Four ways to stay online during a WiFi outage

Although the loss of internet connectivity can be frustrating, there are other ways to stay online during a WiFi outage

Thursday, 10 June, 2021

Given our almost total reliance on the internet nowadays, a sudden loss of connectivity can feel shocking and frightening.

A mix of emotions may course through your body, from surprise and displeasure to anger and even fear.

A series of ‘what if’ questions will quickly begin circulating. What if the outage lasts all day? What if I can’t complete that job? What if my boss thinks I’m skiving?

However, all is not lost – even if your connection is – and there are several ways to stay online during a WiFi outage.

We consider four of these below, while acknowledging there may be reasons why certain solutions might not be practical in specific circumstances.

1. Utilise the mobile network

One useful way to stay online during a WiFi outage is by harnessing the mobile connectivity carried by smartphones, or tablets equipped with SIM cards.

Even if you can’t switch to working on it, a 4G or 5G device can check if your broadband provider is experiencing any issues. Twitter and Down Detector are good sites to check.

It’s also possible to hardwire a smartphone to a computer, in a process known as tethering, effectively redirecting the former’s connectivity to the latter.

2. Invest in a wireless dongle or MiFi hub

Building on the last point, mobile networks can provide hardwired connectivity to one device through a plug-in USB dongle, or to several wireless devices via a MiFi hub.

This clearly needs some advanced planning, and can’t be done spontaneously. However, these dongles will last for many years if they’re not being used, without costing you a penny.

Having a dongle or MiFi hub in a drawer with a few pounds worth of data pre-installed can provide near-instant backup in the event of a sudden outage or loss of service.

3. Use third-party WiFi

Now that lockdowns have eased, it’s possible to exploit the free WiFi offered in public places like coffee shops and libraries.

These may be free to customers, or available for a modest fee. And while they won’t help someone reliant on a desktop PC, they’ll suit laptops and tablets.

Be aware that insecure public WiFi networks with shared passwords are easily breached by criminals. If you need to transmit sensitive data, use a VPN or the Tor browser.

4. Ask friendly neighbours for help

Admittedly, this won’t work for the residents of a detached cottage in an acre of grounds, or a newly-installed tenant yet to meet anyone else in their apartment building.

However, if you live in a flat or a terraced/semi-detached house, your wireless devices will routinely identify WiFi networks from adjoining properties.

Friendly neighbours might give you their WiFi password temporarily, especially if you bribe them with a cake or flowers. They can always change it later to prevent ongoing use.

Neil Cumins author picture

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Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!