Nowadays, devices like smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and computers have become overwhelmingly popular. This has made Wi-Fi the most preferred and luxurious way of accessing the Internet. In almost every place – homes, cafes, offices, universities, etc. – it’s likely that you'll find wireless hotspots. But what is Wi-Fi, really?
If you are confused about this computer networking lingo, don’t be. This article covers everything you need to know about Wi-Fi Internet Providers.
Understanding Wi-Fi vs an Internet Service Provicer
Wi-Fi stands for wireless fidelity. It refers to a computer networking standard that allows digital devices to communicate and connect to the Internet without the need for fiddly cables. Unlike Ethernet, Wi-Fi connection is quite easy to establish, has super-fast transmission rates and allows mobility (but only within the range of the access point). This is the device in your home that might have an antenna and the device you'll want to be nearer to for better in-home internet connections. Think Netgear, Linksys and D-Link.
An Internet Service Provider is who you'll pay for ACCESS to the internet that's being wirelessly DISTRIBUTED through your home via a Wifi router. Think Comcast, CenturyLink and AT&T.
Wi-Fi is not the Internet itself. It’s a wireless connection that allows devices to communicate. The Internet is offered by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Best Wi-Fi Internet Service Providers
With the increased demand for Wi-Fi Internet across the globe, many ISPs continue to rock the market, each offering amazing offers to lure consumers. Here are the five well-known Wi-Fi ISPs across the country:
Verizon is arguably the best ISP with services in almost every part of the country. Although they are not cheap, their Internet is the perfect choice for anyone who does more than just emails and casual browsing.
Verizon’s monthly plans start at around $40 per months for standard usage. If you engage in data-heavy activities – gaming and streaming – you may want to choose Fios Gigabit Connection that offers speeds up to 940/880 Mbps for $80. Their major drawback is that they require at least a one-year service contract for the standard package and three years for the Fios plan.
Much like Verizon, Infinity is another popular ISP that offers the best of both worlds —reliable performance and some flexibility on overall Wi-Fi Internet experience. Their monthly plans for a Performance Plus package starts at $40 per month with download speeds of up to 60 Mbps. If you’re the type that enjoys binging without seeing that little loading circle, then you’ll want to give Xfinity Gigabit a try. For only $70 a month, this will offer speeds up to 1000 Mbps, better than Verizon Fios’s 940/880 Mbps plan.
If you are looking for the best value for the buck, Frontier packages are yours. Their monthly plans start at $30 every month for 25 Mbps and go all the way to $200 monthly for 1 Gig. The good thing about Frontier is that they don’t require contracts and have no data caps. Besides, they offer free Frontier Secure Personal Security for 12 months and a 2-year price guarantee. That means you have the freedom to surf the Internet, download, or stream as many games or movies as you can handle, and still don’t see any outrageous price hikes or surprises in your bill. Like every other ISP, however, Frontier’s value is determined by your location.
AT&T is widely known for its best customer satisfaction among fiber and DSL Internet consumers. The fact that AT&T owns DIRECTV makes it a great way to get one convenient bill for wireless Internet, TV, and home phone. Their monthly plans start at $30 for DIRECTV + Internet. The 1,000 Mbps plan makes AT&T a solid choice for those who want fast Internet speeds with high limits.
If you live in rural areas or can’t get fiber, cable or DSL, Viasat is a saving grace. The ISP does not only offer competitive speeds but has lucrative package perks. Their monthly packages start at $50 each month and require a two-year contract. Compared to other ISPs, Viasat is a bit pricey, and their highest speeds are only limited to country folks who don’t consider themselves heavy Internet users. Viasat isn’t the best choice for Gigabit Internet.
A Brief History of Wifi
Wi-Fi first came into existence back in back in 1971. It was developed as a demonstration of a wireless packet data network. At inception, Wi-Fi speeds were negligibly low, clocking at far less than 1 Mbps. In 1997, the introduction of 802.11 technologies by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) saw Wi-Fi speeds increase significantly.
Today, new Wi-Fi standards continue to emerge presenting an even wider array of potential frequencies as well as higher data transfer rates. The IEEE 802.11n, for instance, has capabilities of up to 600 Mbps. Newer standards like 802.11ac and 802.11ax are expected to open up a whole new realm of transmission speeds.
Even though Wi-Fi technologies are getting better by day, achieving actual speeds in the real world remains a challenge. Perhaps this is because of the omnipresent interference by:
- physical obstacles (such as walls and other barriers)
- other electronic devices (such as microwaves)
- the number of devices using the Wi-Fi network and more.
How Wi-Fi Internet Works
Wi-Fi signals are usually transmitted using radio frequency technology. To establish a wireless network in a typical environment, you’ll need an access point (AP) or router. This is a sophisticated modem that contains a very low-power radio transmitter and receiver, with a maximum range of up to 300 ft. Basically, the router has only two primary roles;
- To create a wireless connection that links all Wi-Fi capable phones, computers, etc.
- It supplies devices a shared gateway to the Internet.
Once the Wi-Fi is configured, signals can be redistributed to longer distances using Wi-Fi extenders, locked down and secured or left open for everyone to use freely. From there, all you need is to enable Wi-Fi settings on your gadget, pick the right router, enter the password (if any), and presto – you're connected. Your smartphone or computer may then be used to create hotspots from which other devices can connect and share files wirelessly.