. It's also relatively inexpensive, and easy to
Note that you should make use of some basic built-in settings
neighbors or any other unauthorized users cannot access
your network and get free Internet access. Also, when
comparing a Wi-Fi connection to a
cellular Internet connection, Wi-Fi technology is so inexpensive that
wireless carriers work hard to get customers to use it instead of their
cellular connection; they call this Wi-Fi
. Even if they lose revenue from you
buying extra data, it's still less expensive than them having to build
out capacity to support that usage.
major disadvantage of WiFi is that its range is limited. As
above, one access point (i.e. your wireless router) usually reaches a
maximum of 32m
(120ft), which means that you can only use it in certain rooms in the
house (depending on how far you are from the base), or in coffee shops,
etc. You'll often hear of these different pockets of WiFi
referred to as "hot spots." As you get out of range of the
spot, the signal will become weak, and you'll lose the connection.
Later WiFi standards (ex. 802.11n and beyond) have longer
antennas on routers are continually improving. You can also
purchase signal repeaters, which you can plug in around the house;
these nifty devices basically re-broadcast the signal to enable greater
range. I use two of them in my home; one upstairs and one
Mobility vs. Speed
of its limited range, unlike a cell phone, you can't go anywhere you
want, or drive away from the hot spot and stay connected.
communities or even cities, have setup large grids of Wi-Fi routers to
enable people in those areas to be able to travel around and stay
connected. However, these Wide Area Networks (WANs) are not
confused with cellular networks, which are so vast that you can drive
across the country while maintaining a connection. To learn
about wireless (cellular) Internet, including prepaid options, you can
Every modern smartphone now includes Wi-Fi technology. While
this was not
historically the case, as providers were concerned about losing network
traffic (i.e. customer stickiness), now they're happy to offload data
traffic to avoid the high cost of building out high speed broadband
networks. Given all
of the free hot spots around these days, it allows cellular customers
to connect to
local hot spots (ex. coffee shops) and home
networks to access the
Internet without having to use their cellular connection. So
what? Well, because you usually have a monthly data allowance
(i.e. limit), or pay for each MB you use,
connecting to a Wi-Fi networks will save you money!
So What's Prepaid WiFi
now that you know what WiFi is and how it's used, you may be wondering
how it relates to prepaid WiFi! Well, in terms of having your
network at home to connect to the Internet connection you already have,
or connecting to your printer, it's completely unrelated, because
that's all free!
There was a time where certain companies were building
relationships with WiFi providers across the country, and selling
prepaid bundles that was much more cost effective and effiicient than
paying each time you connected. However, these companies
essentially no longer exist. Free hotspots became so
that it no longer made sense to pay for such access. So where
prepaid WiFi comes into play now is on airplanes (think Gogo inflight
access) and hotels, where you buy service for a set period by the hour
or day. I personally find these options to still be very
expensive, so I'd rather bring my own Wireless
Understanding WiFi and how to take advantage of it while using
smartphone is wise. However, buying prepaid WiFi plans with
frequency (in airplanes and hotels) is usually not a good value.
Free hotspots are so pervasive, and Prepaid
are so inexpensive, that you're better off going that
route wherever possible (of course they don't work in airplanes!).
A Bit Of History
At one point (in 2010) Sprint had begun decent rollouts
new type of WiFi open standard network technology called
player at the time was a company called Clearwire, which was a
Sprint Nextel, Comcast, Google, Intel, and Time Warner (Sprint
eventually bought 100% in 2013). In
December 2008, Clearwire actually changed its name to just "Clear."
some pretty heavy hitting companies that had teamed up to build
out WiMAX, which was essentially the same idea as
however, on the same
national scale and coverage as cellular networks. It's
WAN or Wide Area Network. Because it's based on an open
technology, the thought was that you'd be able to have speeds that are
much faster than existing 3G networks at the time
(WiMAX was referred
as 4G), and at a much lower cost that other proprietary network
technologies like LTE.
service that Sprint
launched was called Xohm, and they spent several years rolling it out,
took some time to become truly nationwide, and they never actually
achieved that goal. Sprint actually
canned the Xohm
name following the merger with Clearwire, which it had a majority
ownership in; they called the new company Clear. Sprint chose
WiMAX as its
next generation 4G network because the technology was real and already
existed, whereas 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) was another upcoming
standard that most of the rest of the world was expecting to migrate to
as the next standard for highspeed broadband. Ultimately,
Sprint gave up on WiMAX in favor of LTE, but enjoyed almost two years
head start of 4G compared to its competitors. History has
shown that despite this head start, they were ultimately late to the 4G
LTE game, which became the worldwide standard, and the cost of managing
what was to become an obsolete technology was massive. In
other words, they took a bet and failed.
and Prepaid WiMAX
, and its interesting history.