Wi-Fi is broken. It is too technical to use, and no market education will fix it.
Stacey Higginbotham on GigaOm tried to get to the bottom of why the Wi-Fi experience isn’t as good as it could be. She went all technical and ended up with an interesting conclusion:
The problem is all Wi-Fi is not equal, and the industry and providers of Wi-Fi networks have so far done a poor job trying to explain that to the average consumer.
Sure there are technical reasons why Wi-Fi is poor most-places, but guess what: I DON’T CARE!
Here are two ways in which Wi-Fi has been broken for me this week alone.
1. The hotel room case
This last weekend I’ve been on vacation with my extended family – nothing fancy – just went down south for a couple of days.
One of my older relatives has recently moved to the iPhone. For those who are not aware, the iPhone is an optimistic sort of a phone – if it finds Wi-Fi signal somewhere – it signs in to the service.
Only problem was, the hotel we stayed in had a paid Wi-Fi service. So the phone preferred a Wi-Fi pay wall instead of just using the carrier’s data network with the existing paid data package on it. reasonable for home use, but not in this case.
I ended up manually setting this relative’s phone to disable Wi-Fi. I also needed to instruct him on how to enable it again once the vacation was over.
And to think he had to go a full day without internet…
2. The large company case
I work at Amdocs. In the facility I am in there are 5 floors in my building with several hundreds of employees in my floor alone. It is a large place.
We’ve got Wi-Fi all over the building with great reception. The issue is that my Android phone (and I think all phones today) doesn’t switch the Wi-Fi hotspot it is connected to until reception is so bad you can’t even get a trickle of bits on it. The sad thing? My room is located quite far from the hotspot I get connected to when I get into my floor. So I usually have bad Wi-Fi reception in my room – at least until I disable it and re-enable it while sitting in my room.
I move a lot around the building to talk to people and attend meetings. Sometimes, it is simply easier to disable Wi-Fi altogether and just use the cellular data network instead – you don’t get flaky reception in the same scale you do on Wi-Fi when you know there are close hotspots nearby.
Why can’t Wi-Fi just switch to the best network automatically?
It is broken in both cases because there’s no way to manage it properly – no spec or best practices that work well enough.
As I said – it is time for Wi-Fi to go mobile. Make Wi-Fi fade into the background and don’t have me manage it manually.