Wifi is Not a Mobile Network

Wifi is great and sucks at the same time. The beauty of wifi is that it is a ubiquitous wireless standard. It is cheap enough to build into any other device. Since it operates in high spectrum bands (2.5Ghz and 5Ghz) the antennas can be small. You can put wifi in almost anything nowadays.

At the same time wifi is problematic for the same reasons. The wifi spectrum is polluted. Just open your wifi connection list and see for yourself. In a dense urban area you will see 15 or more access points. All these access points compete for the same spectrum in a small number of channels. At the same time this spectrum is shared with cordless phones, baby monitors and your microwave.

Now if that is not enough, the wifi frequencies are so high they have trouble penetrating through solid objects like buildings, cars or — even — trees. The signal does not propagate well in dense urban areas nor inside buildings.

For this reason it is really hard to build and maintain a wifi network which has bigger ambitions than connecting people in close proximity of an access point. It is definitely not the right technology as a replacement for a cellular network.

Now I wonder about many cable operator’s plans and programs to unlock their access points and allow their customers to roam their networks. It does not make sense at all. It all feels as more like a marketing campaign to add perceived value to their services than actually adding anything to their services.

Let me ask you, how often do you find yourself in need of wifi when visiting someone’s home?