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Home Wi-Fi service providers

Wi-Fi is not a separate service from your internet, but another way to connect your devices. All major internet providers offer home Wi-Fi service, but it may come with additional fees or equipment requirements. Depending on your Wi-Fi provider, you may be able to use your own equipment and save on rental costs.

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What is Wi-Fi and how does it work?

Wireless Fidelity or “Wi-Fi” begins when your internet provider sends an internet signal to your home, where your activated modem receives it and turns it into usable internet service. You can connect to the internet directly from the modem using a wired Ethernet connection or you can plug a wireless router into the modem for Wi-Fi usability. You can also plug in an Ethernet cord to the router for both a wired and wireless experience around your home.

The next step involves the internet router converting internet service from the modem into signals Wi-Fi devices use to connect to the internet. It’s not as fast or secure as a wired connection, but Wi-Fi is a super convenient way to get the internet on multiple devices around your home. You can interact with the internet signal within certain Wi-Fi ranges imposed by your router. Some will use more long-range routers to increase their span of wireless internet.

Over the past two decades, Wi-Fi has become an essential part of how we use the internet. As we have come to rely more heavily on Wi-Fi the technology behind it has continued to improve, and most if not all internet providers have integrated Wi-Fi capabilities into their service. Learn more about Wi-Fi providers, products, and features with our guide.

Top Wi-Fi providers

Wi-Fi is not its own specific service, so you won’t find “Wi-Fi” or “non-Wi-Fi” plans from your provider. Your internet plan represents the connection and speeds to the modem, Wi-Fi is just a wireless extension of that connection.  

Most providers present Wi-Fi as an add-on to their internet service, typically with an extra monthly fee for Wi-Fi equipment. Some may let you use your own Wi-Fi equipment and avoid the fee for renting or purchasing a router through them.

Best home Wi-Fi providers of 2020

Compare Wi-Fi service providers

**Rate requires paperless billing. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply. Offer Details. Speed may not be available in your area. Maximum download/upload speed of up to 940 Mbps via a wired connection.

How much does Wi-Fi really cost?

Expect Wi-Fi service to add around $20 or more to your monthly internet bill. Fees for internet equipment can range from $5 to $15 per month, depending on your provider. Additionally, you may want to equip your Wi-Fi network with Wi-Fi extenders, online security and advanced tech support, all of which can add to the cost of internet.

When shopping for internet service, be sure to consider Wi-Fi equipment and service fees. And if you enjoy using Wi-Fi on the go, consider providers such as AT&T, Spectrum and Xfinity that have a large Wi-Fi hotspot network.

What equipment do I need for Wi-Fi?

As magical as Wi-Fi seems, it doesn’t just happen on its own. In addition to your internet connection, you’ll need at the very least a modem and router to enjoy Wi-Fi.

  • Modem – This device receives the internet connection from your provider and uses Ethernet cables to connect with other devices.
  • Router – This device takes the connection from your modem and sends the signal to devices like laptops, cellphones and smart TVs.
  • Wireless network adapter – This device connects your desktop PC to a Wi-Fi network. This is not required for newer PCs, laptops and smart devices as they have built-in Wi-Fi receivers.
  • Wi-Fi extenders (optional)These devices can help boost your Wi-Fi signal so you get a stronger signal throughout your home.

Everything you need is likely available from your provider

Like the cable boxes from your TV provider, modems and routers are commonly available from the provider and are specific to their service. Many providers offer a “gateway” device, which serves as the modem and router in a single unit.

Wi-Fi equipment fees, functionality and add-ons such as Wi-Fi extenders will vary by provider. Examples of provider-specific devices are listed below.

Is it better to use my own Wi-Fi products and equipment?

Some providers, including CenturyLink, Verizon and Xfinity, give you the option to use your own products and save the monthly equipment fees. 

Pros and cons of using your own Wi-Fi equipment

Pros

  • Save money on your monthly bill
  • Choose the equipment you want
  • No equipment to return 

Cons

  • Higher upfront costs
  • Limited tech support
  • Must find a compatible router

If you would rather use your own equipment, click on your provider below to view a list of compatible modems and routers.

What’s a good Wi-Fi plan speed?

One thing to note about Wi-Fi is that it is inherently slower than a wired connection, by up to 50% or more. So if your internet plan comes with speeds up to 100 Mbps, you can expect speeds of 50 Mbps or lower when using Wi-Fi.
If you’re currently using a Wi-Fi connection, take our speed test to see how your speeds compare to your plan’s advertised speeds. Once you have an idea of what speeds you are getting over Wi-Fi, check our recommendations of what you can do with those speeds below.

How can I get a faster home Wi-Fi connection?

There are many things that can slow your Wi-Fi speeds, such as connecting multiple devices or even running the microwave, which means there are many things you can do to help improve your connection. 

  • Move closer to the router – Routers have a limited range of how far they can extend Wi-Fi signals, so the further you are from the router, the weaker your connection is likely to be.
  • Disconnect bandwidth hogs – The average household has more than 10 connected devices and each one eats into available bandwidth. If you need a faster connection, try disconnecting some of the devices that are not currently in use.
  • Reset the router – Sometimes turning the router off and back on is all you need to do to restore the connection.

For more tips and tricks to get faster home Wi-Fi, check out our guide on how to boost your Wi-Fi.

David Anders David Anders
David Anders

Staff Writer

@allconnect

@allconnect

David joined the Allconnect team in 2017, specializing in broadband and TV providers. He is our transactional content lead and responsible for the most popular post in our Resource Center… Read more

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Wi-Fi FAQs

Is Wi-Fi free?

Some internet providers do offer Wi-Fi service at no additional cost to your monthly internet plan. Others may charge an added fee of $5/mo. or higher for Wi-Fi service, plus an additional fee for Wi-Fi equipment rental. If you’re looking for free Wi-Fi on the go, many internet providers and businesses offer free Wi-Fi hotspots.

Why are my Wi-Fi speeds slower?

It is common for wireless internet service to be slower than a wired, or LAN, connection. There are many factors that can affect Wi-Fi speeds, such as proximity to the router, the number of connected devices and the quality of the router itself. Even running your microwave can affect Wi-Fi speeds. If your home Wi-Fi internet speeds are slower than you’d like, here are a few tips for boosting your Wi-Fi connection.

Where should I set up my wireless router?

It’s a good idea to set your router up in a central location in your home. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure your router is free of obstructions, such as walls and furniture, that may block Wi-Fi signals. To help ensure a quality signal and whole-home coverage, you can also install Wi-Fi signal extenders.

Can I get Wi-Fi without an internet service provider?

o. Wi-Fi is not a service by itself, but rather a feature of your internet service. You need an internet service provider to get internet to your home via a modem and a router to transmit that signal throughout your home. Some ISPs include Wi-Fi service and necessary equipment at no extra charge.



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