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August 15, 2013

Rise of the Wi-Fi Nation Paves Way for VoIP Phone Service

Google recently donated $600,000 to the city of San Francisco in a bid to install free Wi-Fi in the city’s parks. Around the United States and the world-at-large, public access Wi-Fi connections are becoming more prevalent.

Parks, restaurants, and downtown areas are the common choices for hotspots, and all of them provide a valuable service to their users. Some people just want to read their morning news from their tablet while they sip on a cup of coffee, while others are using translation tools to communicate on a flight while traveling.

Another valuable service that public Wi-Fi provides is the infrastructure for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone services. Cheaper than most other phone services, VoIP only needs an Internet connection to function, as opposed to the clunky telephone wires that traditional phones run off of.

Public access Wi-Fi paves the way not only for a transition from landlines to VoIP for homes and businesses, but it also makes mobile VoIP services much more convenient. Currently, mobile VoIP runs off of a Smartphone’s data plan. If public Wi-Fi access continues to increase however, mobile VoIP would have much simpler access points for making high-quality and low-cost phone calls.

More Wi-Fi Locations

Many Wi-Fi services are offered on public transit systems and in hotels, but demand that users pay hourly rates to access them. Public wireless, on the other hand, is often free. Public wireless Internet access already has several expansion plans in the works, a testament to its status as a growing trend across the country.

  • Las Vegas approved a contract with to install equipment on light poles that would create Wi-Fi in the downtown area. According to city officials, there will be no cost to the city or users for this service, with LV.Net establishing administration, support, and governance in the operation of free Wi-Fi service.
  • Cape Town, Connecticut has established a free Wiai network in the Company’s Garden park and heritage site that is already set to go live. This service limits users to 100MB of data for users of Smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The project is backed by the city, the Cape Town Partnership, Iziko Museum, and Wi-Fi provider Connected Space.
  • Richmond, Virginia erected three Wi-Fi antennas at various points around the central business district, and plans to erect more to improve reception through the Richmond Mall. This course of action was decided upon after the town’s business promotions body, Richmond Unlimited, noticed how many people were accessing the free Wi-Fi emanating from the Richmond Library. They hope it gives visitors and residents another reason to visit, linger, and shop in Richmond.
  • West Virginia University recently launched what it calls a “Super Wi-Fi” network, that broadcasts Wi-Fi Internet signals over the empty bands of radio wave between television channels, referred to as white space. These signals have a much higher rate of penetration through walls and trees and has a broadcast range of several miles. Should this Super Wi-Fi prove to be a successful venture, there are talks to extend a Super Wi-Fi network across West Virginia, giving Internet and VoIP access to rural communities with neither.

In European countries like Austria and the Czech Republic, there is already an amazing amount of free Wi-Fi offered publicly. Bus stations, cafés, restaurants, and hotels all offer the service for free. Even many of the bars give patrons Wi-Fi access for free, with little reported strain on the system.

What It Means for VoIP

VoIP phones are currently used in homes and businesses that already have their own Wi-Fi connections. With free public Wi-Fi increasingly more available, VoIP services will have the infrastructure needed to become infinitely more convenient than traditional landlines. They already offer higher quality phone plans at a lower cost, but the added cost of a personal Wi-Fi connection is a barrier that some customers can’t quite get over.

A public Wi-Fi system could solve all of that. At this rate, a nationwide public Wi-Fi coverage might not be as unrealistic of a goal as previously imagined, and it would solve a lot of problems for a lot of people. Emergency services, deliveries, and even just simple hellos will become much easier to co-ordinate once free Wi-Fi becomes more widespread.

Jennifer Cuellar is a technology writer and editor based out of San Diego, California. She covers the latest news in VoIP phone service and Wi-Fi innovations.

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