Wireless internet is great. Let’s get that out of the way right now: It’s awesome.
There’s really nothing like being able to play video games online at high speed without even plugging your system in to anything, or taking the laptop with you to the bathroom, the bedroom, and everywhere in between.
If you’re still using a cable modem or DSL and are thinking about switching to wireless, and it’s within your means, stop thinking about it and make the switch.
The only real problem with switching to wireless is compatibility. Most laptops today are made with built-in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (or both) so you can connect to the internet wherever there’s a “hot spot”, but for older computers, you’ll need to get yourself a wireless modem. Luckily, you can probably get a wireless modem for around fifty dollars, so that’s not really such a huge stumbling block.
So yes, “wireless good”, we’ve established that. Now, how do you go about selecting a wireless internet provider?
Well, let’s list the two “Big Dogs” of the wireless provider market and make some quick comparisons.
Verizon is basically the largest wireless provider in the US, reporting the highest revenue and second highest number of subscribers. As of the merger with Alltel Wireless, Verizon has about 85 million subscribers, making them literally the largest wireless provider in the US.
If you can get past the obnoxious TV commercials, their wide network provides for incredible reliability. With the upcoming Alltel merger, they’ll have coverage of rural areas, as well (there are people in rural communities still using dialup, so if they expand their rural coverage, this could be a big plus).
Cingular boasts 72.9 million subscribers, so they’re not quite the powerhouse that Verizon Wireless is (though it is a close race). However, Cingular isn’t plagued by the controversy that’s surrounded Verizon, either. For example, Verizon advertised a number of products as “GPS Enabled”, only to reveal that they had disabled the GPS trackers so as to later offer a fee-for-service GPS.
Of course, if we’re just talking about these two companies as wireless internet providers and not as product designers, it’s kind of like comparing apples and oranges. Both companies will probably cover you just fine.
If both of these companies cover your area, look for the plan that fits your budget. You’re not going to regret either decision any time soon. Verizon seems to have a slight edge, but it really is a neck and neck race.
So yeah, get a plan that fits your budget, and if you still can’t decide, heck, flip a coin. You might find a plan offered by one that you like a little better than anything offered by the other, but neither company is likely to let you down.
For our Friends in Rural Areas…
However, they don’t cover every town in the US (they cover the vast majority of the country, but they don’t cover every single man woman and child), so you might have to wind up settling for a smaller wireless provider, or even resorting to satellite-provided internet. A lot of small towns and rural areas just aren’t covered by Verizon and Cingular (city slickers will find that hard to believe, but you know, there are parts of the country that have never even heard of Starbucks, for that matter).
So, you should probably be armed with something of a “buyer’s guide”, in order to find the best wireless internet provider in your area if you have to go with one of these independently owned companies. There’s basically just one thing you need to do before making a decision…
Talk to your Friends in the Area
Anyone in the area with some experience with any of the local internet providers will do. First and foremost, ask them how reliable their collection is. One of the main problems with wireless providers is that they rely on outdoor antennas, which are highly susceptible to weather damage. If the company doesn’t have the money or resources to maintain a strong connection, you’ll want to look elsewhere. Second, of course, is speed. If the connection is so flaky it takes half an hour to watch a three minute youtube video, you’re better off with dialup.
Unfortunately, a lot of rural areas really only have the one independently owned wireless provider, and with no competition, there’s very little incentive for them to provide excellent service. In this case, you probably want to put satellite and cable internet back in the running, and simply select the fastest, most reliable connection out of all your choices.
Luckily, Verizon and Cingular are pretty much on a quest to cover the entirety of your area. The last couple paragraphs are probably only relevant to about twenty percent of the people reading this article, and in another couple of years, Cingular and Verizon will probably cover that twenty percent as well.