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Wi-Fi; Home and Public Wi-Fi

'Free' Wi-Fi is everywhere, in towns at least, but should you be using it and what are the risks? The answer, as usual, is 'it depends'. It depends on exactly what sort of Wi-Fi it is, who is providing it and for what reason and, what you want to do while connected to it!
1. Basic, 'free' wi-fi. Lots of places now offer so-called free wi-fi, like shops and shopping centres, cafés, pubs and restaurants, banks, hotels, sports centres, libraries, airports and places of work etc., etc.. Why do they do it? Well, if it's not a 'perk' where you work, they are generally just trying to pull you in and get you to shop with them and use their other paid services and, if you are within receiving distance of their wi-fi service, then there's a good chance that you might.
The downside is that you generally have to give them your email address (another good reason
they provide this so-called 'free' service), which they can then use to send you advertising and promotions. There is often a time limit, especially at airports and the like and just getting signed on and conectedd can take several minutes and is often not exactly simple!
2. Wi-Fi provided by your mobile service provider. This one is pretty obvious, it's a sales ploy to try to get you to sign up with them. It's also an easy and cheap way of giving you internet access without having to provide even higher data capacity on their mobile transmitters and infrastructure - not theat they don't, but it helps take some of the load off of this and helps increase internet coverage, especially where there might be some mobile black spots.
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3. Paid Wi-Fi Services. There are some paid wi-fi services, like BT Wi-Fi, but these can be very expensive, especially if you use them often. Make sure that you really need to use them and have no other options first. If you already have a BT account, including broadband, you can connect to these for free, once you have registered, but again, do you really need to and is it safe? There may be better options!
So, why would you want to use these services and, conversely, why would you not! Lastly, why would you even bother?
The reason these services became available in the first place was the lack of coverage and speed of mobile data networks, combined with data limits on mobile contracts. Even now, there are still a lot of people with very low data (and other) limits on their mobile contracts, plus those that are still on pay-as-you-go, who obviously have to pay for each megabyte of data. If you have a low limit, you will have to pay extra on your contract if you go over this limit, so you will obviously want to avoid that.
But this does not need to be the case anymore. There are plenty of service providers with great, cheap deals, especially for those who are smart enough to buy their own phone and get a SIM-only deal! You can now get 8GB of data a month for just £8, or less. That is easily enough for most people, especially if they have access to wi-fi at home and at work.
If not, there are packages with much higher data limits, even unlimited packages for not that much more really - but do check the small print and check that it really IS unlimited data and is not restricted to just your phone or tablet, whichever it is that has the SIM in it) and that you can share it if you want on our own Personal HotSpot, so that you can use the connection and data on your laptop, PC, TV and share with friends if you want.
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You need to be particularly careful if you are using public wi-fi, or an internet café. Do
use it for connecting to an online banking service, it just isn't safe enough for that, or in fact for
website that requires a login, especially if that website holds any of your personal information, or if you use the same password for any other websites - not that you should be doing that anyway! So, if you can, avoid public wi-fi altogether and get yourself a SIM-only deal with a decent data allowance, then you don't have to worry at all - especially if you couple this to a VPN service!
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This page was last updated on: 08 November 2023
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