Internet Access Explained

I eat, breathe and sleep computers and technology and since about 1980 I’ve built, broke, fixed, used and played with computers as a way of life! I’m an MCP on several counts, I’m SCO Unix. Linux and COMPTIA A+ certified. I’m also well qualified in Mechanical and Electrical engineering and pride myself in being able to explain to non technical people how things work in a non technical manner. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that other people don’t “get” computers and technology and what I see as Janet & John stuff is perhaps not so Janet & John for others. Recently, I was trying to explain the difference between Internet access on a mobile phone, using the Phone Network, and using WiFi and it seems to be not Janet & John stuff, so I’ve done a quick n dirty doc to see if this will help the technologically challenged !

Internet Access Explained

The “Internet” can mean different things to different people but the Internet is basically an infrastructure that provides a vehicle for the many “Internet Services” such as the World Wide Web (www), which is where Web Pages / Websites are found. Email, FTP and Cloud Storage are other Internet Services.

To access the Internet you need an Internet Service Provider (ISP), In the UK this will be Virgin Media, BT, Talk Talk etc. Think of the Internet as being a motorway. To join and use a motorway, you would use a slip road to gain access. An ISP can be seen as a slip road to the Internet!

Connection Options:-

1.Home and business users are provided with an electronic box and this if often referred to as a MODEM, the box is correctly known as a ROUTER and this will be one of 2 types. If you use Virgin Cable services, it will be a “Cable” Router. If you use the BT* phone line it will be an “ADSL” Router. (* in the UK, BT / Openreach own all or most of the telephone infrastructure and telephone lines but the lines are used by other ISPs such as Talk Talk, Plusnet, Sky etc )

Connecting your PC to the router was done using Ethernet cables and this is still the most reliable method but for the past few years ISPs have been providing Routers with a built-in Wireless Access Point (WAP) so that laptops, tablets and even mobile phones can connect to the Router using WiFi.

Cable routers connect to Virgin equipment using a coax cable and you can only use the router provided by them.

ADSL routers connect to the phone (land) line using a standard phone cable and generally you can use any router you like.

2.Mobile /Cell phone users (home and /or business users). In this case, your mobile phone or other device with cellular connection capabilities doesn’t need an additional electronic box / router because it uses the Mobile phone network. All Internet access goes via the mobile phone operators equipment and routers to enable access to the Internet.

Note. The mobile phone network has (technically) 2 paths / circuits / routes. One for Voice calls and text messaging, which uses the GSM technology, and the other for high speed Internet data access but these are transparent! The data will use a 3G or maybe 4G or something in between, if it’s available.

Mobile phones have the benefit of being able to use the “Mobile phone Network” when out and about and then swop to WiFi when within range of a WAP (WiFi Router). Most Mobile phone users have an agreed “Data Allowance” (usually something like 500Mb to several Gb per month). Even when connected to WiFi, voice calls and texts still use the GSM / Phone network.

When using WiFi, Internet access does not use the Data Allowance of your mobile phone.

In some cases voice calls can be routed through the WiFi but this does still use the allocated voice “minutes” unless you use something like Facebook Messenger or Skype.

The router, in both cases, is also known as an Internet Gateway and it hopefully has protection built-in such as a “Firewall”!

© Jeff DVOIT

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