A Guide to Wireless Internet for Your Home or Office

I can tell you from personal experience that working on the computer from one location in your house can be boring, and at times inconvenient. Sometimes you want to work (or play) while sitting on the couch with family watching TV.

However, in order to do that you need to setup wireless internet in your house. This guide will walk you through what you need to know about wireless internet so you can do that.

Difference Between Wireless & 3g/4g

When talking about internet connections it’s important to distinguish the differences between wireless or “wi-fi” and 3g (and 4g). Especially since the point of this article will be to talk about wireless internet that you can get at home.

WiFi, or wireless internet, is accessing the internet while near an internet connection. This is usually in your home, motel or coffee shop. Anywhere someone has a router setup. Wireless coverage is for the most part free, although some places might charge you to use it.

3g internet access (mobile internet), on the other hand, is identical to the 3g available on cell phones. Instead of having to be near an internet connection and router, you just need to be within a cell phone tower’s range. If you can get access on your phone, you should be able to get internet on your laptop or tablet.

The downside to 3g, though, is that it will cost you money to use it. The prices can be comparable to the prices you pay for an internet connection in your home. The costs really add up if you exceed your data plan.

What Areas Do Your Local ISPs Cover?

Coverage may or may not be important. If you already have an internet connection and you’re just looking to add Wi-Fi capabilities, then in most cases it’ll be a matter of picking up the equipment you need to get started.

If you don’t already have internet connection then coverage will be important. You’ll want to check each internet service provider (ISP) in your area and see if they offer service, as well as the type of connections. We go into more depth on how to do this in our internet buying guide.

If you want 100% wireless, the best advice I can give you is to really zoom in on the map and make sure the coverage is adequate and strong. Most ISP coverage maps will have different colors to show how good or strong the signal. Since this will likely be your primary source of internet for your home I wouldn’t settle on any ol’ internet provider.

Wireless Internet Equipment You May Need

Specific equipment is needed to run wireless connections. At the bare minimum you’ll need a wireless router. This will take the information from your modem and send it to your device that has a built in modem. However, depending on the device you’re using you might need to buy a modem for it as well.

Here is a list of the equipment you may or may not need to by to get your wireless internet up and running.

Wireless Router – A wireless router is needed so that it can take the information sent by the modem and “route” it to your wireless device(s).

Modem – If this is your first internet connection you’ll need to buy a modem. This is where all of your information from the internet goes to (first) before being transferred to you.

Depending on the device you have you might need to buy a second modem. Most laptops nowadays have built in modems, as well as any tablets or phones with Wi-Fi capabilities. However, if your laptop doesn’t have a modem built in, you might need to buy an external modem. There are a couple of options for this; a USB “stick” or one that is a cross between a USB stick and a credit card. Both will plug into your USB port on your computer.

It’s also possible to buy wireless router and modem combos. Some of these are as wireless as they can get, only needing the power cord. Others still might require that you have your DSL/cable plugged in. Going with a combo is slightly expensive, although not much more if you were to buy both devices separate. The biggest downside though is if the device fails; you’ll lose both your modem and router.

Reading Your Internet Service Contract

Similar to your coverage, the contract aspect of things may or may not matter to you. If you already have service and just plan on adding Wi-Fi capabilities then you should already be familiar with your contract.

But if you’re not, or if you’ve never signed up for internet before, here are a couple of things you might want to think about.

What is Your Data Plan?

From what I’ve seen data usage or data caps shouldn’t be a problem. That’s because most ISPs I’ve found don’t offer a 100% wireless solution other than Clear. And their plans have unlimited data plans.

That said, I can’t speak for every ISP. There are several that I may not be aware of. So if you go with a wireless solution similar to Clear, just be sure to read the fine print to see if there is a data cap, what it is and the costs for exceeding that limit.

Annual Contracts or Month to Month Plans

Most ISPs that you sign up with will require that you signup for a minimum of a year or two, with costly penalties if you cancel before the time is up. It can cost you as much as $200 for canceling early, and some ISPs add an additional charge of $5 or $10 per month for however many months you have left.

Some companies will offer month to month contracts. But be aware that the service might be more expensive that way (compared to a long term contract) and that the equipment you buy might be too, as opposed to being discounted or free.