1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

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1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby flicky1991 » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:25 am UTC

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Title text: "According to the cable company reps who keep calling me, it's because I haven't upgraded to the XTREME GIGABAND PANAMAX FLAVOR-BLASTED PRO PACKAGE WITH HBO, which is only $5 more per month for the first 6 months and five billion dollars per month after that."

The only time Wi-Fi is the worse option for me is if my phone automatically connects to a Wi-Fi thing that you have to sign into. (It should ask before automatically connecting to one for the first time...)
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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby rhomboidal » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:51 am UTC

Sometimes my WiFi feels like I'm leeching off my own WiFi.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby speising » Wed Jul 19, 2017 6:12 am UTC

Interesting that he had a wifi capable phone in 2000, but only got cellular data in 2007, when the iphone came out.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby flicky1991 » Wed Jul 19, 2017 6:48 am UTC

speising wrote:Interesting that he had a wifi capable phone in 2000, but only got cellular data in 2007, when the iphone came out.
That line looks like it starts too close to 2010 to be 2007.
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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby orthogon » Wed Jul 19, 2017 7:26 am UTC

I lolled when this finally loaded, having been on the point of switching off WiFi.

Presumably the problem is contention. Cellular operators have their own segregated frequency bands; cell sites are in planned positions and use planned transmit powers; contention for access amongst a given operator's subscribers is managed by the system itself; and users are financially incentivised to limit their consumption. WiFi is a free-for-all with no frequency planning and a MAC layer based on collision detection, which everyone tries to use for video at the same time because it's fed from unlimited broadband. It's great if your neighbours don't have it or they've gone away for the weekend, or temporarily the stars have aligned and your access points have chosen a really cuspy set of channels. Otherwise you're out of luck.

TL;DR: Cellular is town planning in an expensive neighbourhood. WiFi is the Wild West.
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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby somitomi » Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:32 am UTC

This is known to me as the "university free wifi" problem. You just can't have enough bandwith to serve a large hall full of people with laptops and phones. It's nowhere near as annoying as my phone's tendency to stick to the first wifi it finds, and steadfastly ignore any other wireless network until that first one goes out of range. This usually means that instead of the router one room away it's usually trying its luck with the one way at the other end of the house.
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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby FOARP » Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:52 am UTC

speising wrote:Interesting that he had a wifi capable phone in 2000, but only got cellular data in 2007, when the iphone came out.


Interesting that he had Wifi in 2000 at all. "Wifi" as an actual name was only launched in 1999, though the standard had been around for a few years before then. First time I recall using it was ~2006 when I first bought a laptop with WiFi.

Hell, I remember Americans I knew in China circa 2003 remarking on how common mobile phones were in China compared to the US where, according to them, no-one they knew owned one (they were common in the UK at that point). The reason given was poor coverage.

Weird to think back then it was seen as a cool thing to say that you were never going to get a phone because you didn't want to be at people's beck and call all the time or some-such. Everyone I know who said that eventually caved and bought one.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby speising » Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:17 am UTC

I actually can relate to that a bit because my wifi router sometimes gets slower until no data is transferred anymore at all. When that happens, i have to connect to its admin page, which causes the router to reset -- which automatically puts me on cellular for a while.
(last time i did this, it reset to factory defaults, which is extra irritating.)

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby Hiferator » Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:20 am UTC

orthogon wrote:[...]TL;DR: Cellular is town planning in an expensive neighbourhood. WiFi is the Wild West.

I've noticed this phenomenon a lot while living in an apartment complex where everyone and their mom had to have their own Wifi and all the frequencies were overcrowded.

On the other hand:
somitomi wrote:This is known to me as the "university free wifi" problem. You just can't have enough bandwith to serve a large hall full of people with laptops and phones.

I have never really had that experience at any of the universities I've attended or visited. They all had great coverage and had I better speeds than any of my home landline connections. (The university networks all had some authentication protocol in place though.)

Wifi connectivity doesn't even compare, because there is no need for one's own Wifi network when there's university Wifi everywhere on campus.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby somitomi » Wed Jul 19, 2017 10:49 am UTC

Hiferator wrote:
somitomi wrote:This is known to me as the "university free wifi" problem. You just can't have enough bandwith to serve a large hall full of people with laptops and phones.

I have never really had that experience at any of the universities I've attended or visited. They all had great coverage and had I better speeds than any of my home landline connections. (The university networks all had some authentication protocol in place though.)

