1865: Wifi vs Cellular

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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.


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 However, as Wi-Fi has become more popular it is increasingly common to encounter Wi-Fi networks using outdated hardware, poorly organized or overburdened networks, and competition for bandwidth with other Wi-Fi devices.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.) Seeing as the title text mentions the cable company, implying that they're also Randall's Internet Service Provider, being "with HBO" would mean including HBO in the cable channel line-up, and most likely include being able to stream TV shows made by HBO. Since HBO shows include Game of Thrones, whose 7th season started only 3 days earlier, it's plausible that this comic might have been inspired by Randall attempting to stream the season premiere. 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 cancellation 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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I'm not sure it applies in my country. While I have access to cellular internet that is somewhat faster than my home wifi, it is not nearly as reliable for important downloads and definitely several magnitudes costlier when it comes to, say, a Gigabyte of data. Xenos (talk) 05:39, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

Heck, it doesn't even apply in my area of the US (rural Maine). We have no cellular connection at all (well, if you stand at a window at the farthest end of the house, sometimes you can make a call), and the Internet connection for our computers is so slow that upgrading a new-to-me laptop to Windows 10 last week took 36 hours. Now I'm trying to add several thousand jpg images to my Google Drive; that takes about 75 minutes per 100 photos. While they're uploading I don't dare visit any other website. Something about keepalive pings not being able to get to the modem, which then shuts down the link altogether. MaineGrammy (talk) 08:59, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

Panamax is probably a reference to 1632. 09:51, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

I'm not sure that home wifi was even a thing that could be used widely by the public in the early 2000s. OldCorps (talk) 15:06, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

Apple's AirPort was introduced in 1999. So while it may not have been used widely, it was in use at my house. The graph mentions reliability, not ubiquity. Neopanamax (talk) 15:27, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

Fair enough. I wasn't talking at all about reliability, I genuinely didn't know home wifi was available that early. OldCorps (talk) 17:18, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

Home wi-fi existed in the early 2000's, but who was connecting their phone to wifi, especially for the explicit purpose of downloading something, prior to 2007? 05:57, 8 September 2017 (UTC) The explanation says something about ubiquity, which seems odd in relation to HOME wifi - either you have it or you don't. The performance issue Randall mentions might be the WiFi itself, or might be down to the network; it's common for broadband solutions to be marketed as "up to", while never achieving close to the advertised speed (either through sharing the connection or range-related drop-off). Case in point, I have an ancient (~2004) ADSL connection that was supposed to be 8Mbit/s, and barely reaches 2; my home wifi (which as it happens I've just updated) isn't the sticking point - the upstream connection is. At some point I'll go optical and fix this, but my ADSL router is currently doing complicated things with IP translation and a fix isn't a trivial drop-in. I can't be the only one with iffy home data. Meanwhile, my cell phone's connection has healthily outperformed my ADSL from the moment it went 4G; I'm actively annoyed that my cell provider recently added a 12GB cap on tethered data, because operating system updates are appreciably faster if I link to my phone. Cellphone connections do have to share the available bandwidth across more users, but on the other hand they're less likely to suffer interference and poorly-implemented devices. Fluppeteer (talk) 18:43, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

ADSL is often limited by physical quality and length of the cable. Most other connections are limited by ISP's price and sharing strategy. -- Hkmaly (talk) 21:44, 19 July 2017 (UTC)
Re: Ubiquity, when I'm at home, I connect to my home wi-fi. When I visit my mother, I connect to her home wi-fi. At my brother's, his home wi-fi. At my cousin's, his home wi-fi. At my buddy's place, HIS home wi-fi. Every bar I go to - like right this second as I post this - THEIR wi-fi. In this day and age everybody I know has internet-enabled wi-fi in their home, as do many businesses. So, that's what I understand by Randall's use of "ubiquity" here. :) Most places we go (at least in big cities like mine) there's some wi-fi available to connect to. NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:30, 21 July 2017 (UTC)

802.11n can go up to 600 Mbps, and the routers and cards that support it are very reasonably priced with the advent of 802.11ac. That's not to say that LTE isn't sometimes faster, but it's disingenuous to suggest that WiFi is always slower now. Stephonovich (talk) 18:57, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

802.11n and 802.11ac are mostly not fully supported, manufacturers use them only as quasi standards for their own solutions often not compatible to others. But modern LTE is faster than 802.11b/g and the real 802.11n standard.--Dgbrt (talk) 19:16, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

Note that if your home network is too stable for this effect, try wifi in some restaurant. -- Hkmaly (talk) 21:44, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

To get something to load on my computer, sometimes I have to turn on my phone's wifi hotspot (or tethering). ―TobyBartels (talk) 18:06, 20 July 2017 (UTC)

