Hotspot & WLAN and the Future

I often travel and meet many people. Hardly ever, I fly through the air, but I enjoy wireless world-wide communication via “air”. This is especially true when I go places by public transportation, when I sit in rooms, at universities or enterprises, in coffee shops or restaurants, at institutions or associations, or wherever.

Just like my travels and meetings promote “networking”, so I wish to be linked to the rest of the world through networks. Consequently, I always find it rather nice to find a WLAN I can actually access. Since I seem to be a demanding network user, I am not content with UTMS & CO. Personally, I do not have any experience  with  LTE (Long Term Evolution), because I do not own an LTE –capable device.

But I already looked over the shoulder of people who used LTE. The speed was really amazing. I got the impression that the LTE will, again, trigger a small revolution – after which the mobile world will be even more on the way up than it already is.

Who knows: perhaps soon we will only have LTE and all the many WLAN networks will be removed. That would, again, be progress in the direction of “less waste” if we no longer need all those parallel WLANs many places have.

But we are not yet at that stage. For me, using LTE would mean that I have, yet again, to buy new technology. Well, I prefer to wait a little. When travelling, I use various devices (Smartphone, Pad, Notebooks with Stick). None of them is capable of LTE, and still I am quite content using them. But since I do not wish to buy everything new now, I will wait for a truly new generation of hardware – one which, of course, will be capable of using LTE.

Consequently, I am often on the lookout for free WLANs. And as we all know, WLANs are almost everywhere. For me, however, they are not accessible. I often have a two-digit number of networks showing on my display, but they are all password-protected. Only if I am an invited guest at modern enterprises, institutions, hotels or other locations, I usually have no problem. Because especially “good” companies with a reasonable and modern (entrepreneurial) culture also have WLAN with which they can easily offer their guests access to the internet. It is basically part of their definition of hospitality.

The Telekom and older enterprises, such as the railway in its lounges in some trains – unfortunately only on few of their routes – are doing quite a good job with their internet supply. But there are numerous institutions and enterprises where it is still hard or even impossible to access WLAN. More often than not, these companies are huge and a little complex. Whenever I see this, I am surprised and hope that we may soon get area-wide LTE.

When accessing WLAN as a guest, I am overjoyed if the password is still valid after my last visit. In that case, I get immediate access to the internet. As a guest, I also find it nice if the WLAN password is written on a note and clearly visible for guests somewhere in the guest rooms.

I am just as happy not having to use a password for WLAN access and instead having to fill in a start screen where they want me to put my cross at the question: will you promise to adhere to the business conditions? I am more than willing to do both: put my cross there and adhere to the business conditions. Basically, I believe the latter alternative is the more reasonable way of doing it, because open networks help us to reduce the gigantic waste caused by all those many parallel WLANs all over the world. Isn’t it also about time for “shared economics”?

I would therefore here and now like to explicitly thank all these excellent hosts.

But now I am switching roles. Now I am no longer the guest but the host.

At home, I yielded to the fears of the rest of my family and encoded our WLAN. Mind you, all probabilities of real risk scenarios for our physical well-being and property is many, many times higher than the risk that someone might do damage to us through open WLAN.

Since, however, everything is possible und you want to protect against really everything, we bowed to the public super ego and set a password before our WLAN. But it remained the same ever since we first installed said WLAN.  And the “modern segment” of our many guests is happy about this. To be sure, they forgot our password a long time ago, but their devices remember. Consequently, they are instantly back in the network when visiting us and hopefully feel at home.

At the enterprise, this seems to be more difficult. We have the explicit intent of adhering to the law. We therefore take the topics security and data protection just as seriously as quite a few other things our legislation came up with. Even if, more often than not, this does not make life any easier for us.

Consequently, we provide our guests with their own open WLAN called IF-OPEN at InterFace AG, both in the Unterhaching headquarter building and our branch offices.  To be sure, said open WLAN is also password protected. But we chose a “promotionally effective” password. It alludes to the capital “F” in “InterFace” and indicates that we are already almost 30 years old.

We give our guests the password in order to make sure they feel at home in our building. In the common rooms, such as the seminar zone and meeting room, a note is pinned to the wall.  Our IF-Open is also something I and several other employees like to use, since it gives you direct and proxy-free internet access.

A short time ago, someone raised the question: should we change our guest network password? And if, at what regular intervals should we change it?

If it were up to me, once in fifty years would be enough.

Let me try to explain: a stable, reliable and, above all, easily remembered password for a WLAN which is intended and referred to as open and still protected by a password is a true blessing. If you change it often, this will cause some – if only little, but constantly recurring – extra work for many people. Just because (probably only in theory) there might be someone in or near our building who “pinches” our internet access and even “abuses” it.

I have no idea how realistic this kind of fear is. However, in my estimation, it is rather negligible, considering what “real” risks we might have to face (breaking and entering, theft, …) .

But a few years from now, we will have area-wide LTE, anyway. By then, you will no longer need WLANs and all these considerations will be obsolete

(Translated by EG)

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