If you’ve never used wireless internet before, you’re missing out. It’s very convenient. Wireless internet gives you the ability to browse the internet and work from your computer anywhere you’d like, as long as you’re within a wi-fi signal. So you’re no longer chained to a desk day in and day out.
Sounds good, right?
So, if you want to know more about what wi-fi is and how it can improve your day to day life, then continue reading. This article will explain just that.
What the Heck is Wireless Internet?
Wireless internet is internet without wires — no fixed lines at all. So you need to be within a wireless signal in order to connect to the internet.
This differs from mobile internet because mobile internet uses 3 (or 4) G technology, the same as your cell phone. With mobile internet you don’t need to be near a (router) wi-fi signal, but instead within the range of your provider’s towers.
So that means that with “wi-fi” internet you won’t have the range or flexibility that mobile internet does. You will have to be inside your home or an establishment that has wireless internet hooked up.
Wireless Internet Equipment – What Do You Need?
To gain access to the internet wirelessly you’ll need some equipment:
- Modem – A modem is required (fixed or wireless lines) to be hooked up to the internet. Modems take analog information and convert it to digital so that your computer can display it.
- Router – Routers take the information from the modem and “route” it to your computer(s).
- Wireless Card or USB – You need something that can accept the signal sent from your router. That’s what a wireless card or USB does. They’re basically an external modem.
A wireless card, USB or modem isn’t always needed, though. Many laptops have built in modems that can receive internet signals. Tablets and cell phones do too.
All of this equipment can be rented or purchased through your ISP, or you can buy your own from an electronics store or online through Amazon or Newegg.com. Expect to pay $30 to $200 for a router and modem, and $10 to $200 for a wireless card, USB or modem for your laptop.
Do ISPs Offer Wireless Internet Service?
There aren’t too many service providers who offer a true wireless service. In other words, no fixed line at all, but just a wireless router and modem.
Clear Wireless is the only major ISP that offers this. They provide you with a wireless modem and router, and their packages are similar to 3G internet. The difference, at least with Clear Wireless, is that they have unlimited data plans. Good thing too, since a data cap would make their service pointless for regular home use. They also don’t have annual contracts.
But you don’t need a special ISP for wireless internet service, and if you already have internet service you’re most of the way there, anyway. You just need the equipment I mentioned above, installed and configured correctly. Other than the cost of your equipment, adding wi-fi to your home network shouldn’t cost you anything extra either.
Wireless Internet Coverage
Wireless internet coverage will depend on your equipment, and a little on how it’s setup. For example, you can expect better wi-fi signal strength from routers with multiple antennas, and if those antennas are pointed towards your laptop or tablet. As a general rule of thumb, though, you can expect wireless coverage to be 100-300 feet.
Keep in mind though the more people using the connection, or the further away you get, the lower the quality the signal and speed. Being outside/inside your house will also affect your signal strength and internet speed.
Free Wireless (Wi-Fi) Coverage
There are plenty of free wireless opportunities that allow you to connect to the internet at no cost to you (besides being in your own home).
First off, I want to clarify that using your neighbor’s internet isn’t “free” internet. If you don’t have permission then it’s stealing, which is illegal in many states.
Actual free wi-fi internet is generally available in larger establishments, such as coffee shops like Starbucks or restaurants like McDonalds or Sharris. These are wi-fi “hotspots” – areas where there is a wi-fi connection that patrons can use for free – usually while enjoying the service provided by the establishment.
More and more businesses are offering free wi-fi to their customers. It’s nice, especially if you’re having something worked on (your car) or waiting for someone to finish up with their appointment. You can use your laptop, tablet or even your phone without having to pay for internet (3G) service.