Free Wi-Fi Hotspots: The Vital Lifesaver  by@katia-shabanova

Free Wi-Fi Hotspots: The Vital Lifesaver 

Katia Shabanova HackerNoon profile picture

Katia Shabanova

20+ experience in IT

When the world went online in the late 90s, being online from anywhere wirelessly was actually possible, but it was slow and very expensive. It wasn’t until the 2000s that Wi-Fi started becoming available on laptops with built-in Wi-Fi to connect to nascent home and office routers with WI-Fi antennas, but free Wi-Fi almost everywhere was still just a pipedream. Fast forward to the 2010s and now the 2020s, and free Wi-Fi has grown to such an extent that certain cities around the world now have it provided in all major locations free by the local government, while virtually every cafe, restaurant, hotel, store, mall and other retail locations offer free Wi-Fi services. 

Of course, mobile data and cell phone plans have boomed as never before, with some telecoms companies in some countries even offering unlimited data, but normally, once a certain amount of data has been downloaded, your access is slowed dramatically. So even without Wi-Fi hotspots, the ability to stay permanently connected has become a habit for millions, if not billions, but just because cell phone service and data is cheap in some areas does not mean it is like that everywhere on the planet. 

Billions have been able to engage in the world as never before, making the lives of many people better in countless ways.

Education, travel, leisure, shopping, work, and social media - while the Internet is viewed as a double-edged sword by some people, the advantages of fast access to networks are undeniable. Many are now so connected that we’re overloaded with information and countless apps that help us to stay tuned in on the latest events and news, but access to the Internet is now seen as being as important as access to electricity and running water. 

It may surprise you to discover that in the age of COVID-19 and lockdowns, some people were left without Internet access, making it difficult or impossible for them to effortlessly stay connected to work, for their children to continue being educated from home, to order groceries and other essentials online and to stay connected to loved ones through video conferencing. 

So, while we live in a nirvana of incredible connectivity, knowing where to find free Wi-Fi, whether in your own city, or when traveling, can be an absolute lifesaver, with ubiquitous connectivity definitely not ubiquitous yet for all. 

The digital divide still exists and continues to divide us, and with the connectivity conundrum still needing to be solved.  

Tackling the issue 

What are some relevant stats about connectivity around the world? Let’s start with the number of online users in Asia, where people are used to staying online for a considerable amount of time. This figure has grown more than 200% in less than a decade, representing a staggering 2.5 billion people in 2020, up from 1 billion in 2011. 

Of course, growth is expected to continue booming, and booming even faster in a post-COVID world, with the world’s global mobile data traffic set to surpass 77 exabytes per month in 2022, up from 11.5 exabytes per month as of 2017! We’re clearly on the way to an all-digital life, with augmented reality glasses everywhere within five years, and maybe even a direct Internet connection into our brains in a couple of decades’ time.

Coming back to reality, however, the world saw nearly 4.57 billion active internet users as of July 2020, encompassing 59% of the global population, which is truly impressive!

All these numbers, research, and data tell us one thing: our lives have changed forever, with the quaint landline phones and dial-up modems of last century but a forgotten memory, with young people not even understanding how a rotary phone works and what it means to “hang up the phone” - a quick search through YouTube videos quickly confirms that! 

Just as people no longer rely on inconvenient and outdated physical maps for navigation, or even dedicated GPS devices, the connected smartphone with intelligent apps has completely changed the game with real-time info that is much deeper and richer than ever before, and it’s only getting more sophisticated and advanced. Imagine traveling to a new city, where you don’t know the places that locals go to and where you still feel the travelers' excitement of discovery. 

Now, depending on the cell phone plan you’re connected to, you suddenly discover that you’ve chewed through all of your gigabytes and will have overage charges to deal with, or you’re subject to roaming rates that are a complete rip-off.

A trip to a local cafe with free Wi-Fi is standard practice in this case. However, it can take time to find a reliably fast connection that isn’t limited by some kind of download limit so you can join your daily Zoom conference call fashionably, or make that video conferencing call to friends and family keen to hear how your travels are going.

You might even want fast WI-Fi to upload those high-res photos to your social media platform or great videos to your YouTube channel. 

