Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, are designed to make money. As such, the monthly prices they charge tend to rise each year. Luckily, there are other ways to gain an internet connection at home or elsewhere. Typically, each method is far less expensive than going with an ISP.
If you have a smartphone, the odds are pretty good you can tether its cellular connection to other devices in your home. Best of all, most providers now include tethering in unlimited monthly packages. And if they don’t, you can add tethering for less than you’d probably expect.
When deciding whether to tether to your mobile phone or cellular tablet, there are essential points to consider. First, you need to know how much data you’re allowed to use per month. Second, find out the minimum connection speed.
Even if your mobile plan offers unlimited streaming, there’s probably a cap, after which the data speed will drop until the beginning of the next billing cycle. Most programs provide 4G LTE streaming, which drops to 3G after you reach your monthly cap. Even when you pass your limit, you can purchase additional data (1GB or 2GB at a time) for a low fee that will bring your speed back to normal levels.
You also need to see how many concurrent users you can have and whether the speed that’s offered is enough for you.
Tethering is the best option if your goal is to bring an internet connection to a limited number of devices. Otherwise, there are other solutions available.
If you already own a smartphone, you might wonder why you even need a mobile hotspot. The reason is you’re busy doing other things with your phone each day, and most of those tasks also require a cellular connection, which might slow things down on all of your devices. A mobile hotspot is also beneficial since it can handle more connections than a smartphone or tablet can through tethering.
Mobile hotspots are typically offered through your cellular provider, and that’s who you should go with from a budget standpoint. Adding the hotspot to your current account won’t cost as much every month when compared to buying something separately.
For Verizon customers, we recommend the Inseego Jetpack MiFi 8800L, while AT&T customers should consider the Nighthawk LTE Mobile Hotspot. T-Mobile and Sprint recently merged, so things are someone fluid here. For now, we recommend the Alcatel LinkZone 2.
The mobile hotspots landscape changes rapidly, so your best bet is to contact your cellular provider for recommendations. Before agreeing to anything, find out what data speeds you should expect in your location using the device and how many concurrent connections are possible.
Before COVID-19 hit, you might have spent much of your time online using free public Wi-Fi at Starbucks, a public library, or other location. Those connections remain even during social distancing, although there are essential points to consider.
Public Wi-Fi, by its very nature, isn’t nearly as secure as a private Wi-Fi connection, which means you shouldn’t be using it to perform essential tasks online such as banking or making purchases. The public Wi-Fi to avoid more than any other are ones that don’t require a sign-in to gain access. Avoid these, and don’t look back.
Travelers will want to check out Wi-Fi dongles, a pocket-size device that can connect to your smartphone, tablet, or laptop with ease. Portable, convenient, and affordable, these devices come in various designs and are ideally suited for business trips and vacations. One of the strongest selling points of the adapters is that they aren’t highly insecure like public Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi adapters work with 3G or 4G LTE SIM cards and are light-weight. Unfortunately, they come with some significant drawbacks. First, don’t expect superior signal strength or Wi-Fi speed. The range is also much smaller than what a hotspot can provide.
In a pinch, a Wi-Fi dongle comes highly recommended.
Sharing Is Caring
In the early days of wireless Wi-Fi, users would often forget to secure their connection. As a result, nearby neighbors could simply type in the name of the internet connection and surf the web for free. That’s rarely the case anymore as users have become more tech-savvy. And yet, sharing Wi-Fi could still be a practical and economical solution in some situations.
If you live in close quarters and are friendly with your neighbors, it might be beneficial for all parties to share a connection and split the monthly bill. Assuming the range is decent, and the walls between both locations make sharing a connection feasible, go for it. Before doing so, however, it’s essential to agree on the monthly price for both parties and whether there are data limits. A discussion on how to secure the connection is also necessary and how many concurrent connections are appropriate.
One Final Note
You’ve come here looking for a Wi-Fi solution that doesn’t involve dealing with an internet service provider. Perhaps you’ve grown tired of your existing service and its high prices. One solution not mentioned above is to shop around or try and negotiate better terms with your provider. In my area, for example, there’s a healthy back and forth between the local cable provider and phone companies. As a result, there are deals on both sides that are sometimes significant. In some situations, the best solution might be to switch back and forth between various ISPs every year always to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Before shopping around, you could also call your ISP and see if they’ll give you a better rate simply because you called. You shouldn’t have to call to get a better deal, of course. However, that’s how many of these companies operate, especially if you tell them you’re considering canceling the service.
The bottom line: There are internet solutions that don’t require an ISP. Look around and do so often since technology is always changing. Happy shopping!