Addicted to Wi-Fi

March 9, 2015
Wi-Fi has become the go-to wireless service and is even taking over cellular territory, in case you have not heard.
Image courtesy of Thinkstock.

You know what it feels like when there is a power failure. Everything shuts down and basically we can’t do anything. We feel helpless and get angry about it. Frustration sets in if the power is off for any period of time. Pure misery. That is a sure sign we are addicted to electrical power. 

The same feelings are now applied to Wi-Fi as most of us have become wireless addicts. Wi-Fi has become the go-to wireless service and is even taking over cellular territory, in case you have not heard.

If you want verification of this, just try to go for one day without using Wi-Fi. You probably use it at home on your Internet router.  And you probably use it at work. Most smartphones, tablets, or laptops connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi. When you travel, you use Wi-Fi in the airport or hotel. Most budget hotels offer it free as an incentive, but many high-end hotels still charge for it. Otherwise, you access it free in a restaurant or bar. You can even get it on planes, trains, and buses these days. Talk about ubiquitous.

When friends or relatives visit, one of the first things they do is ask for my Wi-Fi password. Then as soon as they can, they log on with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Most people are willing to share their Wi-Fi and you can usually ask someone in a restaurant or other public place for the password and they will willingly provide it. However, there are exceptions. I have a hard-case brother-in-law who won’t share his access point. He is paranoid that I will bring viruses and other attacks if I use it. Luckily, I can usually do what I want over a more expensive cellular connection.

If you want to see some real angst, just cut your kids off from the home Wi-Fi connection. It is almost as good as just taking the smartphone away. With no texting, Internet access, or online games, most teens go ballistic. Cutting off Wi-Fi access is the new teen equivalent of “grounding” or taking the car keys away.

Anyway, good luck in getting through your day with no Wi-Fi. Try it if you are not convinced that it is a real addiction.

Wi-Fi has become more like a public utility. It is hard to do without it. But now Wi-Fi is encroaching on cellular territory. Some wireless carriers already offload some traffic like email and texting to their Wi-Fi networks. Some carriers also offer Wi-Fi calling where voice traffic is shunted to Wi-Fi. There are even some companies that are specializing in Wi-Fi-only voice and Internet access. There are also services like Skype, Google Voice, and FaceTime that use Wi-Fi for phone calls. We have reached a point where you can almost drop your pricey cellular service and go all Wi-Fi. With literally millions of Wi-Fi hot spots worldwide, it is doable but with only a modest amount of inconvenience. And the price is right… almost free.

Wi-Fi just keeps getting better. We are in a transition period right now where many access points are being upgraded from 802.11n to the newer, faster 802.11ac. With more bandwidth in the 5 GHz band, greater capacity and higher speeds are available to handle the increasing traffic. If you have not upgraded your home Wi-Fi to 11ac yet, you will be surprised when you do. It is typically faster than your broadband Internet connection. That’s progress. It is good to be addicted to Wi-Fi. 

About the Author

Lou Frenzel | Technical Contributing Editor

Lou Frenzel is the Communications Technology Editor for Electronic Design Magazine where he writes articles, columns, blogs, technology reports, and online material on the wireless, communications and networking sectors. Lou has been with the magazine since 2005 and is also editor for Mobile Dev & Design online magazine.

Formerly, Lou was professor and department head at Austin Community College where he taught electronics for 5 years and occasionally teaches an Adjunct Professor. Lou has 25+ years experience in the electronics industry. He held VP positions at Heathkit and McGraw Hill. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston and a master’s degree from the University of Maryland. He is author of 20 books on computer and electronic subjects.

Lou Frenzel was born in Galveston, Texas and currently lives with his wife Joan in Austin, Texas. He is a long-time amateur radio operator (W5LEF).

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