It is really only a problem in one particular place at the university I go to, all other places have fine Wifi coverage. One of the buildings has a large entrance hall like place on the first floor with an enormous number of tables, chairs and electrical outlets. The student body uses this place to study/pass time between classes or before tests, so there may be hundreds of people equipped with laptops, phones and such concentrated in a small area trying to download the entire syllabus, stream videos or anything inbetween. Perhaps I should rename this to "Building E problem"
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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby kryton » Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:24 am UTC

This effect of crowded WiFi bandwidth is even worse at a commercial campground, where you have two or three hundred phone/laptop/smartTV/devicesesssss trying to stream Hulu and Netflix video at the same time and the campground is only paying for a single residential class bandwidth connection with a single router with the cheap-optional-longer-range-antennas at the office.
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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby Hiferator » Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:46 am UTC

somitomi wrote:It is really only a problem in one particular place at the university I go to, all other places have fine Wifi coverage. One of the buildings has a large entrance hall like place on the first floor with an enormous number of tables, chairs and electrical outlets. The student body uses this place to study/pass time between classes or before tests, so there may be hundreds of people equipped with laptops, phones and such concentrated in a small area trying to download the entire syllabus, stream videos or anything inbetween. Perhaps I should rename this to "Building E problem"


I see. I didn't mean to deny this phenomenon exists. Now that I think about it, I have experienced it, just not at Universities.

It's funny how you can run into trouble with too many clients (on too little bandwidth) or too many access points (of different networks.

Maybe a good name for these problems would be "client crowding" vs. "network crowding" or "frequency crowding".

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby cellocgw » Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:55 am UTC

kryton wrote:This effect of crowded WiFi bandwidth is even worse at a commercial campground, where you have two or three hundred phone/laptop/smartTV/devicesesssss trying to stream Hulu and Netflix video at the same time and the campground is only paying for a single residential class bandwidth connection with a single router with the cheap-optional-longer-range-antennas at the office.


You think you have it bad? (No, seriously, I"m not talking uphill both ways in the snow). I go to a small resort where the bandwidth is limited by a poor DSL feed. No fiber available, and apparently the phone co. won't even run a second line down the local road to provide parallel DSL. The poor router gets so choked with guest requests for connections that it up and dies every couple hours. Then we all bitch and whine because what is more important when on vacation on a gorgeous ME lake with a zillion outdoor activities than to play Words WIth Friends?
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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby Eternal Density » Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:16 pm UTC

Cellular service is rather spotty at my house (if I hold my phone just the right way I can get data...) but sometimes the ADSL drops out and as we're on one of the oldest surviving copper-wire-based exchanges, they're threatening to replace it with satellite. So this could flip (and on some days does temporarily) but only because of the home wifi failing, not the cellular service improving.

OTOH not using or wanting any TV services simplifies things a little.
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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby netsplit » Wed Jul 19, 2017 1:49 pm UTC

This is why you need to build your house in a Faraday cage. Good fences make good neighbors (never mind other problems the fcage will cause)
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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby Keyman » Wed Jul 19, 2017 1:53 pm UTC

FOARP wrote:Weird to think back then it was seen as a cool thing to say that you were never going to get a phone because you didn't want to be at people's beck and call all the time or some-such. Everyone I know who said that eventually caved and bought one.
Sheepishly raising hand... :oops:

Work finally required one, and I figured as long as they pay for it why not? I can always just turn it off, thereby defeating their nefarious purposes and maintaining my own virtuous integrity. :roll:
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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby jozwa » Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:20 pm UTC

Is that some net neutrality commentary in the title text?

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby kazooki117 » Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:44 pm UTC

It really irritates me how terrible the infrastructure is for internet access in this country. I have also experienced this curve, both at University and in my own home. Comcast really is a reprehensible company as far as I'm concerned, their practices are predatory and their service is hardly worth the price, but it's really the only game in town in most cases.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby PedroTibo » Wed Jul 19, 2017 3:06 pm UTC

Really relatable...

I must shamefully admit Slither.io is ramping up my data costs but it hurts so much dying because of the connection.
And who thinks of reconnecting after that when I move to Netflix.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby crystalmeph » Wed Jul 19, 2017 3:09 pm UTC

My problem isn't that the Wifi is less reliable/slower than the cellular connection, it's that my phone refuses to let go of the Wifi connection until the connection is beyond unusable. If I go out to my car in the parking lot at work, it shows 0-1 Wifi bars, but it still tries to use Wifi, and won't give up and connect to cellular, even though the signal is so weak it can't load a 50kB text document over an unencrypted connection.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby Soupspoon » Wed Jul 19, 2017 3:40 pm UTC

I have no idea what everyone else does, but on this device, which is my only one that I use with both Wifi and mobile Internet, I can control both individually to on or off.

