For those not in the know, Long Term Evolution (LTE) is a next generation mobile communication standard created and jointly controlled by the third-party companies Google and Nokia. It allows for higher data transfer speeds and lower latency than previous generations of mobile network technology, resulting in faster speeds and smoother connections when compared to older methods. It is currently the most advanced and popular mobile technology in existence, with billions of devices already compatible with it and more being developed all the time. In 2021 alone, there were 6.4 billion active cellular subscriptions worldwide (Statista UK)
If you’re reading this, I assume you’re already aware of the transformative potential of mobile technology and are either a user yourself or someone who knows one; if that’s the case, you can probably appreciate why most companies and organizations would have a vested interest in supporting and advancing LTE and similar technologies.
Why Go Over This?
Even those who are not technologically minded might be wondering why they should care about what is essentially a mobile communications standard, or even know what an VPN is. In simpler terms, a VPN allows for secure and private communication when using public Wi-Fi, as well as other platforms such as mobile devices and computers. In this way, VPNs can be useful tools in ensuring your privacy and security when using public Wi-Fi, and for other applications such as bypassing location-based security restrictions or avoiding geoblocking on games or media.
But Haven’t You Heard That Google and Nokia Hate Each Other?
It’s true – for years, Google has been embroiled in a bitter legal battle with Nokia over the alleged theft of billions of dollars’ worth of technology. While it’s always good to protect one’s trade secrets, these types of lawsuits are usually a sign of a company or an organization that is in serious decline. And it must be said that Google’s stance on this particular issue is quite hypocritical – not only has the company made vast amounts of money from the sale of Android mobile devices, but it also holds a large number of patents that are essential for running a modern smartphone. In other words, without Google’s software and services, the Android operating system would not exist as we know it today.
Why Should You Care About Whether Or Not Google Uses Your VPN?
Aside from the obvious conflict of interest regarding the above question, Google has also expressed its opposition to consumer VPN usage in general. In a 2019 blog post, the company’s Director of Product Management, Rick Bronson, wrote:
“We believe consumer VPNs are a security and privacy trade-off consumers shouldn’t make. Consumers should use security products designed for businesses, such as WISPs [Wireless Immersion Security Products], to improve their security and privacy when online. These products were designed for use by businesses and governments while traveling abroad to protect and secure sensitive information. We believe that WISPs offer a better user experience than consumer VPNs because businesses and governments can use them while traveling and don’t have to worry about remembering a lengthy password or having their Internet connection drop every few hours. Additionally, WISPs allow users to connect multiple devices to one account, so users can spread the security and privacy across their personal, business, and academic devices.”
Will You Still Use VPN If It Means Missing Out On Some Games And Applications?
Probably not – it’s always a trade-off, and in the case of mobile gaming, the convenience of being able to play your favourite games anywhere and anytime often outweighs the benefits of using a VPN. While enjoying a spot of mobile gaming now and again is perfectly acceptable, many people prefer to stay away from VPNs when playing games, as they may end up causing performance issues – especially when connecting to certain servers. In many cases, mobile games will not even function properly if played over a VPN connection, as the security and privacy offered by the service can easily be circumvented. What’s more, some mobile games will actually ask you to register or create an account before you can play – something that would be quite difficult over a VPN connection, as your username and password would be sent unencrypted over the Internet. In short, using a VPN for games is more of a hassle than it’s worth.
What About When You’re In Public?
When you’re in a public location such as a coffee shop or restaurant, connected to a public Wi-Fi network, anyone with an Internet connection and a device capable of accessing the network can see and intercept your data – the very thing you are trying to protect with a VPN. And let’s be honest, in this day and age, very few places are completely private anymore – especially when you consider that many coffee shops, restaurants, and other similar businesses are now open to the general public. In addition to this, more and more people are working from home, connecting their offices’ Wi-Fi networks to the Internet via personal devices such as laptops and smartphones. In many cases, this means that even if you’re within a secured network environment at work, you may still be vulnerable to hackers, malware, and similar threats outside of the office – something that wouldn’t be the case if you were working over a private network connection.
Will You Still Use VPN If It Means Safer And Faster Downloads?
Yes – although connection speeds over a VPN can be somewhat slow compared to direct Internet connections, it’s usually worth it, especially if you’re using a fast VPN connection that has servers in more than one country. In most cases, downloading files over a VPN connection is actually faster than over a direct Internet connection due to the encryption and security measures in place. Besides, many free VPN services offer fast and stable connections and plenty of servers, which means less waiting and more time spent working or enjoying yourself.
Do You Still Use VPN If It Means Safer And Faster YouTube Streams?
Yes – although this is mainly due to the fact that fewer people are watching videos on mobile phones these days compared to laptops and desktop computers, it’s still a popular use case for VPNs, especially among those who want to keep their identity and location hidden. When using a VPN, your traffic is encrypted, which means that no matter who’s watching or listening in, they won’t be able to discern what you’re doing – including whether you’re watching YouTube videos or ordering food online via a third-party website.
Are You Still Using VPN If It Means Safer And Faster Netflix Streams?
Yes – although most people are now accustomed to using VPNs to watch TV shows and films anywhere and at any time, Netflix has maintained its opposition to the practice, stating that it “doesn’t want to become a gatekeeper for content, we simply want to help people discover content that they will enjoy.” While it’s often said that the world is a smaller place due to the ease of connecting with others online, the fact remains that if you don’t want others to know your identity or location, you don’t have to use a VPN when watching Netflix – you can simply change the default location on your TV set-top device to one of the company’s supported countries.]>
What About When You’re On A Laptop?
Whether you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop or a private network at work, your laptop’s web browser is always vulnerable to hackers, malware, and similar threats – the very things you’re trying to protect yourself from whilst connected to public Wi-Fi. In most cases, this is only a matter of time before you’re completely compromised, with your personal and professional data exposed online. While installing a VPN on a laptop may be slightly more complicated than doing so on a mobile device, it’s usually still not difficult to find a guide that will help you get it done – especially if you’re using a supported client on a Windows platform.
In a nutshell, using a VPN is not an easy task, especially if you’re not familiar with the processes involved. Depending on your use case, the level of effort it takes to set one up can vary from a few minutes to a couple of hours – with the former being the simpler and easier option. When considering the cost-benefit analysis, it is usually not worth the trouble to set up a VPN for private usage, especially if you’re only going to use it occasionally – unless, of course, you need to ensure your privacy and security when using public Wi-Fi, or if you’re located in a country where your Internet provider charges per gigabyte. In these cases, the hassle and cost of setting up a VPN become more than worthwhile.
In terms of the future of VPNs and similar products, it’s difficult to know what the future holds, as the technology is still in its infancy and much is yet to be discovered and figured out. What is clear, however, is that whatever happens, it won’t be soon enough for Rick Bronson and his team at Google.