Cell Phone Signal vs WiFi: What’s the Difference?
Posted on 7/28/2023 by Meredith Pond
There’s no one right way to connect to the internet for everyone. One way is to use WiFi, which you probably have at home and in your office. Another way is to use cellular data, which is built into your phone and available in a lot of other places. But when it comes to business, what’s the story with cell phone signal vs WiFi? When is the best time to use one or the other? And what should you do if you want to rely on cellular signal but experience dead zones?
Before we lay that out, let’s define each technology and how they are used.
What is a WiFi network?
WiFi stands for wireless fidelity, a technology that allows electronic devices to connect to a wireless local area network (WLAN) using radio waves. In lay terms, WiFi is a way for your devices to connect to the internet without being physically plugged in.
A WiFi network helps you conduct business without being chained to your desk. However, due to its limited range, you will need to be onsite to use it.
How WiFi works
A WiFi network works with the help of a router, which sends out the radio waves. When your electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and POS systems are within range of the router, they can pick up the radio waves and connect to the internet. The router acts as a gatekeeper, allowing your devices to access the internet and communicate with each other.
WiFi has many applications in your business, but core uses include sending and receiving customer emails or web portal functions, SaaS productivity tools like Google Suite, streaming product demos or promotional video, or using the internet for anything onsite.
In other words, if you’re conducting business and using any kind of connected device to do it, you definitely need WiFi.
What is a cellular network?
A cellular network refers to a wireless communication network that enables you to connect to the internet and communicate using cellular data. It consists of interconnected cells served by base stations or cell towers, which send and receive communication signals to and from mobile devices within their respective cells.
For businesses, cellular networks offer the ability to make phone calls, send text messages, browse the internet, and use mobile apps. They provide flexibility and mobility, allowing employees to stay connected while on the move, such as during business trips or field work.
Cellular networks are particularly useful for businesses that require continuous communication and internet access without relying on limited-range WiFi networks.
With a cellular-enabled device and a carrier network subscription, businesses can leverage cellular networks to conduct various business activities, including remote communication with clients or customers, accessing cloud-based applications, sending emails, and even processing payments.
Cellular networks ensure connectivity regardless of the business location, providing a reliable means of staying connected and accessing information critical to business operations.
How cellular networks work
Cellular networks divide a geographic area into smaller cells. Each cell has a cell tower which communicates with cellular devices. When a mobile device moves from one cell to another, the call or data connection is handed off from one tower to the next, allowing for seamless communication.
To access the internet via a cellular network, you must use a cellular-enabled device that’s served by a carrier network, such as Verizon or AT&T.
Cellular networks are used to make phone calls, send text messages, browse the internet, and use mobile apps. Anything you can do over a WiFi network can also be done over a cellular network as long as the signal is strong enough.
Cellular networks are used by people out and about, such as commuters, shoppers, or travelers, since they allow for communication and internet access without needing to sign into a limited-range and usually password-protected WiFi network.
Cellular networks have revolutionized the way we communicate and access information. Today, people rely on cellular networks to stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues, regardless of location.
Cell phone signal vs WiFi: critical differences
While both WiFi and cellular networks provide an important way to stay connected, they each have unique strengths and weaknesses. Here are some of the key differences between WiFi and cellular networks:
WiFi networks have a limited range, typically covering a radius of around 150 feet indoors and approximately 300 feet outdoors, depending on the strength and setup of the router. In contrast, cellular networks have a much wider range and can cover entire cities, regions, and even countries. This is because cellular networks rely on a vast network of interconnected cell towers, which work together to provide coverage over a large area.
For WiFi networks, factors such as the strength of the router, the number of devices on the network, physical barriers like walls and furniture, and interference from other electronic devices can all impact the range of the network.
For cellular networks, factors such as the availability of the carrier network, cell tower location, and physical barriers like mountains and buildings can have an impact and even prevent a cellular signal from reaching your device, especially indoors.
WiFi networks use radio waves to transmit and receive data, while cellular networks use a combination of radio waves and cellular towers. The technology used in WiFi networks is typically less complex than in cellular networks, which is why it is often considered less reliable than a strong cellular network.
The technology that makes up cellular networks is more complex than WiFi networks, but it also allows for better range, better reliability, and can support a large number of devices doing data-heavy tasks at once. The coverage area of a cellular network depends on the number of towers available to serve it and the strength of the signal from each tower.
WiFi networks are typically used in homes, businesses, and other fixed locations, while cellular networks are more flexible and follow the user’s device to many places.
A cellular signal may be limited or unavailable in certain areas, especially remote or rural locations. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome this, including installing a cellular signal booster from weBoost in your business or vehicle fleet.
Speed and reliability
Depending on how the network is set up, WiFi networks may offer faster connection, but cellular networks are more reliable. Cellular networks provide consistent and reliable coverage over a wide area, whereas WiFi networks cover only short-range communication.
