WiFi Internet Options for Tiny Houses
Several months ago, I covered only the wired tiny home internet options like DSL, Cable, and Fiber Optics (← click the link to this post which I DO recommend reading first). In that post, I also covered relevant concepts like the relationship between data usage and data caps. In this post, I will cover Wifi internet options of tiny home internet options.
Unlike wired tiny home internet options, wifi internet options don’t require the modem/router to be directly connected to a local network(via cable or wires) but needs to be under the area of coverage of the carrier network so the modem/router can pick up wireless signals. Also, there needs to be little to no bad weather or obstacles(like trees and mountains) to minimize signal degradation.
Similar to the previous post, I will first go over the pros and cons of using wifi internet options, then I’ll cover the main wifi internet options in-depth, and finally, I will go over where to purchase data plans and equipment needed to implement one’s chosen wifi options.
I.Wifi Internet Options for Tiny Houses
- Wifi internet options are less complicated to sort through than wired internet options because choosing between wired internet options and brands meant having to know what kind and how the network topology was laid locally with respect to the tiny house property; then there are the technical issues with regards to installing extensions.
- Wifi internet options CAN be cheaper because no costly extensions are needed; the rest of the auxiliaries like routers, modems, and monthly plans would cost similarly to those used in wired tiny home options.
- Wifi internet access enables computers to be much more location-independent than wired connections; thus making internet more accessible for tiny houses on wheels and remote off-grid places.
- Signals travelling through air are subject to more interference, the greater attenuation causes wireless data rates to often be less than that of wired internet connections. As a result, wifi networks generally can’t utilize bandwidth as well as wired networks can.
- It is quite difficult to find wifi data plans that can satisfy full-time internet usage because nearly all such plans have data caps that are capped too low. It also becomes very expensive to buy additional GBs on top of an existing data capped pan. Lastly, there are only few wifi providers that offer unlimited data plans.
A.Mobile WiFi(MiFi) Hotspots
These WiFi hotspots are modems that work by picking up cellular signals from nearby cell towers and then converts the signal into a form usable by laptops/towers; the hotspot can then distribute the signal to nearby devices (since they generally have built-in routing capabilities). The term “hotspot” comes from the fact that anywhere a wi-fi modem is placed becomes a physical location where people can access the internet; hence the term “hotspot”. Because the hotspot is portable, one should have internet connectivity anywhere within the carrier plan’s geographical coverage.
In order to connect a wireless device(like a laptop) to a mobile hotspot, the SSID of the hotspot needs to be inserted into the laptop’s network settings. This tells the laptop to acknowledge the hotspot as part of the same LAN and hotspot knows to communicate with the laptop since it has the inserted SSID value. More specific instructions should be found with the actual product.
Regarding the reception distance for cellular broadband signals, it varies depending on the cell tower, service provider, equipment standard(i.e. 4G or LTE), and etc. But to give some idea, a relatively flat terrain with little obstacles to signals(like trees) can enable a cell tower to send signals as far as 50+ km. On the other hand, a hilly place that interferes with cell signals can make the reception distance as small as ~7 km.
Before going any further, one needs to know what terms like “2G”, “3G”, and “4G” mean because they will be heard a lot when discussing wireless broadband in any capacity. These describe what network generation the broadband connection is using.
Mobile Phone Generations:
i.)1G: Staring from the 1980s, this 1st generation of cellular broadband used modulated analog signals at >150 MHz. 1G is outdated today since the later generations utilized digital signals which have many advantages over analog signals like less noise and static. 1G shouldn’t even be brought up for wireless internet for any reason.
ii.)2G: This generation was the first to utilize digital signals; these signals were the first to be encrypted. Also, features like SMS text messaging were introduced but system couldn’t handle complex data of videos. A later update called 2.5G is what enabled cellular internet to first be possible as web browsing, emailing, and even sending photos online were enabled. A 2G network that can support wireless internet browsing is actually using at least a 2.5G network(but still called ‘2G’). The average data rates for 2G is about 60-150 kbps; which is slow by today’s standards.
However, despite being a low-gen, 2G is relatively common in developing and third world countries world-wide since 3G/4G hasn’t fully caught on in those regions. Despite low bandwidth, it’s important to know that if by any chance one’s tiny house happens to be in one of those regions, 2G may become your first available option if not 3G/4G.
