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What is the Difference Between Cellular and Wireless?


Many businesses rely on connectivity technologies such as wireless and cellular to keep their employees, clients, and visitors connected to the digital world. These technologies enable an efficient line of communication between devices and allow internet access. So, what is the difference between cellular and wireless?

WiFi uses radio waves to provide high-speed internet access to mobile devices and allows wireless communication between the connected devices. Cellular uses cell phone towers to enable mobile device communication and provide internet access but requires a data plan attached to the device.

Let’s take a closer look at wireless networks, cellular networks, the differences between them, and the best solution for businesses.

What is WiFi?

WiFi or Wireless Fidelity technology uses multiple bands of radiofrequency waves to transmit information between devices and connect them wirelessly. WiFi provides high-speed internet access to connected mobile devices, such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Once they are connected, these devices can communicate and send information between each other, and access the internet without wires, cables, and similar physical connections.

Internet access is possible anywhere a WiFi connection is present, such as in office buildings, shopping malls, restaurants, and similar. WiFi networks have a limited range, and once a device moves out of range, it loses access to the network.

In order to ensure WiFi connectivity and broadcast the signal, it is necessary to have a modem connected to a wireless router or a wireless gateway. A mobile device needs a wireless adapter to translate between data and radio signals.

What is Cellular?

Cellular networks refer to mobile networks and provide high-capacity coverage over a wide area. Cellular connection is facilitated by cellular towers. Mobile devices use cellular signals coming from cell towers to connect to the internet as well as communicate with other cell phones.

This type of technology allows the user to make phone calls and maintain internet access from almost anywhere, if there’s a cellular tower nearby. Also, in order to have access to the network, a mobile device needs to be connected through a cellular provider.

Cellular networks depend on network range availability. In theory, mobile devices can reach a cell tower up to 45 miles away. In practice, this range is shorter because of various obstacles, such as buildings, trees, and terrain.

The more cell towers a specific area has, the faster and more reliable the network will be. The speed at which the cellular network operates depends on the connection – 3G, 4G, 5G, LTE. Of course, better network connections result in faster data and download.

Cellular networks can also be used to broadcast a WiFi signal. A cellular modem or a portable WiFi hotspot can connect to the network through a cellular provider. After connecting, it converts cellular data into a WiFi signal, and as a result, WiFi devices can connect to this signal and have internet access.

The Differences Between Cellular and Wireless

Now that you know more about cellular and wireless networks, let’s take a look at the differences between these two types of connectivity technologies:

  • Internet access – When it comes to cellular networks, mobile devices use cellular signals coming from the nearest cell towers to access the internet. On the other hand, WiFi networks use radiofrequency waves to provide internet access to mobile devices.
  • Data plan and limit – Cellular networks use a proprietary frequency and a dedicated cellular operator. A data plan is attached to a mobile device, and these plans usually have a monthly (or other) data consumption limit. WiFi networks don’t require a data plan, and mobile devices rely solely on WiFi to connect to the internet. There’s no limit on how much data can be used per month (or during a shorter or longer period).
  • Range – Cellular networks depend on network range availability. WiFi has a limited range, and devices can use WiFi only while they are within the wireless router’s range.
  • Router connection – Cellular data doesn’t connect to a router, whereas WiFi requires a connection to a wireless router in order to provide internet access.
  • Speed – Cellular network speeds have gotten faster and are no longer inferior to WiFi speeds. Both types of networks will provide fast internet access. However, cellular networks offer a more stable and reliable connection. Their speed doesn’t depend on the number of devices connected to a network.
  • Security and privacy – Cellular data is encrypted by default. Also, these networks offer safer connectivity since any updates are done by dedicated and knowledgeable cellular provider’s staff. On the other hand, wireless networks require enabling encryption, and a network owner should proactively install any updates.

What is the Best Solution for Businesses?

If you are a business owner looking for a connectivity solution for your company, you should consider combining cellular and wireless technology. Some businesses rely solely on WiFi networks to keep customers and employees connected and provide them with internet access. However, wireless networks may be slow, which can result in slow data speeds, lower voice quality, and a higher number of dropped calls especially with WiFi calling.

WiFi communication can sometimes be inconsistent and is affected by the number of devices connected to a WiFi network at the same time. An overloaded network can contribute to the frustration and complaints from employees, clients, and visitors. Also, during a power outage, WiFi is not available.

Although WiFi networks have many benefits for businesses, they also have downsides. As a result, many businesses have considered cellular network connectivity since it may be a better and more reliable solution. Cellular networks offer stable connectivity, and a cell signal is available even during a power outage.

Since WiFi networks alone are not good enough to satisfy all business needs, many businesses combine them with cellular networks in order to achieve the best possible connectivity. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Atlantic Technology Group today!