See https://www.maketecheasier.com/find-best-wifi-channel/#comments. One of the problems is that many WiFi routers have their power set to maximum, which means that they can interfere with WiFi networks at fairly large distances. I also have a suspicion that some ISP providers have misconfigured the routers they supply so that the range of their router looks better even though it causes problems. (They hope that you will blame the problems on someone else.) What I haven't decided is whether this is deliberate or simply due to incompetence and lack of diligence. The indication of this is a large number of networks in the display that won't even get to the point of requesting a password. I have also found that performance varies widely over time. BradleyRoss (talk) 03:02, 21 July 2017 (UTC)

Right now the title text's explanation includes "Being "with HBO" would mean being able to stream TV shows made by HBO, notably Game of Thrones, natively rather than relying on piracy or an add-on service to provide them as most online viewers do.". It seems like whoever wrote this is unaware that HBO is an actual TV channel. The title text appears to be expanding on the low quality of the home wi-fi, implying that the wi-fi's internet is from the cable company. A CABLE COMPANY'S package being "with HBO" would simply mean that the CABLE TV channel selection includes that channel, that's all. Nothing about streaming (though people with HBO usually have access to stream it as well, such as with the HBO Go mobile app). And there's nothing "notable" about Game Of Thrones here, that is merely an example of an HBO show, there's no reference or even slight connection to GoT in this comic to make it notable. I'm looking for some consensus here but if there's no change or comments by Thursday night I'll try my hand at fixing it. NiceGuy1 (talk) 09:54, 26 July 2017 (UTC)

Agreed that the "streaming" part of the explanation is a bit cluncky, but I don't agree that there is nothing notable about Game of Thrones. This comic appeared 3 days after the first episode of GoT season 7 was released. My personal experience has been that absolutely everyone is talking about it, and everyone is trying to get access to it. In France, demand for live access to the show via the largest ISP's VOD service was so high it broke their servers, so the first episode ended up being offered to stream for free. It is not out of the question that this comic might have been inspired precisely by Randall's attempt to get a reliable streaming connection to watch the show... 11:38, 26 July 2017 (UTC)
No need for GoT, it's not mentioned (also not hidden) in the comic. And "XTREME" is simple "extreme" and "HBO" means a subscription to their streaming service. Cheap in the beginning but after that extraordinary expensive.--Dgbrt (talk) 15:01, 26 July 2017 (UTC)
Gotta agree with Dgbrt here, there's no mention of GoT here, or even a vague implication. The comic only talks about "getting something to load", not even a mention of streaming or TV shows. Meaning the only connection to GoT is the timing. Even HBO isn't even the focus of the comic, and merely gets a passing mention in the title text! To me, that's enough for a mention, but that's about it, like "Seeing as this comic was released 3 days after the season 7 premiere of Game Of Thrones on HBO, this comic may be a result of Randall trying to stream it.". (On a couple of side notes, I tend to think people still try to watch actual shows and movies on real screens, not a phone, only using their phone when they're out and desperate, and especially when in a position to use wi-fi. If you have wi-fi, you probably also have access to a better screen. And actually this year personally I've seen no mention of GoT, at least among my Facebook friends. Some ads on TV that the season was starting an a certain date - despite my not having HBO! It always gets me when stations advertise on OTHER stations - then that's it. For me it's been very quiet this year) NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:22, 28 July 2017 (UTC)
As a side note to the side note: It's perfectly plausible to use the phone's cellular connection AND having a "real screen". Establish a private hotspot with the phone to which the "real screen"-device can connect via wifi Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 10:36, 31 July 2017 (UTC)
Well of course. :) I've done that myself. Maybe I'm too focused on the times when I've had to watch my phone bandwidth, especially since my phone STILL isn't unlimited just yet. :) But I still find most TVs these days are larger than the screens of computers and such which can use such a hotspot, with the exception of AppleTV and such devices providing streaming capability to TVs. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:53, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
"[...] private hotspot with the phone to which the "real screen"-device can connect via wifi" to which the TV can be connected via <port name>-cable ;) If your TV or device happen to have neither port suitable for such a connection or you don't have a fitting cable you're out of luck, though... XD However, personally I'm not that into that whole mobile stuff. My monthly volume is still limited to 250 MB which I never exceeded (while my partner has 8 GB) Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 06:37, 1 August 2017 (UTC)

My house's Wi-Fi is somehow better than my cellular data which majority is in 3G mode, if my Wi-Fi breaks at home, I would just off my Wi-Fi and restart again, it downloads faster than my cellular data..Boeing-787lover 16:46, 28 August 2017 (UTC)