In first world countries, complete 2G plans are nearly gone in favor of the newer 3G/4G plans. However, in many “unlimited” plans offered by companies like Sprint and AT&T, they first offer 4G levels of speed for the first several GBs(the amount depends on purchased plan), then the user is switched over to a 2G network until the next billing cycle.
iii.)3G: Building upon 2.5G, 3G cellular has introduced many of the common features of today’s web browsing and internet usage including:
- sending/receiving large email messages
- video conferencing
- 3D gaming
- mobile TV
- TV streaming
- and phone calls.
Also, the bandwidth is faster and it ranges from about 150 kbps to 6 Mbps. It is with 3G that wireless internet for cellphones and laptops became viable as the bandwidth has become high enough for higher quality and robust signals, for the above listed activities, even when the receiving node(cell phone or laptop) is moving(i.e. walking or driving). Additionally, the data rates, power usage, and costs of 3G is higher than 2G but less than 4G; that isn’t much given that 4G/LTE is now the norm.
In first world countries, 3G plans are still around, but are now overshadowed by 4G/LTE plans and will slowly phase out. In some developing and third world regions, 3G is becoming or is already viable and should be chosen over 2G if possible. Lastly, some carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile offer “unlimited” plans which first provide offer 4G/LTE coverage for the first several GBs and then switch over to 3G instead of 2G.
iv.)4G: 4G already supports all the features and applications provided by 3G and below. 4G is currently at the forefront of cellular internet. The main benefit is that the 4G standard provides the fastest wireless speeds with data rates ranging from 10-50 Mbps. Also, 4G consumes the most power and its plans are among the most expensive.
There is also LTE(Long Term Evolution) which can be considered a separate standard, but it is officially considered part of 4G due to various circumstances; it is sometimes called 4G LTE. The data rates of LTE are higher than the usual 4G, but the performance difference isn’t too noticeable given the already large data rate.
With high bandwidth and data rates, there is virtually no online activity that will run slowly under 4G coverage and connectivity. However, continuous 4G/LTE wireless heavy usage is almost unfeasible since data caps tend to be too low and most 4G/LTE “unlimited” plans throttle after several GBs.
v.)5G: While 5G doesn’t exist yet, it is scheduled to become the next generation after 4G. 5G solutions will probably be on the market by around the early 2020s. The major goal of 5G is to be able provide tens to hundreds of Mbits/sec of data to tens of thousands of users at once. Other goals include reduced latency, greater spectral efficiency, improved coverage, and etc. in comparison to current existing 4G/LTE coverage. While 5G is currently not relevant, I wanted to give you a heads up.
Costs of Mobile Hotspots and Auxiliaries:
i.)Hotspot Plan Types & Costs: Before deciding on a mobile hotspot to purchase, first is to determine what kind of data plan will be needed as everyone’s data usage varies. Data plans offered for most cell phones(and thus hotspots) are usually capped at 0.5-12 GB and cost about $20-$80/month, respectively. However, 0.5-12 GB is too little for laptop and PC usage. As stated in the previous post, if one’s internet usage minimizes online gaming and streaming TV shows/movies, the data usage would be around 30-50 GB.
Usually, the buyer can purchase additional GBs on top of a standard 0.5-12 GB data capped plan until the usage reaches 30-50 GB. However buying 30-50 GB/month this way is expensive and unrealistic because the monthly data cost ranges at $225-$375/month!!! Check out this article which compares plans provided by the major carriers to see for yourself.
Instead of paying $225-$375/month for 30-50 GB, it would be better to purchase an unlimited plan instead. Unlimited plans are offered primarily for 3G/4G/LTE networks; there are two types of unlimited plans:
- As explained earlier, the first type is where the 4G/LTE plans offers full bandwidth for a specified number of GB(≤ 30 GB depending on the plan) and then throttles after all the GBs are used up; the throttling can be done by lowering the dedicated bandwidth or by switching to a 3G/2G network(3G is preferable). This costs at a much more reasonable $60-$100/month. Several major carriers that provide wide area coverage nationally offer this type of unlimited service.
- There is also “true unlimited” where the plan offers 4G/LTE data with little to no throttling for the entire billing cycle. Due to many carriers seeing the benefits of implementing data caps from a cost and profit perspective, only few carriers, with nationwide coverage, offer true unlimited plans. As a result, it is difficult to find a carrier offering true unlimited. The lowest price for a true unlimited plan is about $75-100/month, but can be greater depending on the carrier and due to the fact that true unlimited is more valuable than unlimited with throttling.
