Edimax WiFi Access Point 2017 Review
WiFi access points are pretty much found everywhere nowadays.
That makes good economic sense; most businesses benefit from running a wireless network for their own use anyway, so allowing customers to use that resource is a great way to draw more people in at very little cost.
From your perspective, this means that you can bring a laptop or another WiFi-enabled portable device out with you and be fairly certain of your ability to get an Internet connection.
So, let’s cover some basic points about exactly what a WiFi hotspot is, where you can find them, and how to connect.
What is a WiFi Access Point?
It’s a wireless router.
That’s the simplest way to cover this – a public hotspot is just a router that happens to be broadcasting a signal that’s free for all to use, due to minimal or no security.
Depending on the business that’s running the hotspot, it may very well use a router that you could buy off the shelf; as long as it can support a good number of simultaneous connections.
There’s nothing that the hardware behind a WiFi public access point needs to do that a consumer-level router isn’t capable of.
The hotspot differs in configuration and security policies more so than it does on any hardware level.
If you wanted, you could even set up your own public WiFi network with very little effort. Typically, you don’t have much to gain from this – but it’s worth considering the next time you have, for example, a large party.
Drop your security practices and let people know the network is there; that’s all that larger businesses tend to do, and that’s all that you have to do.
Some companies – for instance, McDonald’s – put a bit more work into things, forwarding your traffic to their terms of service and requiring you to okay them before you can use the hotspot.
Even this is completely doable with a consumer router running DD-WRT, though; there’s no custom hardware on their end, and, accordingly, there’s no need for any software trickery on your end.
If you can connect to your home WiFi network, you can connect to any hotspot out there.
Where Can I Find One?
Where can’t you find one? Several large fast food chains provide free WiFi hotspots, as do many hotels and quite a few eat-in restaurants.
Pretty much any cafe you can think of will have a WiFi network available to the public, following the lead of the omnipresent Starbucks.
In any reasonably developed urban or suburban region, there are going to be several WiFi hotspots within walking distance of you.
Most of the businesses providing them will have signs up in the window to notify you; honestly.
The best solution if you’re looking for a WiFi access point is just to take a nice stroll and wait for one to make an appearance.
Even if you can’t connect immediately…
… it’s worth asking the staff if a WiFi network is available. Some of these public hotspots aren’t unsecured and open to all comers, but instead use the same security policies you might have in place at home.
In most cases, though, it’s still free for you to use; you just need to ask. It’s primarily a matter of keeping people from sitting in their cars and sponging off the network.
Why Use A Public Hotspot?
A public WiFi access point isn’t intended to be a substitute for your own home network.
By definition, it’s not going to be as secure; your machine is operating on the same network as those of a bunch of strangers.
You won’t have the same speeds, either; typically, bandwidth per user is fairly restricted in order to keep costs reasonable.
Still, the benefits of being able to find an Internet connection anywhere you go are undeniable.
You can check the news during a lunch break at work; you can stop to look up route information while you’re on a road trip; you can stay connected with friends and family while out of town.
It’s about convenience…
…really; mobile Internet connections still tend to be fairly slow and flaky, with minuscule bandwidth caps.
A public WiFi access point (hotspot) gives you a reasonable approximation of the experience of using your own home network while you’re somewhere else entirely.