The Internet is an integral part of our lives – some of us are probably more dependent on it than we would like to be. Fortunately, the market offers plenty of ways to access the Internet anywhere — either through a travel modem, a satellite dish, or a free public hotspot. Of course, these options are not really interchangeable, with each occupying its own niche. Below is a close look at the popular ways of getting online, along with highlights of their strengths and weaknesses.
Strictly speaking, the only way to get online from anywhere is through a satellite Internet connection. The satellite method has been a media darling for the last few years thanks to the still ongoing Starlink project. However, satellite Internet providers have actually been on the market for quite some time now.
The biggest advantage of this option is availability. With satellites, there’s no need for laying trunk lines or having a massive tower — all you need is the sky above (so yes, it often doesn’t work in a cave — at least without an antenna). A satellite makes it a perfect match for remote areas and regions with underdeveloped communication infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the sky is not exactly an industry-grade data transfer medium and will create interference by simply acting like nature. Various forms of precipitation and other weather conditions can deteriorate the quality of the satellite signal.
And the drawbacks do not end there. Getting a satellite signal, let alone sending data yourself, requires much larger equipment than a portable WiFi device — think a sizeable dish plus a satellite modem. In other words, this is by no means an easy portable solution.
A more realistic way of getting wireless Internet anywhere is by connecting to an available WiFi hotspot. Such hotspots come in two varieties — free WiFi provided by various amenities and services that offer connection for a fee.
The former is a familiar option that can be found at your local Starbucks or in the airport. However, while it is free, it rarely works at decent speeds sufficient only for simple activities like messaging and checking mail. More importantly, to get a secure Internet connection from a cafe, you are expected to know how to stay safe on public WiFi. Even with all the precautions, you’ll still be better off using a travel modem for sensitive operations like online banking.
The second option is somewhat more intricate. Recently, several startups came up with the idea of a service that lets users rent unused Internet bandwidth. This is actually a clever idea that, theoretically, should benefit everyone. Unfortunately, it is still in its infancy, so the coverage is quite scarce. Cost-efficiency is also far from optimal – sometimes, the Internet comes at a higher price than simply using your own WiFi anywhere device. In other words, it is a promising direction to look into but not a reliable method as of now.
It may not have occurred to you, but you are already carrying around a pocket WiFi — your phone. You can turn it into a WiFi hotspot for your laptop or any other device that works with the wireless network protocol by using mobile tethering. This can be especially handy if you can’t accomplish the task through the phone directly — for example, when you have software on your PC that you need to communicate with a server.
Modern phones also support several simultaneous connections, so you can share the Internet with several friends or co-workers.
Keep in mind, however, that it comes at a cost. For starters, it requires a working mobile connection, so it’s not exactly an international pocket WiFi. Even with no roaming involved, the total bandwidth of such a connection will be limited by your data plan.
On top of that, mobile tethering is taxing for the device, so be ready for a drained battery after prolonged use. In other words, it is a handy backup plan but not a particularly universal one.
Perhaps the most versatile and convenient solution for going online from anywhere is a portable WiFi device. In broad terms, it is a middle ground between a satellite modem and a tethered connection. A modern travel modem is a lightweight, energy-efficient device that supports multiple connections, works with several data plans, and may come with integrated security measures like a built-in VPN.
Of course, it is still limited by its data plan’s bandwidth and connection speed. However, a dedicated travel WiFi device will probably offer several options to choose from. It will also not work without cellular coverage, which may be an issue for sparsely populated areas. Otherwise, when it comes to using WiFi internationally, it strikes a balance between convenience and reliability.
There is no shortage of ways to get online nowadays, with new creative options emerging nearly every year. Some are suitable for casual browsing, while others require industry-grade equipment. It is totally reasonable to expect that in the near future, we will have services that are more secure, convenient, affordable, and powerful than anything we have now.
However, even today, it is possible to choose the one that suits you perfectly — you just need to know what you are looking for.
Content Marketing Specialist and Author at Rioks with a passion for writing about Customer Experience, Marketing and sometimes even Tech. Professional Foodie, Swimmer, and Travel addicted.