Regarding the 1st option, if one does not engage in high data-rate activities frequently(i.e. HD streaming), the drop to 3G/2G won’t be too big a deal as standard webpage surfing, emailing, YouTube(non-HD), and social media can still be viable. However, if one must pick an unlimited plan with throttling; it would preferably one that throttles down to 3G as it is notable faster than 2G. Throttling down from 4G/LTE to 3G would only increase data download time for online activities by few seconds; throttling down to 2G would increase the data download time to several seconds to even few minutes. Read this link for a comparison on how 2G, 3G, and 4G perform against each other.
On the other hand, if one frequently engages in high data-rate activities, then one has to find a true unlimited plan as well as obtain a compatible mobile hotspot.
ii.)Mobile Hotspot Types & Costs: After choosing a plan(and determining if the carrier offers any hotspot options); then comes buying a compatible mobile hotspot. Many carriers, especially for major carriers, that already sell cellular data plans will already have hotspot options. When eventually obtaining a hotspot, it can exist in one of the following forms:
The left-most hotspot is the most standard one. As described earlier, it is basically a portable modem that picks up signals from nearby cellphone towers and routes the signal to a maximum nearby devices(preferably wireless). On the lower end, the hotspot modem by itself should cost $20-$80/each; they can reach as high as $100-$200+/each.
Another variant of the standard hotspot are USB hotspot(in the middle). This will convert and route the cellular signal ONLY to the attached device. Most USB hotspot modems should cost around $10-$80+/each. Standard 3G/4G USB modems are be relatively cheap; high-functionality 4G LTE USB modems can easily pass $100+.
iii.) Hotspot Modem Rental Costs: Renting a hotspot modem is also viable for some situations. The upfront costs, which includes the device(s) purchase and the carrier plan bill for the 1st month, are more expensive, but the long term costs are much lower. Here are two kinds of rental schemes your are likely to come across:
- One can pay monthly for a carrier plan and rent a hotspot modem.If one already purchased a carrier plan, the carrier can lease a modem for about $2-$10+/month; a plan and rental modem together is roughly ~$60-100/month.
- One can pay monthly for a hotspot modem with already built-in high speed internet. This commonly charges at around $5-$15/day (this is at least $150/month).
Renting a hotspot modem should be considered for short-term use as the costs become greater over the long run. If one only needs a hotspot for few months at most, the first type of rental is recommended. The later is recommended if one only needs a mobile hotspot for 0-3 weeks at most when the total rental fee doesn’t become too high. A minor benefit to hotspot modem renting is that the carrier will be responsible for the modem functionality as the carrier is technically the owner.
I won’t be going any further regarding hotspot rental and relevant companies, even in the last section, as this post is mainly for those who are need of a long-term wireless internet option. I only brought up hotspot rental as another consideration.
iv.)Activation Fee and Ending: Finally, there is a “hidden fee” called an activation fee that some carriers may charge. This is an access fee for each device that is to be connected to the selected carrier. If there are 2 devices(1 cellphone & 1 mobile hotspot), one would have to pay an activation fee for each device. Additionally, one may have to pay a new activation fee if a currently own device is upgraded. Not all carriers charge activation/upgrade fees, but some major carriers like T-mobile and Sprint do this. The cost of activation/upgrade fees ranges around $20-$40/device. Activation fees are particularly relevant when getting the hotspot modem for the 1st time.
In the last section, I’ll go over how to shop for a suitable plan and matching mobile hotspot modem for tiny house(with or wihout wheels) owners who are in need of a long term wireless network solution.
B.Public WiFi “Hotspots”
Regarding the speed of public wifi , it usually varies from 2G speeds(0.5-1 Mbps) to as high as 3G/4G speeds (5 Mbps+). Public wifi is not as slow as people might think. For more information, view this report.
Public Hotspots’ Likely Locations
Places that offer public wi-fi include airports, bookstores, coffee shops(like Star Bucks and Dunkin’ Donuts), fuel stations, hotels, hospitals, libraries, malls, RV parks and campgrounds, supermarkets, train stations, and other public places. Additionally, many schools and universities offer campus-wide Wi-Fi. I will explain in the last section of this post how to find public wi-fi hotspots around a vicinity.
