How To Get Wifi Service

By Rebecca O'Brien

With the growing popularity of laptops, cellular phone carriers have begun offering more options for wireless Internet, or WiFi, service. This service uses the data capabilities of "3G" cellular networks to give users high speed Internet access on the go. Getting WiFi service requires a service agreement and a connection card, a device that allows your laptop to connect to the network.

Step 1

Research carriers. Nearly every major cellular carrier offers WiFi service. Use online resources like coverage maps, recommendations from acquaintances and information from employees at stores that sell more than one carrier to determine which carriers suit your needs best.

Step 2

Determine your hardware needs. Your laptop may already have a built in connection card, which will be carrier specific. If you don't have one of these, you can use a PCMCIA card or a USB adapter. Know which one your computer has (it may have both) before you make a decision on a carrier, as not all carriers offer devices for all ports.

Step 3

Choose a plan. Go online or a visit a local retailer to view the plans available for the carriers you chose in step 1. While most carriers offer only one plan, others may offer plans based upon usage. If you will be a "data intensive" user, meaning a lot of uploading/downloading or streaming media, you will need a higher bandwidth plan.

Step 4

Sign up for service. Contact a local retailer that sells the carrier you've chosen. Make sure the carrier has the necessary adapter in stock and will set it up for you, free of charge. Nearly every carrier will require you to sign a one or two year contract, as with a regular cell phone, although some, such as Cricket, offer contract-free service. The ideal time to sign up for WiFi service is on a Saturday morning, to give you the entire week to test it.

Step 5

Test your connection. In the week after you sign up for service, use your WiFi connection as often as possible. Make sure to test it in areas that you regularly visit, such as coffee shops or parks. If you ever take the train to work, do so this week to ensure you'll be able to use your connection on future trips. If your connection doesn't work properly where you need it to, return the card to the store and cancel the service.

Tips & Warnings

  • Even the best WiFi coverage has gaps. Expect your service to work in the majority of the covered areas, but don't expect it to be perfect.
  • Never leave the store before your WiFi service is active. The sales personnel may insist that it will take several hours, but, ideally, it should take no longer than 15 minutes.