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Why FREE Public WiFi in Japan Sucks

Most of us rejoice at the thought of free WiFi. But is it really worth it? Here is what we think.

For a lot of people, FREE Wifi is heaven-sent... well, at least during their first connection attempt. Once they have used this Internet option, most individuals end up getting frustrated or even angry because there is not much productive to do other than to check a few emails or reply to some Facebook messages. Public WiFi is sometimes painstakingly slow that it has the capability of ruining one's day. Yes, you've read that right. You might not want to hear the horror stories we've learned about it--trust us!

Rationale Behind Free WiFi

In an effort to provide good service to the public, the government in various areas of Japan has introduced the FREE WiFi. While the government wants to make the citizens as well as the tourists happy with easy access to the Internet, it has not been doing very well when it comes to maintenance and bandwidth capacity. Ergo, one cannot expect much with metro WiFi, city WiFi, and the like.

Businesses have also recognized the heavy reliance of humans on online activities. Whether from closing deals or speaking with friends, most people prefer to connect with others through the Internet. Keeping this in mind, some business owners have included free usage of wireless net as a perk in order to keep consumers in their yards. Because high-speed Internet is expensive, business owners have crossed this option off their list and opted for the low-cost, low-bandwidth Internet package. This way, they can offer WiFi for customers who want to stay online while making sure the company's fiscal health is not jeopardized.

Today, free WiFi covers popular or common places with high human traffic such as shopping centers, restaurants, and airports. It is designed to provide people with immediate access to the Web so you can expect a typical hotspot no longer requiring a person to enter a password prior to connection. Nevertheless, in Japan, a network registration is normal when connecting to a WiFi provided by public sectors.

Is Public WiFi Safe?

NO. If you are one of those individuals who rely on public WiFi to check your emails, monitor your banking activities, or to simply read a few articles through your favorite social media platform, you might want to rethink your action now.

Because public WiFi is free, business owners usually do not put weight in boosting network security. As a consequence, it has become a favorite of hackers, making it vulnerable to a bunch of risks that can potentially damage one's device or even jeopardize a person's privacy.

A prevalent form of Internet security threat includes eavesdropping, where a cybercriminal intervenes between connection transmission from your mobile phone or laptop and a website in order to access all the online activities you are doing and eventually obtaining your login information and other sensitive personal data.

Let's put the Rio Olympics as an example. Internet security giant Kaspersky Lab warned about being extra cautious when connecting to hotspots in all Olympic venues in Brazil, finding that out of 45,000 public WiFi connections, 18 percent of those were unsecured. Security firms have also studied the WiFi networks made available in various game venues and they have found that such public hotspots were "terribly vulnerable to hacking", making it effortless for cybercriminals to set up fake networks that look like secure hotspots. This means that connecting to a fraudulent network that mimics legit Internet connection easily paved the way for attackers to access one's personal information.

hackers might be watching you over the internet.
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Public WiFi Totally Not Worth Your Time

Aside from the security risk mentioned above, there are plenty of reasons why you should steer clear from it as much as you can especially if you are on a business trip, dealing with clients and partners over the Web.

1. Free WiFi is slow, sometimes even painstakingly slow.

The slow speed associated with public WiFi can be attributed to a number of factors including your bandwidth allocation, the number of devices connected to the network, and the types of programs being run in each connected devices. The more people are using the same Internet connection and the more bandwidth-demanding their activities are, the slower the network becomes.

Ergo, since public WiFi is open for all, it is just but normal for a lot of people to connect to it at any given time.

2. Public WiFi does not have a wide coverage.

An open Internet is usually available in selected areas, covering only a small location, which makes it unattractive for individuals who are mostly reliant on the Web. If you are near the router, you'll have no problem with connection but the farther you get, the lesser coverage you receive. Such inaccessibility is definitely a major turnoff especially for individuals who are always on the go.

3. Some free WiFi has time restriction.

Lucky if you are connected to a public WiFi that's open 24/7 but in some instances, you will encounter free networks that does not allow a person to connect for extended periods. Usually, these connections allocate a specified number of minutes or an hour for each device in order to give way to other people who are trying to get online. So don't fret when in the middle of an important Skype call, you are suddenly cut off the grid.

4. To connect to some public WiFi networks, registration is required.

In Japan, connecting to a free Internet connection is usually time consuming. While your device says you are connected, you cannot actually use the network unless you set up the connection in your device. While some only need your mobile number for the purpose, others require you to input your name and other personal information. If you do not comply, then expect non-loading webpages in your browser.

When traveling to Japan, use only a secured WiFi connection.

We at eConnect highly encourage travelers to Japan to invest in a secure and reliable mobile internet connection for the entire trip. As public WiFi networks come with risks--as mentioned above--it is best to keep your online activities and your personal data inaccessible from hackers. To have peace of mind and to be able to carry out online transactions without difficulty, we recommend the Pocket WiFi or a Prepaid Data SIM that you can have arranged prior to your visit. Because you are the only one connecting to it and it's connectivity is activated through a SIM card provided by a network operator, this means that hackers will have a hard time trying to make cyber attacks. Don't forget to visit our website today to arrange your travel Internet needs in Japan.