The Pros and Cons of Wireless Internet Service Providers

The age of 4G is upon us and it’s time to talk Wireless Internet Service Providers or WISPs. The term 4G refers to the fourth generation of wireless technology and sets its standard for data transfer at a mind-boggling 100 Megabits per second.

And while the 4G revolution is already a fait accompli in our major urban centers – San Francisco CLEAR 4G? check, Boston CLEAR 4G? check, Dallas CLEAR 4G? check – the 4G revolution has not yet spread to the more humble hamlets of the homeland… yet. However, anticipating that it soon will, (a prediction about as safe as claiming that water runs downhill or that the Detroit Lions will have another losing season), this article presents some tips you may find useful.

Why Go With a WISP?

First, don’t confuse a wireless internet service provider with a wireless home network just because they both have the word ‘wireless’ in them. A WISP is also known as mobile broadband, which, as the term ‘mobile’ denotes, means you can still stay connected at high speeds beyond your castle’s walls. A wireless home network, on the other hand, has boundaries that only allow you to connect to the internet within a certain distance from your router.

So what are the advantages of going with a WISP? Well, the first is some major mobility. Unlike real estate where it’s all about location, location, location, a good wireless service provider gives you ‘location obliteration’ – the power to plug yourself in from wherever your ‘sniffer,’ the software your WISP gives you to locate and access a hot spot, can detect a sufficiently strong signal.

Secondly, the increase in speed means you no longer have to confine yourself to merely emailing or texting – you can send and receive larger files just as easily. For example, say you want to sit in a tree in a city park while sharing the calls of the local songbirds you’re hearing with a fellow ornithologist up a tree 3000 miles away. Unless there’s an anti-tree climbing ordinance in your area, such things are now possible. Also, with wireless internet providers increasingly offering nationwide coverage, it is becoming more and more possible for entire flocks of ornithologists to climb trees and share songbird calls in real time, especially with those mind-blowing 4G download speeds.

What’s the Catch?

Okay, so the advantages of upgrading to a 4G wireless internet service provider are obvious – one can power up, plug in, and play along wherever the signal allows – but what are the drawbacks? Well, for one, 4G is still largely limited to major cities. You may be as mobile as an air-conditioned gypsy, but even an air-conditioned gypsy can’t work from inside a dead zone, at least not on the net.

Without a doubt, the extent of the nation’s dead zones will continue to shrink, but since the 4G networks are much like cell phone towers – an expensive infrastructure that often does not reach into low population density areas – the problem of dead zones will persist into the foreseeable future.

Then there’s the issue of security. While improvements have been made in ensuring that your connection is really your connection, it is nevertheless more than a little prudent to invest in a top of the line anti-virus program. You also may want to hold off on any online credit card purchases until you’re sure you have an encrypted connection.

Speaking of money, there may also be an initial investment in new equipment such as a wireless adapter, a device which ensures that your device is compatible with the protocols of your preferred WISP. Finally, an important consideration involves the fee of the service itself. Since WISPs are not charitable organizations, the service for 4G can be expensive to those of us on tight budgets.

Therefore, before deciding on signing up for a WISP, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would working from more than one location with internet in my city increase my efficiency and/or effectiveness? Yes? Go wireless.
  • Do I travel to other big cities a lot for work? If yes, go find a WISP.
  • Do I spend a lot of time in taxis, trains or airports? If yes, go find a WISP.
  • Did I say ‘no’ to all of the above but still enjoy playing lots of games and/or downloading feature films. Yes? Then, no, you do not need a WISP. (A library card maybe, but not a WISP.)
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