How Does Car WiFi Work?

How Does Car WiFi Work?
01 Aug 2019
By Ross Wild
These days people can’t go five minutes without using the wifi to check social media, respond to messages or work on the go, and driving in the car is one of the only places which takes this freedom away from you. Well, you may already know that pre-installed wifi is becoming very popular in new cars these days; offering a personal hotspot which works as a router for your friends and family to connect to on the go. No need for pre-installed films for the kids on long road trips anymore, just stream away and enjoy the benefits, it seems too good to be true... However, you may be asking yourself, “well…. How exactly does this work, and is it worth it?”.

This blog has been created for your benefit to truly explain everything there is to know about in-car wifi.


What is WiFi? (simplified)

Before we go into how WiFi works in cars, it's probably best to define what WiFi actually is, and although we all use it on a regular basis, most of us have no idea how it works and just think it's actually the internet. To simplify, a WiFi network consists of radio waves transmitting information across a network, which then goes through the router and is coded into a radio signal which you can then connect to.



How Much Does It Cost To Get WiFi in Your Car? 

Unfortunately, like all things, it costs money; but there are actually a few ways of getting it. You can actually get it for your car without it being built-in; if you were to pay for a portable in-car hotspot from somewhere online you could get one from the region of £35.00, and then the only extra charges are for prepaid data plans from mobile network operators; which operate at a similar cost to that of normal mobile data charges. With pre-installed wifi, the charges will simply be the data plans, or from connecting your own phone to the car and using it as a shared-hotspot for everyone else. It is also possible to pay a one-time payment and use data for a flat fee. 


Ford Focus Navigation


How Does Car WiFi Work? 

To put it simply, in-car WiFi is using the car as a personal hotspot for passengers to connect to with their phones, laptops and all sorts of gadgets. If you plug in a portable modem it will connect to the mobile data signal you have paid for and connect just like a phone would. Pre-installed wifi works practically the same way in the form of a modem for the car and is usually fitted at the top of the dashboard.


Which Manufacturers Have It?  

As we all know, Audi is a step ahead when it comes to technological advancements and luxuriousness, so it probably wouldn’t surprise you to find that they were the first to offer built-in wifi back in 2011. As it’s becoming more popular, more manufacturers are adding the option of wifi as an optional extra and it isn’t too expensive. Many Audi, BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz models among more manufacturers have also adopted it over the years. Due to the device being a definite ‘nice to have’, don’t be surprised to see this absent from a lot of budget brands and especially in the lower trims. However, expect to be pretty standard in luxury and mid-range models.  

Benefits of car WiFi 

  • Has started becoming standard with trims including navigation. 
  • Provides you with a stronger signal and a better personal hotspot, you will be able to connect up to 5 devices to the hotspot and have no trouble with search speed.
  • It will not drain battery like somebody’s personal hotspot would
  • WiFi on-the-go
  • Save on data when you’re streaming music while driving
  • A godsend for kids and teenagers on long journeys without a charging point

Drawbacks of car WiFi 

  • Could be considered pointless when personal hotspots are available. 
  • Data plans can be expensive and an unnecessary cost
  • Not all manufacturers provide it so you would have to buy a modem.
  • Realistically it may not be used much and not at all for the driver whilst driving.
  • Can provide extra distractions
  • Annoying to swap if the 12V port is needed elsewhere at times (dashcams etc)

Can I Use Car Wifi In My House? 

In all honesty, it would be pretty pointless, but yes is the short answer. The only issue with this is that you would have to have the ignition turned and the car on for it to work. You would also have to be careful if you were leaving your car unattended with the ignition turned. It would be beneficial if your personal home router was down, or you have poor broadband, as all the family could connect to the car wifi with no issues on searching speed as opposed to a mobile personal hotspot.



What To Consider When Adding WiFi 

When adding WiFi to your car there are quite a few things to consider. First off, your need for it can be very dependant on your journey time and how many passengers you usually have with you. It would make sense, for example, to invest in car Wifi if you often go on family trips for the kids to be able to use it; or if you take friends with you in the car regularly. However, the main issue can be the cost of actual data, as the cost for data can rack up massively if you have not opted for a large or unlimited data plan. These are all things to consider before you come to make the decision of having WiFi installed in the car. If you live rurally, you may also need to consider which network is best for you as certain networks can be better in certain locations, or on the contrary, it may turn out that it's better than your broadband, who knows! All-in-all Car Wifi is a great idea and beneficial to many drivers, however, you do have to weigh up the pros and cons for your personal self.


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