While traveling to different locations, many people experience slower internet and remote connection speeds while connected to public wi-fi. Many have wondered why this happens since the same laptops, tablets, and mobile devices work perfectly fine when they’re at home or at the office. There are a variety of reasons you experience internet performance issues when at the airport, on a plane, or at a hotel. These range from internet equipment and speed of service, proximity to internet devices, and imposed security or bandwidth limitations imposed by whoever is managing the internet.
The Golden Rule of Public Wifi: Don’t expect too much. No matter where you are, if you’re using public wifi, you’re sharing it with other people. If there are a LOT of other people, it’s probably going to be slow. If the service there is bad to begin with, it’s going to be slow. If you’re moving at speeds of 400+mph, it’s going to be sloooow.
Sharing Airplane Wifi: The World’s Smallest Slice of Pizza
Airplanes are only capable of providing a certain amount of bandwidth, and that is shared amongst all passengers who either buy-in or are using the service complimentary of the airline. Think of it as if the plane has only one pizza for all of the passengers to share. The more passengers that want pizza, the smaller the slice available to you.
While airplane Wi-Fi is improving as better technology is being implemented, it is still laborious if your needs require a lot of bandwidth – for instance while attempting to connect remotely into your office.
Hotel Wifi: The World’s Saddest Connection
Similar to being on a plane, when you’re in a hotel you share wifi with others on the network. The difference is when you are granted access to the wifi in many hotels, you are allocated a specific amount of bandwidth regardless of how many others are using it. So, whether there’s 8 people there or 200, you’re going to get about the same speed.
Hotel wifi also varies based on the quality of equipment they use. Many use lower-tier devices that provide a low quality of service.
Some hotels have decent equipment, but use it as a tool to syphon a few extra dollars out of their patron’s accounts by offering higher speed plans when they’re frustrated with complimentary throttled service.
Mobile Hotspots: Saving Grace or total Disgrace?
Mobile hotspots can be separate devices or built right into your smartphone, and allow you to use their internet connection on other devices like any other wireless access point you may use at home or the office.
Unlike at home or the office – Mobile hotspots provide a variety of speeds based on where you are. Just like when you’re off the grid on your favorite remote hiking trails or camp site and your cell signal is super spotty and weak, you can expect your connection to that hotspot to be the same way if not worse.
If you’ve got a great stable connection on your device, you can expect adequate performance from the mobile hotspot.
One more thing about wifi hotspots: While some of these hotspots are free, some require a subscription depending on your mobile provider, so watch out for fees!
What Have We Learned?
Expect public wifi to be less awesome than at home or the office.
If you have additional questions about public wifi performance and usage, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 312-474-9400!