Now, in 2019, the number of public Wi-Fi hotspots experienced a quadrupling since 2016, showing the rapid rise in these networks worldwide. This trend towards growth is expected to continue into at least the early 2020s. But there are still a lot of places, all over the world, where the Internet works clunkily and slowly, or Wi-Fi spots are still not present or aren’t present in large numbers.

Leveraging the digital Wi-Fi map to learn where in the world you can find great Wi-Fi

In 2020, there is no shortage of startups having launched to simplify and enhance the online experience in different ways. Not every startup is destined to succeed, however. But there’s one that is squarely putting itself on the map - and that’s Wi-Fi Map, helping users discover the best Wi-Fi spots in their area so they can lifehack their way to great free connectivity wherever they are. 

WiFi Map shows you more than just public hotspots that are available nearby, but provides great time-saving help by also offering passwords for these hotspots if available, telling you the expected connection speed, showing when users last used that Wi-Fi hotspot and sharing other important details that let you decide which Wi-Fi hotspot to travel to so you get the connectivity you need, when you need it. 

WiFi Map’s database has more than 100 million hotspots across 200 countries, and the database is continuously updated through its millions of active users who provide an extensive and continuously updated database, ensuring that Wi-Fi Map has one of the most accurate active Wi-Fi knowledge repositories in the world. 

The app uses the latest technologies to crowdsource data, along with proprietary AI to monitor performance at all locations, thus ensuring the app only displays hotspot locations of known high quality. 

Businesses wanting to attract tech-savvy customers can proactively add their venues to Wi-Fi Map’s database and get additional exposure to local customers and travelers. And, while the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reduced the options for travel destinations, the need for Wi-Fi is still valuable for the public and commerce.

With economies opening up despite spikes in infection rates, businesses with free Wi-Fi can also add value by promoting themselves as regularly sanitized locations, with clean facilities, hand sanitizer, and fresh supplies of masks and more, or can point people to the right locations nearby that offer such supplies.

There’s also the issue of privacy and safety while browsing the web. Wi-Fi Map has an optional paid VPN function that keeps the user’s device anonymous through its network of more than 150 servers worldwide.

An eSim traffic data plan allows users to connect to the Internet when there is no Wi-FI nearby at competitive rates if their cell phone has an eSIM built in, as many modern models do.

There’s also the benefit of offline navigation to Wi-Fi hotspots around the world you can tap into when you’re not connected at all, so you can get to places where connecting is free and easy.

Just open the Wi-Fi Map app or website anywhere in the world, and every network within a mile of you and beyond springs into sight, just like that! You can even share great hotspots and share them with friends in just a few taps. 

Denis Sklyarov, CEO at WiFi Map, said: “It’s true that pandemic cleaned out the world’s most popular tourist destinations deemed as tourist meccas, but even though we’ve all seen the upsetting footage of empty streets in Rome, Paris, and other significant places, tourists, life and business is coming back. 

Part of this is because closing down international borders boosted domestic tourism and pushed people to explore their own countries, but also because some places have reopened to international travelers who know that various tourist destinations have never been cheaper or less crowded, proving that opportunity and silver linings are everywhere.

The situation in America is interesting, too. Some are challenged in terms of internet connection. Despite the digital age, over 10 million households in the US have no broadband connection and thus no Wi-Fi, while virtually every modern device we own, including laptops, tablets, phones and other gadgets, all come with the ability to connect to Wi-Fi networks. Data plans are another issue for American internet and cell phone users.

A lot of users have prepaid data plans which are quite costly, while unlimited data plans to slow down connections once they reach a certain threshold of gigabytes used per month. 

In this context, a crowdsourced Wi-Fi finder is a real lifesaver: people help each other to stay connected by contributing their knowledge of free Wi-Fi hotspots to the Wi-Fi Map app or website. Travelers get to know their own home countries far better than ever before, and can get free access to hotspots wherever they are. The option of paid  VPN protection in our app is also available to help users make sure every connection is secure.

Wi-Fi Map

Even if you only use it sporadically because you’ve got great broadband at home or work, or you have a great cell phone data plan, you never know when you’ll need high-quality free Wi-Fi, and this app helps you to find it near you - and effortlessly, too. 

If you still travel a lot, or will be doing so in the future, then put yourself on an infinitely connected map with the Wi-Fi Map app. It’s the key to connectivity in an age where being disconnected is just unacceptable, so download the Wi-Fi Map app today and make sure you can find the connectivity you need, right when you need it! 

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