Take WiFi calling for example. If you enable it on your phone, you can use WiFi to make calls while on a WiFi network. This can come in handy when needed, but the significant downside of W-Fi calling is that it could bog down your network.
Critical business applications may slow down if multiple people use your WiFi for calls (or guest streaming). If you’re a healthcare clinic, for instance, staff access to medical applications could slow down.
WiFi calling can be a problem due to limited bandwidth. The more people are using your WiFi, the slower and less reliable it becomes. If too many devices are connected at once, things can slow to a crawl.
WiFi networks are also more susceptible to interference from other electronic devices, which can result in slower speeds and dropped connections.
Cellular networks, on the other hand, can automatically switch to a different cell tower if one is experiencing problems, which can help ensure a seamless connection as you travel. As long as you’re in an area with coverage, your connection should not be interrupted.
There is really no contest here. Cellular networks are generally considered more secure than WiFi for several reasons.
Less vulnerability to WiFi-based attacks
WiFi networks rely on radio waves that can be intercepted by nearby devices, making them more susceptible to attacks such as eavesdropping, man-in-the-middle attacks, and rogue access points. Cellular networks, on the other hand, utilize different frequencies and technologies, making it more challenging to intercept communication using WiFi-based attacks.
Cellular networks use encryption to secure communication between the cellular device (e.g., smartphone) and the cellular tower. This encryption helps protect the data being transmitted, making it more difficult for malicious actors to decipher the information, should they be able to intercept it. Different encryption protocols, such as GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) or LTE (Long-Term Evolution), are used in cellular networks to ensure data security.
Cellular tower infrastructure
Cellular networks rely on a network of cell towers that are spread out across an area to provide coverage. These towers communicate with cellular devices and act as gateways to the wider network. The infrastructure of cellular towers is built with security considerations in mind, making it harder for unauthorized access to the network or interference.
When a cellular device connects to a cellular network, it undergoes authentication processes to verify its identity. The cellular network verifies the device’s credentials and ensures that only authorized devices can access the network. This authentication adds an extra layer of security, preventing unauthorized devices from connecting to the network.
Centralized network control
Cellular networks are operated and maintained by telecommunication companies, which have dedicated security measures in place to protect the network infrastructure and user data. These companies invest in securing their network infrastructure and regularly update their security protocols to address emerging threats.
While cellular networks offer stronger security features compared to WiFi networks, it’s important to note that no system is entirely immune to security risks. You should take precautions when transmitting sensitive information over any network and follow security best practices to protect business and customer data.
It may be cheaper for your business to maintain a WiFi network than a cellular network. When you use a WiFi network, your data usage generally does not have an impact on cost because there are no caps on usage.
Cellular networks, on the other hand, may have data caps or usage limits depending on your plan. That said, unlimited data plans are becoming more and more commonplace, and costs continue to come down.
In setting up your WiFi network, you will incur upfront equipment costs for your modem and router. You will also pay a monthly fee for internet service, just like you do for your cellular plan.
Why you need both WiFi and cellular
Small and medium-sized businesses require both WiFi and reliable cellular signal to meet diverse connectivity needs. By combining WiFi and reliable cellular signal, you can leverage the advantages of both. Here’s how they can be used together:
- Localized connectivity: WiFi networks can be set up in office spaces, conference rooms, and customer areas, providing employees and customers with high-speed, cost-effective connectivity.
- Seamless mobility: Employees can seamlessly transition from the office WiFi network to reliable cellular signal as they move outside the office premises or travel between locations, ensuring continuous connectivity.
- Network redundancy: Having both WiFi and reliable cellular signal provides businesses with a backup plan in case of WiFi network issues or outages. Critical operations can continue uninterrupted by automatically switching to cellular connectivity.
- Flexibility for remote work: Remote or field workers can rely on cellular networks for connectivity, allowing them to stay productive regardless of their location. They can access company resources, communicate with colleagues, and use cloud-based applications while on the go.
- Enhanced coverage: WiFi and cellular networks together provide extended coverage, ensuring that employees and customers have access to reliable connectivity throughout the premises, including areas with weaker WiFi signals.
Cell phone signal vs WiFi: the bottom line
By utilizing both WiFi and reliable cellular signal, your business can create a comprehensive connectivity strategy that combines the cost-effectiveness of WiFi with the wide coverage, redundancy, and mobility of cellular networks. This hybrid approach ensures that employees have access to reliable and secure connectivity, whether they are in the office, on the move, or working remotely. It also helps ensure the best customer experience.
Due to circumstances mentioned earlier, cellular signals may have trouble reaching some areas. If you and your customers are having trouble getting a strong signal in your business, it’s an easy fix. weBoost can correct the problem with a cell signal booster that strengthens weak signal in your business, home, or vehicle(s). Click here to find the right signal booster for your business needs.
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