Quite a lot of the time, both are off, i.e. outside of any Wifi signal I can use and not wishing to intentionally use 4G, 3G, H+ or whatever is currently available to me.

I never intentionally have both Wifi and mobile active, as it has no value (and numerous disadvantages).

Instead I will switch Wifi on (and mobile off) when I know/think I know I have a Wifi to which I have a valid key or suitable free/freemium access, and at all other times turn mobile on (and Wifi off) when I'm needing anything not too data heavy.

(Mobile, as 4G, is very often quicker than even a (locally) uncontested home Wifi link, except for one particularly fast free wifi zone in a museum I sometimes visit, but I try to stay away from bulky downloads over mobile because it's metered and could get costly if I need to go past the nominal limit. For large-data, even podcast synchronising, I wait until I'm hanging off of a friendly Wifi signal.)

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby s^2 » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:20 pm UTC

curiously, today has been the warmest day of the last couple weeks here in Germany, thus the router (in the attic, actually) decided to resign for the first time this summer (will need a couple hours to cool down before re-plugging), so I just tethered the desktop to the phone over bluetooth, mostly to answer some e-mail on a real keyboard.
and eventually xkcd, only to find this comic...
coincidence, or did randall actually save this for a hot day like this expecting routers to fail all over the world? :lol:

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby alanbbent » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:53 pm UTC

"According to the cable company reps who keep calling me, it's because I haven't upgraded to the XTREME GIGABAND PANAMAX FLAVOR-BLASTED PRO PACKAGE WITH HBO, which is only $5 more per month for the first 6 months and five billion dollars per month after that."

Exactly 100% accurate. I remember when Sega advertised "BLAST PROCESSING" to help sell the Mega Drive or something. Lots of question marks over people's heads.

I remember talking to my rep, who kept talking about how many devices could connect at one time. At this bandwidth, you can connect up to 6 devices, etc. I kept thinking What?? They literally can't throttle that when I'm using my own wifi "router." After a couple of minutes of questions, I decided that the rep had no idea what she was talking about, she was just reading a script.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 19, 2017 7:14 pm UTC

Within the last year I discovered that I was being charged a "wi-fi fee" in addition to my service (already including rental of the wifi-enabled router/modem combo in it). I asked what exactly would change if I cancelled that "service" (the "wi-fi fee"), would they make my send back the modem/router for one without wi-fi? The rep said it would just be turned off on the modem, but I could still plug in my own wi-fi router if I didn't want to use theirs. I asked what would keep me from just turning it back on on their modem in its configuration panel, and she insisted that that option would be disabled. (That made me furious enough, that they were basically charging me a fee not to forcibly turn off a setting on some hardware I was already renting from them). Having an old wifi router I was only not using because it would be redundant, I turned off the wifi on their router myself, told them I had done so and cancelled the "service", then before hooking up my own wifi router checked to see if I really couldn't just turn theirs back on... and I could. And that didn't reinitiate the service fee. So they had been charging me for literally nothing. They didn't even do anything when I stopped paying. Everything remained exactly the same.
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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby ShuRugal » Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:19 pm UTC

FOARP wrote:
speising wrote:Interesting that he had a wifi capable phone in 2000, but only got cellular data in 2007, when the iphone came out.
Weird to think back then it was seen as a cool thing to say that you were never going to get a phone because you didn't want to be at people's beck and call all the time or some-such. Everyone I know who said that eventually caved and bought one.


I keep mine on silent unless i am On Call for work.

I own a phone for my convenience, not yours.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby rocketscientist007 » Thu Jul 20, 2017 12:03 am UTC

I LOVED this comic. I work as a network engineer ("RF engineer") for one of the Big Four, and without going into any proprietary details, there are some interesting reasons for this.

First: My unnecessarily-nice WiFi router cost $180. Cell site servers and radios cost a LOT more than that (well into the tens of thousands of dollars). Unsurprisingly, you get a lot more capability when you spend hundreds of times more. The LTE chipset in your phone/laptop/whatever is also much nicer, more developed, and more expensive than the WiFi chipset. It's just got more engineering in it because there's more money to be made from it.

Second: As someone mentioned above, cellular operators use very expensive licensed frequency bands that they share with nobody. WiFi uses unlicensed frequencies that anyone can use for (almost) anything. So, in terms of interference, the noise that your phone/laptop/whatever experiences on LTE is only from the carrier's other cell sites (on the forward link) and other phones/laptops/whatevers (on the reverse link), but not other carriers or security cameras or microwave ovens. Modern cell sites can even coordinate with each other to further reduce the interference under light- and medium-load situations. (If you've seen any news about "C-RAN" technology, that's the main benefit to the radio link.) Lower noise and interference means that you can use higher-order, more sensitive modulation schemes and less-protected coding rates, which is an annoying way of saying your link is physically more efficient and you can move more data in the same amount of time.

