Picking a wifi hot spot – 5 GHz band

If you are a frequent traveler you know that it is a life-changing event to start carrying a wifi hot spot with you.  I count it as a necessity.  I have had a dozen mobile data devices over the past fifteen years or so.  Years ago the way to connect was by means of a plug-in card in your notebook computer.  Nowadays the smart way to go is a wifi hot spot.  The hot spot provides wifi for your notebook computer, for your tablet, for your smart phone, and if you are traveling with co-workers, it provides wifi for your co-workers’ devices as well.

Many hotels gouge their guests with charges of $10 or even $15 or $20 per night for internet service.  Some of them charge this fee a second or third time per night for your second or third device. zte01  Even in a hotel that (nicely) does not charge for the wifi you can occasionally have a bad night that the hotel’s wifi is not working well or at all.

When you are in an airport, you may find that the “free” wifi in the airport is very slow, or only works for so many minutes and then they expect you to pay to keep using it.

The monthly fee that you pay for a wifi hot spot can pay for itself during just a single out-of-town trip.

A wifi hot spot can make an intercity train ride much more productive.

If you do international travel, as I often do, the usual worry with international data usage is the fear that you could return to the US and receive a bill for thousands of dollars.  The way to avoid this risk is to use prepaid international data such as AT&T’s Buyasession program, loaded into a wifi hot spot, and then configure your smart phone and notebook computer and tablet to draw their data only from wifi and not from the local phone company.

The point of this blog posting is to tell you about a particular wifi hot spot that has served me well lately, and that has a particular feature that I have not seen in other wifi hot spots.

A wifi hot spot has two interfaces, connected by a router.  One interface goes to the telephone company to get your data connection.  The other interface is the wifi access point.zte02  In all but one of the wifi hot spots that I have seen, the wifi access point works only in the 2.4 GHz band.  This means that if you are in a “crowded” wifi environment, as can often happen in a hotel or airport or meeting location, you may find that your wifi connection to your hot spot is slow and unreliable due to packet collisions with the competing wireless networks.

The 2.4 GHz band can be crowded not only because of other wifi access points, but also because that is where Bluetooth operates, and microwave ovens, and some cordless phones.

My latest wifi hot spot is the AT&T Velocity, made by ZTE. One reason I like it is that ZTE is a client of my patent firm.  But another nice thing about this hot spot is that the user can pick whether the wifi will be in the 2.4 GHz band or the 5 GHz band.  Lots of locations that are crowded in the 2.4 GHz band are uncrowded in the 5 GHz band.  So I use the Velocity, and I nearly always have it configured to use the 5 GHz band.

Maybe there are other wifi hot spots that permit the user to pick the 5 GHz band, but if so I have not seen them.

3 Replies to “Picking a wifi hot spot – 5 GHz band”

  1. Public WiFi is extremely insecure and scary. Your identity is 100% at risk. Best bet is to connect to your office VPN, and do all your surfing remotely through your office computer.

  2. Yes, this is one of the reasons to use a wifi hot spot instead of the free or paid-for wifi in a hotel or meeting place or coffee shop. With a wifi hot spot, your connection through the wifi and to the Internet is not shared with others, and so is less at risk of eavesdropping.

    Many is the time that I have done a speed test on the hotel wifi, and then tried out the wifi hot spot, and found the hot spot to be twice as fast or even ten times as fast.

  3. Unfortunately, I was surprised to learn that eavesdropping on a cellular data connection is just as easy as eavesdropping on a wifi connection. A hacker can buy a microcell station for $100, then program it with eavesdropping software that can be downloaded for free.

    Go for the VPN, or use a wired connection. Neither is completely safe from eavesdroppers, but they are both definitely better.

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