The hot gift for almost anyone this year is the tablet computer, and this has people looking at their wireless internet services with new interest.
Tablets rely heavily on Wi-Fi connections. They are essentially product delivery systems, and they store both the product and even the software on their own huge servers in the internet “cloud.” When someone’s downloading music, movies and television shows to a tablet, they want solid Wi-Fi coverage wherever they go.
Amazon’s Kindle book readers and Fire tablets are especially Wi-Fi dependant. The Fire has only six gigabytes available to its user. The average flash drive has more than that. The Fire keeps up by running programs on cloud computers, over a Wi-Fi link.
Luckily, internet service providers (ISP) are riding this wave with a lot of great offers. This is the best time of year for wireless internet specials.
First, at home
Most homes have Wi-Fi routers on internet systems, and most of these routers are getting old. With ISP’s upgrading faster services into many homes, it’s likely that a five-year-old router is going to turn into a bottleneck when several people in the house have an e-book readers, tablet and laptop going in different rooms. Add wireless printers and an online gamer in the family, and the demands rise even more.
Many home routers use the 802.11g standard, which transmits data at 54 megabytes per second (Mbps). The newer 802.11n tops out at 450 Mbps. These will reign for another year, when the new 802.11ac standard promises to double that speed.
Large retailers and ISPs are targeting this with great offers to induce clients to upgrade. One national outlet offers refurbished 802.11n units for as low as $20. ISPs are also offering upgrades to higher-speed service in attractive discount packages.
Wi-Fi outside the home
The Wi-Fi at the local coffee shop and mall will be expanding to handle the growth of tablets and heavier media use. More communities, organizations and services are adding Wi-Fi every day. We see it at highway rest stops and even campgrounds.
The image of the Wi-Fi user is a realtor sitting in a coffee shop between calls and using his laptop to catch up with work. The new generation of text readers and tablets will be downloading far more sophisticated services, and are not tethered to the wall plug that makes prime locations out of certain tables in a restaurant. They will be using lighter, cheaper devices for play, as much or more than work, and the people who offer Wi-Fi zones know this.
Today you see the realtor working at his laptop with a tablet propped up next to it, monitoring a sales site, news, the stock exchange or a cloud-based data resource.
Roaming on 4G/5G
The last step is Internet service over cell phone 4G and 5G connections, and that’s also a big growth area with attractive, competitive pricing. The data download demands of tablet encourage a user to subscribe to these services for wider connectivity and better service.
A recent article in PC World noted that the success of the iPad and Kindle Fire means other tablets are deeply discounted. Several models were cut from near $500 to $300 by national retailers in November and December, and one to just $100. For those who know how to work around an unsuccessful product’s limitations, there are great deals out there.
The 4G and 5G services are intensely competitive, and they will have to offer serious advantages to lure new customers who outgrow Wi-Fi hotspots. This climate rewards the savvy shopper.