Third: LTE access is meticulously scheduled by the cell's server on a millisecond-by-millisecond basis, and the frequency management is also VERY granular (in the kilohertz range). There is a ton of effort that goes into making sure every single hertz of the licensed band is as efficient as possible, all the time. Unlicensed bands for WiFi are much wider (more frequency space), but there is little to no active scheduling. Your router and your phone/laptop/whatever just belch their data out without any coordination with other devices in the area. Also, most people who aren't nerds like me leave their WiFi control channels configured for the default (1, 6, or 11 in the 2.4GHz space), so even if the rest of the band is available the control channel is probably saturated to hell. Download "WiFi Analyzer" for Android and go to an apartment complex and see what I mean. Only the most recent generation of very nice WiFi routers have started to address this problem.

Fourth: I know that in the past (and I suspect still today) landline carriers have actively throttled access to certain content for various reasons. See: net neutrality. Comcast did this to Netflix a few years back until Netflix paid them a ton of money. Whether every wireless carrier has abstained from this or not I don't know, but the one I work for hasn't ever done that. Yet. :-) Who knows what the future holds, but for now, IP traffic is traffic is traffic. I often have to switch from my landline (WiFi) at home to LTE to access YouTube with any reasonable speed during "peak times." 5:59PM: totally full speed. 6:00PM and suddenly it can't load.

Anyway, that's why a tiny WiFi network with a tiny number of active users can be outperformed by a large LTE cell with hundreds of simultaneous users. Like everything else: it's all about the money.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby herbstschweigen » Thu Jul 20, 2017 10:48 am UTC

I wonder no one so far commented on the hilarious business model pun in the title text.

I mean, how greedy and stupid are people that they agree on a 24-month contract for mobile/DSL/whatever, that costs,say, 15€/month in the first year and 35€ after that? Is it a sign of me being old that I expect to be rewarded for customer loyalty, not punished? Contracts like that just force me to switch providers all the time. Totally annoying.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Jul 20, 2017 10:58 am UTC

Cheap jam today. Expensive jam tomorrow. (Whether or not you might even still want that flavour of jam. And regardless of how consistent in quality the jam has been, even during its cheap time.)

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby pscottdv » Thu Jul 20, 2017 12:00 pm UTC

FOARP wrote:Weird to think back then it was seen as a cool thing to say that you were never going to get a phone because you didn't want to be at people's beck and call all the time or some-such. Everyone I know who said that eventually caved and bought one.


Those people figured out that cellular phones can be turned off.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby jc » Thu Jul 20, 2017 12:50 pm UTC

herbstschweigen wrote:Contracts like that just force me to switch providers all the time. Totally annoying.


Of course, for a large part of the US population, "switch providers" is another way of saying "move somewhere else, where a different provider has the local monopoly". And in most of the US, there is neither internet nor cellular data service available. My wife's father lives in an area where neither of our cell phones or laptops see any service at all.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby rundlesm » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:39 am UTC

rocketscientist007 wrote:I LOVED this comic. I work as a network engineer ("RF engineer") for one of the Big Four, and without going into any proprietary details, there are some interesting reasons for this.

First: My unnecessarily-nice WiFi router cost $180. Cell site servers and radios cost a LOT more than that (well into the tens of thousands of dollars). Unsurprisingly, you get a lot more capability when you spend hundreds of times more. The LTE chipset in your phone/laptop/whatever is also much nicer, more developed, and more expensive than the WiFi chipset. It's just got more engineering in it because there's more money to be made from it.

Second: As someone mentioned above, cellular operators use very expensive licensed frequency bands that they share with nobody. WiFi uses unlicensed frequencies that anyone can use for (almost) anything. So, in terms of interference, the noise that your phone/laptop/whatever experiences on LTE is only from the carrier's other cell sites (on the forward link) and other phones/laptops/whatevers (on the reverse link), but not other carriers or security cameras or microwave ovens. Modern cell sites can even coordinate with each other to further reduce the interference under light- and medium-load situations. (If you've seen any news about "C-RAN" technology, that's the main benefit to the radio link.) Lower noise and interference means that you can use higher-order, more sensitive modulation schemes and less-protected coding rates, which is an annoying way of saying your link is physically more efficient and you can move more data in the same amount of time.

