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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Wifi vs Cellular
According to the cable company reps who keep calling me, it's because I haven't upgraded to the XTREME GIGABAND PANAMAX FLAVOR-BLASTED PRO PACKAGE WITH HBO, which is only $5 more per month for the first 6 months and five billion dollars per month after that.
Title text: According to the cable company reps who keep calling me, it's because I haven't upgraded to the XTREME GIGABAND PANAMAX FLAVOR-BLASTED PRO PACKAGE WITH HBO, which is only $5 more per month for the first 6 months and five billion dollars per month after that.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: First version... Links to X-finity and blast? Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

In this comic Randall remarks on how recent changes in Wi-Fi and Cellular data reliability have impacted his behavior. Wi-Fi technology has had several advantages over cellular data transmission due to Wi-Fi antennas' more ubiquitous distribution and ability to focus on high data transmission rates instead of broad signal coverage. However, as Wi-Fi has become more popular it is increasingly common to encounter Wi-Fi networks using outdated hardware, poorly organized or overburdened networks, and competition for bandwidth with other Wi-Fi devices. Meanwhile due to continued commercial investment in upgrading and expanding cellular networks and the more frequent consumer replacement of cellular handsets, the reliability of cellular data has continued to increase.

Randall notes that prior to 2015 he found that he could improve his internet connection by connecting to a Wi-Fi network instead of using cellular data. After 2015 however, he finds that in many cases he is able to get a stronger connection by disengaging his Wi-Fi connection and getting his data over a cellular connection.

Anything larger than a few kilobytes would previously require someone to switch off network data and connect to a wireless network. However, for a couple of years, cellular networks' data transmission rates have often become more reliable (albeit usually costlier for larger amount of data usage) while home Wi-Fi has remained fairly constant, meaning the cellular network is often the best choice to download a file.

Randall says it is weird from a networking point of view, but in fact modern LTE connections via the cellular network are faster (up to 300 Mbit/s) than the common used Wi-Fi standards like 802.11b/g and 802.11n (54-150 Mbit/s). Faster Wi-Fi standards do exist but they are very rarely supported.

In the title text Randall takes a moment to rail against the often misleading promotional rates offered by cable internet providers. Such providers often attempt to up-sell consumer on internet packages with additional features. Here Randall juxtaposes several descriptors that might feature in a cable ad with several that refer to other things entirely. Xtreme Gigaband is a plausible internet package name, but might also be a reference to Comcast's often derided "Xfinity" promotions. And while Panamax sounds like it may be a film term, it is actually a ship classification that denotes the maximum size ship that can safely pass through the Panama canal. (This could also be referencing the title text of 1632: Palindrome.) Flavor-Blasted is a food term often used in hyperbolic television food ad, but also could be a reference to Comcast Cable's "Blast!" internet packages. Pricing mentioned in title text is exaggerated with only $5 more during first six months, but costing 5 billion after, which is a reference to how service providers would often advertise a lower temporary price, while if you read the fine print the plan is much more costly once the limited time offer runs out, and discounting is simply used for marketing purposes. What's worse, these discounted periods (typically six months) often come with a much longer contract (typically two years) which imposes cancelation fees.


[A graph with two curves that cross each other. The two areas beneath the curve at the top, and down to either the X-axis or the other curve are shaded with vertical gray lines. The Y-axis has no label, but represents reliability, the X-axis is a timeline, with labels indicating years beneath the axis, without any ticks. The two curves are labeled with text interrupting the curves, in the second case using two lines for the text. In the left shaded area there is a label inside and the right shaded area the label is beneath the curves with an arrow pointing to the area. All this text and the arrow is gray. Above the curves there is a caption also in gray font:]
To get something to load on my phone, sometimes I have to...
Label left area: ...Connect to WiFi
Label right area: ...Turn off WiFi
Label curve one: Home WiFi reliability
Label curve two: Cellular data reliability
Year labels: 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020
[Caption below the panel:]
It seems weird from a networking point of view, but sometime in the last few years this flipped for me.

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