Because tiny houses on wheels can travel far and wide to many of the aforementioned places, the owners can take advantage of the often public Wi-Fi for their traveling laptop and/or other devices. Most casual and academic places like coffee shops, libraries, and school campuses offer free Wi-Fi via simply clicking to connect or via guest account. More business orientated places like airports and hotels will more likely charge a daily usage fee to be allowed to access its wi-fi network.
Unsecure vs Secure Hotspots
While they’re convenient, public hotspots are generally not secure. Because many people are sharing the same network at once, a network user can eavesdrop on others. This network eavesdropping can be done with relative ease because data packets exchanged are often not encrypted on public wi-fi networks; these packets can then be intercepted and its data contents can then be easily understood via packet analysis techniques.
Places that offer free public wi-fi usually post a warning that the network is not secure; but most still use them anyway out of convenience. As to why these places allow them to be unsecured in the first place, the reasons can range from “cutting costs arising from implementing security” to “improving accessibility by removing tedious authentication features”. It’s safe to assume that free wi-fi from places like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Dunkin’ Donuts won’t invest in security as the convenience of easy availability is there to entice customers.
Places like airports and hotels which would charge for wi-fi should have much greater security as authentication will be needed; additionally, there would be greater oversight over the network to deal with payment fraud and to protect the business’s own credibility. In the end, it’s better to ask about the wi-fi’s security beforehand.
Ultimately, it’s best if one takes responsibility for the security of his/her own device(s) when using any public wi-fi. Here are some precautions that can be taken to improve user security when using public wi-fi:
- Be Physically Vigilant. This means don’t let anyone peer over your shoulder to view sensitive information. Also, don’t leave your device(s) unattended in a public places as they can be stolen.
- Download Operating Systems and Software Updates Consistently. Unless these updates are automated, most people will easily forget to do these. Consistent updates are necessary because newer versions often patch up vulnerabilities found in older updates.
- Consider Not Logging into any Sites. During a login, data packets containing username and password information can be exposed and the eavesdropper can collect this information. It’s especially dangerous if the eavesdropper can discover the login information to places like one’s bank account, social media account, email account, and etc. If logging in to any of these places, wait until you’re in a secure environment.
- Have the URL Start with “HTTPS” whenever possible. Most websites start their URL with “HTTP”. If “HTTPS” is used instead, any information exchanged between the browser and the website with “HTTPS” in its URL will be encrypted. The encryption is not unbreakable, but the information isn’t outright exposed.
- Enable SSL/TSL on Applications. Various applications that access the internet(like mail cients and browsers) can use SSL(TSL is SSL 3.1 and above) to encrypt incoming and outgoing network traffic.
- Use an Active Anti-Virus Software. This should be self-explanatory as viruses, trojans, worms, and etc. can especially pose problems on an unsecure public wi-fi. Some reputable Anti-Virus brands include AVG and Norton. Besides keeping the anti-virus software active, it’s important to update regularly and do virus scan on the device(s).
- Consider using a VPN. A VPN(virtual private network) is a private network within the public network(internet). All information traveling to and from a VPN user goes through a dedicated server which encrypts all traveling data packets; thus, all traveling data within a VPN becomes anonymous to third-parties. To be able to use a VPN while on any internet connection, a modest monthly fee is involved.
- Turn on your Firewall. A firewall monitors and controls the outgoing and incoming network traffic based on predetermined rules; manipulating these rules requires some savvy. Most often, firewall come with a default setting which makes a firewall one more thing to use to improve the device’s security. A more effective way to use a firewall is to use it together with a VPN. The device is initially left exposed on public wi-fi because it takes time to start up a VPN; the firewall can be configured to block all non-VPN encrypted traffic until the VPN fully starts up.
- Turn off File Sharing. Within a device’s network settings, file sharing may be turned on. This would enable devices on the same network to view one’s resources where the fire sharing is enabled. Turn off file sharing if the network contains untrusted users.
- Turn the Wi-Fi on and off manually. Often times, a device will automatically connect to a nearby network if it’s accessible. Turn the Wi-Fi on/off manually to avoid inadvertently exposing one’s device via unintentional connection.
- Or accept the risks. This is presumable under the belief that no one would have a reason to target you. However, this is NOT recommended; I am bringing this up as many people do this.