Third: LTE access is meticulously scheduled by the cell's server on a millisecond-by-millisecond basis, and the frequency management is also VERY granular (in the kilohertz range). There is a ton of effort that goes into making sure every single hertz of the licensed band is as efficient as possible, all the time. Unlicensed bands for WiFi are much wider (more frequency space), but there is little to no active scheduling. Your router and your phone/laptop/whatever just belch their data out without any coordination with other devices in the area. Also, most people who aren't nerds like me leave their WiFi control channels configured for the default (1, 6, or 11 in the 2.4GHz space), so even if the rest of the band is available the control channel is probably saturated to hell. Download "WiFi Analyzer" for Android and go to an apartment complex and see what I mean. Only the most recent generation of very nice WiFi routers have started to address this problem.

Fourth: I know that in the past (and I suspect still today) landline carriers have actively throttled access to certain content for various reasons. See: net neutrality. Comcast did this to Netflix a few years back until Netflix paid them a ton of money. Whether every wireless carrier has abstained from this or not I don't know, but the one I work for hasn't ever done that. Yet. :-) Who knows what the future holds, but for now, IP traffic is traffic is traffic. I often have to switch from my landline (WiFi) at home to LTE to access YouTube with any reasonable speed during "peak times." 5:59PM: totally full speed. 6:00PM and suddenly it can't load.

Anyway, that's why a tiny WiFi network with a tiny number of active users can be outperformed by a large LTE cell with hundreds of simultaneous users. Like everything else: it's all about the money.


Thanks for this explanation. Makes a lot of sense.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Sun Jul 23, 2017 4:04 pm UTC

herbstschweigen wrote:I wonder no one so far commented on the hilarious business model pun in the title text.

I mean, how greedy and stupid are people that they agree on a 24-month contract for mobile/DSL/whatever, that costs,say, 15€/month in the first year and 35€ after that? Is it a sign of me being old that I expect to be rewarded for customer loyalty, not punished? Contracts like that just force me to switch providers all the time. Totally annoying.

It depends on whether a competitor offers the same €25,- contract for the same service.

I found my own mobile phone provider has similar offers for existing customers looking to subscribe to another 2 year contract (and leaves out the one time service fee, so it's a little cheaper). The main disadvantage, apart from being stuck to the same company for another 1 or 2 years, is that you'd also need to transfer to their newer (generally worse) terms of service. Which is especially bad as improvements to the terms of service generally also apply to existing customers.

EDIT: I've also never had my plan indexed for inflation.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby Hiferator » Fri Aug 04, 2017 1:01 pm UTC

rocketscientist007 wrote:Also, most people who aren't nerds like me leave their WiFi control channels configured for the default (1, 6, or 11 in the 2.4GHz space),

Isn't that good, though? Those channels have no overlap. If you use other (2.4GHz-) channels you always have overlap and while you might get a better connection for yourself out of it, you are hurting the overall WiFi connectivity, afaik.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Sun Aug 06, 2017 1:24 pm UTC

Hiferator wrote:
rocketscientist007 wrote:Also, most people who aren't nerds like me leave their WiFi control channels configured for the default (1, 6, or 11 in the 2.4GHz space),

Isn't that good, though? Those channels have no overlap. If you use other (2.4GHz-) channels you always have overlap and while you might get a better connection for yourself out of it, you are hurting the overall WiFi connectivity, afaik.

I would expect slight overlap might be preferable overall when there are many devices, maybe channels 1, 5, 9 and 13 would be better, especially since the overlap would be minimal. Otherwise 1, 4, 7, 10 and 13 would be a more spread out option while still not having too much overlap, although I suspect spreading out evenly over every channel might work best, since interference with devices on the same channel would always be worse than with the next channel over.

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby SwGupta » Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:45 am UTC

Both Wi-Fi and cellular data allow you to connect to the Internet. But how you connect can make the difference in the speed, security, and bill.
Wi-Fi is often faster than data, under the right conditions. If you’re using a lot of data, such as to stream or download videos, you probably should be connected Wi-Fi.
In general, you may want to use Wi-Fi when:
• The Wi-Fi network is secure
• You are streaming video
• You are traveling internationally
• You need a faster connection
• Your phone has a strong Wi-Fi signal
• You have a limited cellular data plan and may exceed your monthly limit
An avid reader who loves to travel across beautiful places and cooks in free time.
:)

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Re: 1865: "Wifi vs Cellular"

Postby Murderbot » Fri Oct 20, 2017 10:34 am UTC

netsplit wrote:(never mind other problems the fcage will cause)

Like being immune from lightning?


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