Wi-Fi Access Portal / Captive Portal, What Is It?
A Wi-Fi access portal, also known as captive portal, is a web page that the user of a public network has to view and interact with. Once you interact with the Wi-Fi access portal you can access the Internet. Wi-Fi access portals are typically used by airports, hotels, coffee shops, and other venues that offer free Wi-Fi.
You’ve seen this. When you first log on to a network with a Wi-Fi access portal, there is a web page that requires certain actions before you can access the Internet. A simple Wi-Fi access portal forces you to at least look at a use policy page. And then click on a button indicating agreement to the terms of the policy. Now, you may be wondering why that is. Well, this can help the provider of the network avoid responsibility if it turns out you were up to no good while logged on.
You’ve surely seen other versions of Wi-Fi access portals. Some, for example, advertise the provider’s sponsors and you must click through them before accessing the Internet.
Other Wi-Fi access portals require you to enter an ID and password like the ones in hotels for example. Doesn’t sound too complicated, right?
Why is a Wi-Fi Access Portal Important And How to Fix Common Issues
Wi-Fi access portals solve many problems when it comes to regulation, but while solving some problems they do impose others.
The most common issue is when a Wi-Fi access page doesn’t show up. If you are having this issue, take a look at our guide on solving it here.
A bigger problem and one that people are becoming more aware of these days is online security and privacy. When you connect to a public network, your device is exchanging data, syncing your emails, social media accounts, and other profiles. But what if somebody intercepts that traffic and gets a hold of your credit card numbers, social media password, confidential emails and messages, and browsing history?
Privacy is an easy thing to achieve with a VPN. But if you’re already using one you may have noticed that you can’t connect to a network behind a Wi-Fi access portal at all. Why is that? Let’s find out!
How does a Wi-Fi Access Portal Work in The Background?
The way Wi-Fi access portals work: they redirect you to a web page so you can log in or accept the terms and conditions. The network setup has specific IP address ranges that are accepted. These are assigned by the hotspot / router you’re connecting to. Since you are using a VPN to mask your IP address and protect your private data, the login page will see the VPN server’s IP address and not the one assigned by the hotspot/ router. Therefore, you won’t be able to connect to the network. Sadly, since there is no way to bypass the Wi-Fi access portal with a VPN you will either have to give up your privacy or not connect to the network at all.
Or you can use a better VPN – Speedify!
How to Force a Wi-Fi Access Portal to Open with Speedify
When you join a Wi-Fi hotspot with a login page Speedify will:
- Show you a notification asking you if you want to login.
- Keep you connected over cellular data so your other ongoing online activities (like Skype / Slack calls, streaming, gaming) will continue to work via the cellular connection, protected by Speedify so you don’t have to worry about dropped calls or streams.
- If you click the notification prompting you to connect to the Wi-Fi hotspot, Speedify will pop up the login screen in a window.
- Once you login successfully, Speedify will immediately start using the Wi-Fi connection, allowing you to seamlessly switch over from cellular to Wi-Fi without stopping any of the things you are doing online.
Speedify uses channel bonding technology in order to bond multiple Internet connections at once. In the example above, it uses both Wi-Fi and cellular connection on your smartphone or laptop.
As a VPN, Speedify encrypts your traffic and you can finally connect to any hotspot and not worry about your privacy.