Here are reference links:
- How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi Networks
- Norton | Wi-Fi Hotspots: Conencting While Traveling
- How to Stay Secure on Public Wi-Fi
Look forward to the last section as I will explain how to find public wi-fi within a local vicinity after parking one’s tiny house on wheels. Additionally, I will go over a little more about anti-virus/VPN options and prices as they’re the only wi-fi security implements that costs money.
II.Wireless Internet Plans
As you have noticed, I have left out on how and where to purchase/obtain wireless internet plans for the various wireless connection options from the previous sections.
A.Buying a Hotspot Modem(and a Carrier Plan)
As explained earlier, due to the high costs of wireless data, it is quite hard to find a decent MiFi hotspot devices & plans that can satisfy even minimal full-time internet usage. Here, I am going to list the few available brands & methods that I managed to find that can satisfy long-term mobile usage.
As stated earlier, buying 30-50+ GB of data for nationwide coverage from the major carriers would cost about $225-375/month as explained by this link comparing the data plans of major carriers from earlier. During my own search, I have been unable to find any capped data plans that offer 30-50+ GB of data at reasonable prices. I’ll instead go over the throttled and truly unlimited options I found:
I.Unlimited Plans with Throttling
The well-known major carriers of Verizon, T-mobile, Sprint, and AT&T all offer some kind of “unlimited” plan where unlimited cellular data can be routed to hotspots. Here is a chart summarizing their plans:
The above chart shows what comes with these unlimited cell phone plans(Note: doesn’t show taxes and fees). For hotspot users, the area boxed in red is most relevant. Additionally, each hotspot device should only use 1 line.
From the above plans, all hotspots only allow 10 GB/line/month of high speed 4G data before throttling down to lower speeds.
Verizon & T-Mobile: Verizon Unlimited and T-Mobile One Plus are arguably the best ones here because they throttle down to 3G instead of 2G like in the other two plans. With respect to these plans, 3G speeds are generally around 512-600 kbps and 2G is around 128-256 kbps. The notable performance difference between 3G and 2G networks, as explained earlier, justifies using either of these two plans as one should have as much speed as possible after using up the 10 GB of 4G data. Here is the lowdown on the associated prices:
- Verizon Unlimited (←details on plan): $80/month for 1 line/hotspot
- Verizon Hotspots: Verizon’s online shop either sells hotspots at retail price or leases them out on 2-year contracts. If purchasing a hotspot, the cost ranges at $120-$200/each. If one rents a hotspot on a 2-year lease, the charge is $0-$50/2-years.
- T-Mobile One Plus (←details on plan): $75/month for 1 line/hotspot
- T-Mobile Hotspots:-mobile neither sells nor lease any hotspots through its website liked Verizon does. Here is a site link showing the compatible hotspots with T-mobile plans. When clicking on any of the devices’ images, details on the selected hotspot’s specifications and usage instructions are shown. If one decides to purchase a ONE Plus plan from T-mobile, he/she should consult T-mobile on which hotspot to get as well as the setup process. As for buying a compatible 4G LTE hotspot, it can be purchased from places like Amazon, Best Buy, and Ebay with the lowest prices being around $30-$100+/each.
Sprint and AT&T: These ‘unlimited’ plans are less preferable than the ones for Verizon and T-Mobile due to throttling down to even slower speeds(2G instead of 3G). However, the only time to consider either of these two is if the coverage area of Sprint or AT&T is more suited to ones needs than Verizon or T-Mobile. Here are the associated costs if interested:
- Sprint Unlimited (←details on plan): $50/month for 1 line/hotspot. The lower price is justified given that the speed throttle goes down to 2G instead of 3G. Addtionally, this plan makes the hotspot much more secure with VPN and P2P. Ultimately, the missing 3G speeds may be sorely needed by other
- Sprint Hotspots: Through Sprint’s online shop, the USB modems & hotspots are either sold through 2-year leases or sold at retail prices(or sold though 24 montly installments). Check the aforementioned link to see the store.
- AT&T Unlimited Plus (←details on plan): $90/month for 1 line/hotspot. This plan maybe the least cost effective since this plan charges the most out of all plans and still throttles down to slower 2G speeds instead of 3G.
- AT&T Hotspots: Through AT&T’s online store, all its USB modems and Hotspots require a 2-year service contract to purchase(or get for free) a modem/hotspot. Check the store to see for yourself.
