Having a reliable internet connection is essential if you're a digital nomad. It can be challenging when you're on a budget and can't afford to spend much money on an internet bill each month. Even though it is not ideal, there are still ways to ensure you can get online with free Wi-Fi access.
This article will cover how to use hotspots so you can always access the internet anywhere in the world.
What Is an Internet Hotspot?
An internet hotspot is a physical location where people can access wireless internet. You can connect through Wi-Fi or by using a mobile broadband connection. You'll find hotspots in public places, such as cafes, libraries, and airports.
Companies generally use public Wi-Fi hotspots to provide internet services to visitors, customers, and employees. Most of the free Wi-Fi connections you use are hotspots. Standard Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi hotspots are not quite the same, however.
What Is the Difference Between Standard Wi-Fi and a Hotspot?
Hotspots are usually in a physical location or an individual device, while Wi-Fi is a wireless technology that devices use to send information back and forth to each other.
Your home Wi-Fi system consists of a router that quarterbacks all your wireless gadgets and an internet service provider that connects the router to the internet.
With a strong password, a private wireless network is much more secure than a public, unsecured network. With private Wi-Fi, you control who is allowed to connect to it and when.
Public Wi-Fi is not at all like the internet at home. Public hotspots are open to anyone in range, making it all too easy for people to access your personal information if they have the skills to do so. Be wary of hotel internet and ensure you are not logging into any financial accounts.
In a situation like this, it would be best to have a virtual private network (VPN) or another reliable security measure to protect your privacy. Many offer fast internet and a free trial, which helps you save money.
Best Ways To Find a Free Wi-Fi Network or Free Public Hotspots
There are many options to find free wireless networks or hotspots when you're out and about. There are several Wi-Fi apps that can help you with this.
- Avast Wi-Fi Finder
These apps will show a map of your area with a list of all free public open Wi-Fi available. Most of these apps will allow you to track login requirements. They will also show reviews customers have left about Wi-Fi quality. Make sure you choose local-area connections with good reviews.
You can almost always assume that locations like coffee shops and libraries will have free Wi-Fi networks with a public IP address. Still, if you want to change your scenery, it's best to check the app or call the location first to see if they offer a free Wi-Fi option. It's best not to use your network or start data roaming.
A Swedish company developed Instabridge. It allows users to “turn on” and be a part of one of the world's largest free Wi-Fi sharing communities.
The database is constantly updating to include functioning Wi-Fi hotspots. It also discourages users from using ones that do not work correctly.
Instabridge also offers a bonus VPN service to protect your data while using public Wi-Fi. Always use a VPN to protect yourself from hacking and malicious activity from hackers.
This hotspot database contains an extensive list of hotspots and important information about them.
You can display comments, the hotspot type, and its exact location.
Developers have said they would like to implement password-sharing functionality and offline hotspot maps in the future.
Wiman, like Instabridge, is one of the largest hotspot databases in the world. Wiman operates like your smartphone's built-in Wi-Fi connection manager, offering Wi-Fi hotspots and classifying them based on their overall quality.
You can also earn special rewards from the app and compete with your friends to see who can find the highest number of free Wi-Fi hotspots.
Avast Wi-Fi Finder
Avast is a cybersecurity software company that created a convenient Wi-Fi finder. With a single tap, you can see a live answer to the question, “Is there any free Wi-Fi near me?”
Avast works without an active internet connection and has an extensive database of Wi-Fi passwords provided by community members worldwide.
Swift has a massive database with over 20 million free Wi-Fi hotspots. Since its launch, the app has attracted over 10 million users globally.
Swift also has one of the best built-in security features. The app will perform a basic evaluation of nearby hotspots and alerts you of any that hackers may use for malicious purposes.
The app will also test your current internet speed to help you determine if the hotspot you're using is fast enough for what you need to do.
Get Access to a Free Wi-Fi Hotspot
To set up and use free wireless access, first make sure that the device you're using has access to the internet. Once you have verified this, turn on your device's Wi-Fi function.
Once you have arrived at your location, pull up the Wi-Fi function in your web browser settings or, if you're using a laptop, click the Wi-Fi icon at the bottom left of the screen to connect to the internet.
Once you have chosen the free Wi-Fi service you want to connect to, you may be redirected to another site where you must agree to the terms and conditions for using the Wi-Fi.
You may get lucky and come across a business that uses encryption, which is a sign that they offer a secured network. The shop may have the username (network name) and password posted somewhere in the establishment, or you may need to approach an associate for the password. This situation is preferred because they will protect your privacy if the business is using a secured network.
Set up your laptop to scan for Wi-Fi hotspots automatically. Now you will automatically have internet access any time you enter the establishment in the future.
Setting up and Using a Private Hotspot
While having a private network isn't free, it can be convenient in a public setting where a public network isn't available.
Most smartphone plans offer the option to add a personal hotspot. You may want to upgrade to an unlimited data plan if a personal hotspot is something you like. Or, for a cheaper alternative to upgrading your cellphone plan, Calyx Institute offers relatively inexpensive Wi-Fi device plans with the device included.
You can choose to have your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot or have a separate dedicated hotspot device.
Wi-Fi hotspots are easy to use once you have a phone service that supports them. Open your phone's settings and go to the tab “personal hotspot.”
Click on that and turn it on and set a strong password.
Now you essentially have mobile internet. If you use too much data on the mobile hotspot, it can affect the speed of your smartphone data in general, so keep an eye on your usage.
Which One Is Better?
The data usage on a personal hotspot is separate from your mobile plan and has its own data limit.
It comes with an extra cost, but you won't need to worry about your mobile data eating up your hotspot data.
If you set a strong password for your hotspot, it will be just as secure as any other private Wi-Fi network. It will often have a greater range of coverage while also giving you the benefit of high-speed internet.
Many Wi-Fi routers and mesh routers receive their incoming signal from a cellular connection (LTE or 5G).
You can use both anywhere. However, a cellphone hotspot is more convenient for getting a bit of work done while at Starbucks or a public library.
What Does My Internet Provider Offer?
When the pandemic hit in late 2019, the Federal Communications Commission created an initiative called Keep Americans Connected. The goal of this initiative was to aid people in keeping their broadband and telephone connectivity during the pandemic.
Additionally, providers such as Xfinity extended free public Wi-Fi to anyone during 2020, regardless of whether they were customers.
Many other providers have also extended this benefit into 2022. Check to see if your provider is one of them.
If you're a digital nomad who needs reliable wireless internet access to do their job while traveling or a tourist looking to stay connected, free Wi-Fi connectivity is essential.
Whether you use a public or private network or a portable hotspot, you're guaranteed to get the free wireless internet you need. With so many options available for internet connectivity, you're sure to find one that suits your needs.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Featured Image Courtesy of Shutterstock.
Nicole is a military-trained research analyst, homeschooling mom, healthy lifestyle consultant, and author for GracefullyAundant.com. After living through and overcoming a season of homelessness and chronic health, Nicole developed a passion for helping others. She now uses simple lifestyle shifts, self-care, and developing healthier habits to help people move through difficult times.