What is a WLAN Phone?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2019
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A Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) phone refers to a telephonic device that has the ability to connect to the home or office wireless network using the local router. Cafés, airports and many municipalities also offer free WLAN access or hotspots. Where available, one can use a WLAN phone to surf the Web or check mail. A cell phone without WLAN capability typically offers Internet access through a cellular broadband service known as a Wireless Wide Area Network (WWAN). WWAN connections are more costly than WLAN, but have the advantage of providing mobile access limited only by cell plan coverage. A cell phone can feature both WLAN and WWAN chips.

WWAN or mobile broadband has a distinct and critical advantage over WLAN technology: WWAN provides Internet access on the go. Second generation (2G) technology has given way to 3G and 4G networks, with competition driving ever-evolving, even faster flavors. In some cases cellular broadband can meet or even exceed a WLAN for speed, though various factors come into play. Specific carriers and plans, cellphone hardware, regional mobile technology, weather and even network load all figure into mobile broadband performance.


The one constant of WWAN technology is that it is not free or cheap. The typical user buys Internet minutes along with his or her cell phone plan, adding to the overall cost of monthly cell service. Alternately, one can buy WWAN access on a pay-as-you-go-basis, starting with 24-hour increments. Once subscribed, it is possible to cruise the Internet while riding in a taxi, sitting in a park, or waiting at a client’s offices, providing the cellular carrier covers the area either directly or through roaming contracts.

The advantage of a WLAN phone is that one can optionally bypass expensive mobile broadband service, using free hotspots instead. At home, at the office, and when mobile access is not required, augmenting WWAN with WLAN can save money by keeping WWAN minutes at a minimum.

Those with an unlimited WWAN plan might still find a WLAN phone handy. For example, WLAN might be preferable in regions with older, slower mobile networks; where the carrier imposes roaming charges; or where there is no coverage at all. It can also happen that a cellular network gets overloaded regionally, as when a local disaster occurs or some other event causes many people to use their cell phones simultaneously. In such cases a WLAN phone will still allow the user to connect to the Internet through any local hotspot.


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Post 3

WLAN technology on my phone is the greatest thing that could have happened to me. It enabled me to use my phone to go on the internet, without having to pay roaming fees when I spent the summer out of town.

I am from California, but I was living three months in Kentucky working as a summer intern for a company out there. I knew that my wireless provider would have charged me for roaming every time I used my phone. They did not own any of the GSM antennas in the city I was staying in.

Thankfully my phone had a WLAN chip installed. As long as I was in a hotspot, I could turn off my access to my wireless network, and use the WLAN network for free. It was fantastic!

Post 2

Thanks for this article! I always wanted to know what the difference between WLAN and WWAN was. My husband tried to explain it to me, but you did a much better job.

I always wondered if it was possible to turn the internet capabilities off of my teenage son's IPhone. He spends way too much time using his phone to go on YouTube and Facebook, when he should be paying attention in class.

I think I am going to talk with my wireless phone provider and see if it is possible for me to turn off the WWAN capabilities of his phone. I do not mind him using the WLAN chip to go on his phone while he

is at home. I just want to be able to limit the amount of time he spends on his phone when I am not with him.

Hopefully this works, and his school is not equipped with WLAN technology. Otherwise he would still be on his phone all the time!

Post 1

I am a coffee shop owner in a college town in California. I was looking for a way to attract the young residents of my city into my shop. Someone suggested that I buy a wireless router for my shop, and set up an open WLAN system so that customers can come and use the internet for free. I must say, doing this has worked wonders and business is better than ever.

At first I was concerned that students would just come into the shop to study and take up space, or that they would be loud and disturb my older patrons. But I did not realize just how much college students need coffee to sustain themselves through an all night study session!

I recommend any small business owner to use WLAN technology to attract more customers.

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