II. TRUE Unlimited Plans
Compared to throttled plans, true unlimited plans are almost non-existent. However, I managed to find ONLY 2 websites that are selling unlimited 4G/LTE mobile data plans while selling/leasing MiFi hotspots. The prices are reasonable too.UnlimitedLTEAdvanced.com]: This company’s purpose is to provide unlimited 4G LTE data via hotspots for a fixed monthly rate. This company caters to residential/home owners and businesses and offers a separate plan for each.
For those living in a tiny house on wheels, the residential plan is most preferable. For the residential plan, unlimited 4G LTE data is provided for $75.99/month. A hotspot costs as low as $199 and it’s activation fee is $75. Click this link for more on this option.
Finally, the hotspot carrier used by this company is T-Mobile. Hotspots provided from this company will only provide unlimited 4G LTE data within T-Mobile’s area coverage.[UnlimitedVille.com]: This company is very similar to the previous company in that it also enables its customers to utilize unlmited 4G LTE data for internet use via hotspot. However, the way this company provides unlimited 4G LTE data and leases hotspots is a bit different. Here, unlimited 4G LTE data and and an active hotspot is provided and leased, respectively, depending on which 1 of 4 membership plans one applies to. These membership plans are:
- YELLOW(Sprint): $99/month + 1-time membership fee of $199
- PINK(T-mobile): $149/month + 1-time membership fee of $99
- BLUE(AT&T): $199/month + 1-time membership fee of $99
- RED(Verizon): $249/month + 1-time membership fee of $99
Depending on which membership one applies to, one receives unlimited 4G LTE data and a (leased) hotspot that is under one of the 4 major carriers. The significance of this is that one look through the WiFi national area coverage each carrier before selecting a membership to apply for. The membership with the area coverage that best suits the needs of the tiny house owner should be the one that is purchased.
III. Tethering Options
Any carrier that sells a cellular plan that allows for hotspot usage will most likely also sell a compatible mobile hotspot device. Along with how using a cellphone as a hotspot reduces overall bandwidth distributed(the cellphone siphons a bit of the total bandwidth itself), there is little reason to go with tethering as a primary option.
I think the tethering options via cellphone should only be used as a last resort; or if(by some unlikely chance) a cellular plan offers unlimited 4G/LTE for hotspot use and and there is no compatible hotspot device available.
IV. Honorable Mention:
Like I said before, I am listing all viable Wifi options I can find. The last one I would like to bring up is:[Winegard ConnecT]: This webpage is mainly selling a Wifi Extender which increases the connection strength, range, and speed of an already established wifi connection. The extender itself costs $549. The other option is to buy the extender with added 4G LTE connectivity for an increased price of $749.
Lastly, there are the monthly prepaid data plans ranging from 1-20 G:
These plans are pay as you go. If you run out of your prepaid data, you can simply purchase more; but it is recommended to ration the data as it is a bit costly. You can view more details about this Wifi Extender + 4G LTE via above website link. If you are further interested, you can check this product review made by a full-time RVer.
B.Finding Public Wi-Fi Locations(as well as Choosing Anti-Virus/VPN Options)
I. Finding Public WiFi Locations
If one is planning on which places to go ahead of time, the locally-available public Wi-Fi locations can be looked up for each of the destinations via various websites and mobile apps.
One such website is called WifiMaps. This site is basically a huge map where one has to zoom and scroll (via cursor or arrows) through to find local wi-fi hotspots; there is no search box to go to a specific map location like in google map. With over 2 million users, the hotspots database is frequently updated. There is also a WifiMaps mobile app(via Android and iOS) as well. Finally, while the map covers the entire world, hotsposts are more easily found in USA and then Europe; far out countries like China and Japan were showing little to no hotspots.
Now, here are some screenshots showing the site:
When first opening the WifiMaps site, it shows New York City and its available local wi-fi hotspots(above screenshots). It is understandable that New York City would have so many wifi hotspot locations because as a Metropolitan area, it has fast food spots, coffee shops, public libraries, and many others kinds of places that would host public wifi. When clicking any of the blue markers, it will state the building’s name(which has the free wifi) and possibly a comment about that hotspot’s password(if it needs one).
When zooming out of the map…….
These yellow dots are on areas with high concentrations of wifi hotspots. Even areas not overshadowed with a yellow dot(s) can have free wifi hotspot if zoomed closely enough. Below is an example:
This is a screenshot of an area called Warrenton, VA. This place didn’t have a yellow dot over it when zoomed out; but after zooming in, the blue hotspot markers are shown. If I wanted to drive to Warrenton, VA (with my tiny house on wheels) and take advantage of public wifi hotspots, I would start looking at these 3 locations.
