Communication technologies have developed over the years. The way we communicate is a direct representation of the prevailing tech at the time. Today, we have smartphones that we use to stay connected to the world. We use these devices to surf the internet and communicate with others. As a communication device, the smartphone uses networks to reach other devices and relay information to and fro. Now, these networks can either be cellular or Wi-Fi. Depending on what our needs and means, either one of the networks can be a perfect fit for us. Hence, the question: Cellular or Wi-Fi, which is better for us? It is what we are going to explore in this article.
“Cellular or Wi-Fi, which is better for us? It is what we are going to explore in this article.”Tech Quintal
What is a cellular network?
A cellular network is a mobile network that connects mobile devices to a base station using radio waves, an air-based interface, and a link layer protocol. Then the bases are also interconnected to a Mobile Switching Center, thus weaving a wider area of coverage, which can also span globally.
Using a cellular network, the user can easily access features such as calls, the internet, and other communication modes. However, these networks are dependent on carrier networks, companies that own the network and distribute it.
Despite being a great help, cellular networks also face problems, such as the available network range. They can only operate within the range provided/covered by the carrier. Theoretically, the maximum range between a mobile phone and its carrier network tower is 45 miles in any direction.
Thus, the more towers a carrier has, the stronger the cellular network it offers. Cellular networks have evolved over the years as they have increased their ability to transfer data. Initially, they could only transfer data in KB. It was the 2nd Gen of cellular networks or 2G. Then they improved speed from a few MB per second to a hundred MB per second. The cellular network is currently in the 5th gen or 5G.
What is a Wi-Fi network?
Wi-Fi is a set of wireless network protocols that are based on the IEEE 802.11 family of standards. These protocols dictate how local area networking works and how nearby interconnected devices exchange information across the internet by using radio waves. Here, IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) acts as a guardian body for Wi-Fi. It even has a name for it: Wireless Fidelity.
Wi-Fi devices connect to each other and create a wireless network. The network has access to the internet. Hence, every interconnected device can also use the internet for communication. It all works based on IEEE 802.11 standards. It dictates how the Wi-Fi network uses multiple bands of radio waves and microwaves to transmit data wirelessly. As such, Wi-Fi is amongst the fastest network on the globe that offers wireless communication.
Unlike other networks, the net is only accessible when a Wi-Fi connection is available. Although it has a limited range, the internet works fine within it as long the device does not exceed the range. And Wi-Fi connectivity is dependent on routers or gateway devices that inculcate the internet within the Wi-Fi network.
Key differences between Cellular and Wi-Fi network
Given below is a table that highlights the difference between a cellular network and a Wi-Fi.
|Criteria||Mobile/Cellular Networks||Wi-Fi Networks|
|Internet Availability||Internet is available as long there is a cellular network. Meaning as long the device is within reach of a cellular tower, the internet will work.||Internet is only available as long there is Wi-Fi connectivity. No Wi-Fi means no internet.|
|Tech Standards||Cellular networks use air-based interfaces for communication. The tech is based on the speed of transfer. We are currently using 5G that can clock over 500 MBPS speed.||Wi-Fi is a wireless network tech that is governed by the IEEE 802.11 standards that dictate how to transmit data and which radio waves to use.|
|Network Range||It depends on the carrier network tower and enjoys a long range of 45 miles from the tower.||Wi-Fi has a limited range of a few meters which can be even shorter if there are walls and so in between.|
|Pricing||Mobile carrier networks offer internet connectivity as a part of their Data plan, which is costly.||Wi-Fi is relatively cheaper than other networks.|
|Internet Speed||Before 5G, cellular networks were definitely slower than Wi-Fi connections.||Wi-Fi is fast when compared to most cellular networks.|
|Installation process||Cellular networks do not require extra work. All you have to do is purchase a data plan. |
The network is managed by the carrier.
|You can setup a Wi-Fi network by yourself or by hiring an IT professional after purchasing internet from an ISP.|
|Hardware dependence||Other than a mobile phone, no extra hardware is required to enjoy a cellular network.||Wi-Fi requires routers, gateways, cables etc. to function.|
When, where, and why should you use a cellular network
There is a time, place, and obviously, a reason to use a cellular network. Since it is quite costly, we should use cellular networks when:
- We do not have access to a secure Wi-Fi network.
- The connected Wi-Fi is slow or glitchy.
- The Wi-Fi is offering weak signals.
- We are not roaming, i.e., when we are in the home region of the cellular network.
When you should use a Wi-Fi network
Similarly, we should not always use a Wi-Fi network. Although it has become more and more common recently, we should exercise caution when using a Wi-Fi network, especially if it’s an open, public network.
Unlike cellular networks, Wi-Fi networks aren’t inherently secure. And while it is true that Wi-Fi is much more convenient than a cellular network, we have to accurately judge the pros and cons before employing one.
Thus, we should only use Wi-Fi when:
- We are sure it is secured.
- We want faster internet.
- The Wi-Fi signal strength is strong and constant.
- We are uploading or downloading huge files.
- We are on a limited data plan.
Pros and Cons of a cellular network
In the end, let us examine a few pros and cons of the cellular network, in order to ascertain whether to use a Wi-Fi network or a cellular one.
- It offers a wireless connection, hence no hassle for wires.
- It does not require additional hardware.
- Enjoys a huge range.
- Offers better security
- Only for mobile devices
- It is costly.
- You have to keep track of the data used in order to avoid overcharges.
- Needs a dedicated data plan to work.
Pros and Cons of a Wi-Fi network
And now, let us also examine the few pros and cons of a Wi-Fi network:
- Can connect multiple devices at the same time to a single network.
- Faster internet
- Useful for sharing large files over the internet
- It can create a viable LAN with connected devices.
- Hardware dependent
- Limited range
- Can be a security threat