The Computer Whisperer's Explanation of 3G, WIFI, and You...

These days, who doesn’t need to connect to the internet everyday?  However, something as simple as connecting to the internet can prove to be a confusing and daunting task.  For instance, even though you may be connected to the internet, you may be confused as to HOW you are connected.  Are you connected via Wifi, 3G, Ethernet or Bluetooth? Or, are you “Tethering?”   If the difference between these types of internet connection methods confounds you, never fear!  DA-DA-TA-DAAAAAA!  The Computer Whisperer is here!!! So, what really IS  the difference between these internet connection methods?  Read on my pretties, because I’ve provided definitions below which anyone can understand.

Wifi is Wireless Internet, which is synonymous with 802.11.  The 802.11 standard has several revisions, but trust me, that whole explanation is an entirely different article.  Just suffice it to say that 802.11 means WifiWifi is achieved when you are connected to a router wirelessly.  It’s the same concept as connecting a blue cable to your router then connecting the other end to your computer.  But instead of connecting with a cable, you are connecting wirelessly.  In other words, if you are connecting to a router, you are either connecting with a typically “Blue” Ethernet cable, or without one.  Since your router is capable of having one-to-many relationships (connections), it is able to allow several connections (clients) to connect to it – either wired or wirelessly.

On the other hand, 3G is an Over-The-Air connection to the internet.  Simply put, when you are connected to the internet over 3G/3.5G/4G, you are connecting Over-The-Air via your Cell Service Provider (CSP).  With this type of connection, you are free to go anywhere your cell phone would usually have a cell signal, without having to worry about finding a Wifi Hotspot (which occurs when a router is set up to allow connections with your device wirelessly).  A 3G connection is always and only provided by Cell Service Providers (CSP) because it’s Internet on the go.  Therefore, your device, be it a tablet, cell phone, USB modem, or computer, must be able to allow the insertion of a SIM card from your CSP.  Once this SIM card is inserted in your device, it then needs to be activated by your CSP.  With this activation, you are now able to receive a signal from your CSP (just like with your cell phone).  But, instead of this signal providing you Cellular Service for your phone calls, it is providing you with internet service.  Think of the way you can purchase telephone service from your telephone company in your home, but if you also want Internet Service, you must purchase this service separately.  Usually this is sold to you as a “bundle,” which is a combination of services you purchase from one provider.  Now, once you have 3G/3.5G/4G service on your device (commonly referred to as a “Data Plan”), you can freely surf the internet on your device from literally anywhere your signal reaches to.  Additionally, with the installation of the appropriate software on your device, you can even create your own “Hotspot” by sharing your internet connection with other devices/friends – like your own computer, or any other device that has the ability to connect to a router wirelessly.  This sharing method is called “Tethering” because you are connecting (tethering) devices together in a one-to-many relationship, just like with a router.  In essence, your device becomes the router, providing Wifi signal to whatever device you choose.  Hypothetically, you could even forego purchasing an Internet Service account in your home, and just use the Tethering method as your only source of internet.  Because of poor bandwidth, such a scenario would not be the most elegant solution, but it is certainly and by all means, possible.  In fact, as I write this, I’m thinking of a person (I wouldn’t dare mention your name here, Nesto), that uses this type of internet as his only source of internet, both in his home and on the go.
Although it is rapidly changing, Bluetooth is a one-to-one conversation between two devices.  Since Bluetooth has within it, a protocol which can also allow sharing internet between devices (Tethering), you have that option as a method to connect and share internet from one device to another.  However, since there are many, many different protocols included in the Bluetooth standard, I will not go into detail here explaining it.  Let’s save that for another day.

As always, if you would like a more in-depth explanation of any of these types of internet connections (or any other technology-related issue) feel free to stop by Punto G and pick my brain for a quick “Voogle” session.
Ciao Amigos!!

Vera (a.k.a. "The Computer Whisperer")