WifiMaps is just one of several free wi-fi hotspot locators available. Here are some links for other hotspot locators to try:
- Lifewire article on wi-fi hotspot locators
- The Balance’s article on finding free wifi locations
- Search “wifi hotspot locators” and/or other similar terms on Google search.
However, one should know that due to the countless number of public available hotspots, a hotspot locator can easily miss existing hotspots at a location. For examples, I noticed that WifiMaps easily misses some of the libraries that I know about(which all have free wifi).
One way to find overlooked hotspots is to cross-reference with other hotspot locators. For example, there were libraries in Northern Virginia (which I know have hotspots) that didn’t show blue marks over them in WifiMaps. However, in the state-by-state free wifi hotspot directory in WifiFreeSpot.com, it did show the addresses for those missing libraries that offered free wifi.
Another way is to use Google map together with your hotspot locator of choice. If one’s tiny house on wheels is headed to an area with a size number of buildings, one can look though the buildings’ names to determine which ones likely offer free wifi. Please re-read what I explained earlier what sorts of places offer free wifi; places like public libraries, school institutions, Starbucks, McDonalds, and etc. will almost certainly offer free wifi to take advantage of. If you locate places that you think might have a free wifi hotspot(s) but are not sure, (if interested in that location(s)) you can check the location’s associated website(if it has one) or phone call to check if it has wifi.
II. VPN/Anti-Virus/Firewall Options
First, please be sure to re-read everything I explained earlier about the use of software for securing one’s laptop when using public wi-fi. Because internet security is not within the scope of this site’s niche, I will instead provide links to various VPN, Anti-Virus, and Firewall options for your own further research(if you’re interested):
- June 2017 Top 10 VPN Options by getpicky.com
- Anonymous VPN Service Provider Review 2015 by torrentfreak.com
- The Top 10 Best Antivirus Software 2017
- The Best Free Firewalls 2017
- Learn to configure OS-specific firewalls commonly used with Windows(ex: Windows Firewall)
and Linux(ex: iptables, ipfire) as you most likely will decide to use one of these.
By now, you should have an understanding of how wifi works, the differences between personal hotspots and public wifi, and purchasing options. Ultimately, I believe that getting a personal hotspot should be a priority both for convenience and reliability. Relying on public wifi should only be a supplement at best given the inconvenience of always having to park to get the wifi.
So far, I have covered wired tiny home internet options and wifi internet options. In the next and last post concerning tiny home internet options, I will be covering satellite internet options. Satellite internet can be used for both stationary tiny homes and as an alternative/complement to wifi internet options for mobile tiny homes. I will have this posted in a several weeks as I still have updates to make to my site; so look forward to it.
Finally, If you liked this post, make sure to share(via social media bar) and subscribe for email updates(if you already haven’t). Leave a comment below regarding your thoughts, ideas, and experiences on getting wifi internet access.
Image Attributions(You may skip this):
- Header Image: “Huawei E577 4G LTE mobile hotspot” by Kārlis Dambrāns via Flickr under CC-BY-2.0
- Cellular Generation Chart: If anyone wants to use this composite image, you must attribute and link the image to this (source) page as stated in the “Content Reuse And Attribution Policy” page link at the footer menu/row. This composite image made up of:
- Mobile HotSpot Types(divided by green lines): If you want to use, use same image attribute as explained in #2. This composite image is made up of:
- Wifi Networks on iPod: “lots of wifi around the lace market and hockley area” by Phil Campbell via Flickr under CC-BY-2.0
- Unlimited Plans Comparison Table between 4 Carriers: Remade from the table from this webpage from Sprint.
- UnlimitedLTEAdvanced & UnlimitedVille Logos: from the respective websites’ homepages, here and here.
- Winegard ConnecT Wifi Data Table: From Winegard ConnecT’s homepage
- Screenshots of “WifiMaps”: Screenshots to demonstrate WifiMaps use
- Hidden Pinterest Image(visible with Pinterest Browser Button): I own ALL rights to this composite image as I made this for my Pinterest sharing needs. I MIGHT replace this composite image later The composite image includes:
- Facebook/Google+ Post Image: I also own all rights to this composite image as I made this for my other social media sharing needs. The composite header image includes: