Go Back  DVD Talk Forum > General Discussions > Tech Talk
Reload this Page >

Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

Tech Talk Discuss PC Hardware, Software, Internet and Other Technology

Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

Old 11-30-19, 01:00 PM
  #1  
Member
Thread Starter
 
L Everett Scott's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: The Cosmopolis of Barrie
Posts: 164
Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

I just watched Cold Sweat, a thriller set in 2010 Argentina that plays like a cross between Sorcerer (or The Wages of Fear) and Hostel. The story takes place almost exclusively inside a row house where a guy is looking for his ex-girlfriend who’s gone missing.

When he gets inside the house, he discovers that he can’t make or receive calls but he has internet service, so he tries to summon help by updating his Facebook status. Why not Twitter or some other social media platform that allows for instant communication? I know precious little about which apps were popular and available in Argentina back in 2010, so I couldn’t tell you.

But this thing about having only wifi with no phone service (is one of the things in this film that) strikes me as being bizarre. It’s not like there was something wrong with the phone—it rings once it’s outside the house, implying that the place was blocking out only the phone signal.

Can something like this actually happen? Or is it just a rather ill-conceived plot contrivance?
L Everett Scott is offline  
Old 11-30-19, 01:04 PM
  #2  
DVD Talk Reviewer
 
Kurt D's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,003
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

If it ‘takes you out of the movie’, it’s ill-conceived, but sure, wi-fi and cell service are different things ... cell phones have done more harm than good to suspense movies.
Kurt D is offline  
Old 11-30-19, 01:36 PM
  #3  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Nick Danger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Albuquerque
Posts: 22,579
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

The ubiquity of cell phones means that it's easier to write suspense movies that take place before 2000. Otherwise the writer has to conceive of a reason that a babysitter couldn't just pull her phone from her pocket, call 911 and say, "There's a killer in the house and I'm hiding in the closet!"

I've been places where one phone company worked and another didn't. In Yellowstone, my Sprint phone had five bars but no service, because the tower was owned by a different company. But they can't put that in a movie because the phone company wouldn't like the negative publicity.
Nick Danger is offline  
Old 11-30-19, 03:36 PM
  #4  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Mike86's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 18,822
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

Originally Posted by Kurt D View Post
If it ‘takes you out of the movie’, it’s ill-conceived, but sure, wi-fi and cell service are different things ... cell phones have done more harm than good to suspense movies.
Cell phones and technology in general really have killed some suspense in movies. Especially as far as horror films are concerned. It’s always too unbelievable that a character either wouldn’t have a way to contact help somehow, and at the same time when that is used as a means of escape it comes off kind of lame. It’s hard to work technology into films effectively.
Mike86 is offline  
Old 11-30-19, 07:46 PM
  #5  
DVD Talk Legend
 
PhantomStranger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: The Phantom Zone
Posts: 22,169
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

Many indie horror movies now purposely set their films in an era before widespread smartphones and cellphones. That tech has made writing a thriller much, much tougher.
PhantomStranger is offline  
Old 11-30-19, 08:45 PM
  #6  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Josh-da-man's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: The Bible Belt
Posts: 31,421
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

Originally Posted by Nick Danger View Post
The ubiquity of cell phones means that it's easier to write suspense movies that take place before 2000. Otherwise the writer has to conceive of a reason that a babysitter couldn't just pull her phone from her pocket, call 911 and say, "There's a killer in the house and I'm hiding in the closet!"
Not to mention security cameras everywhere. Every time you're out in public, you're probably being filmed by multiple cameras at any given moment.

Josh-da-man is offline  
Old 11-30-19, 08:50 PM
  #7  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Josh-da-man's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: The Bible Belt
Posts: 31,421
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

Yeah, it is completely possible to not have cell service, but wifi.

Most major metropolitan areas should have pretty ubiquitous cell phone coverage, but if you're out in the sticks, some places might just have either Verizon or AT&T available. So if you're in a Verizon town with an AT&T phone, you're SOL. But even then, you might have trouble finding a public wifi hotspot where you can connect to the internet if the place is that small and remote.

Josh-da-man is offline  
Old 11-30-19, 09:51 PM
  #8  
DVD Talk Platinum Edition
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,671
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

This type of thing, contrived tech to serve the plot of modern movies is exactly why all of these horror / suspense / thrillers made today are trash compared to "the good old days."

Fortunately, there are still a plethora of good thrillers made before 1990 that do not have this "problem" -- and 90% of those older films are better made, with better scripts and better plotlines than today's contrived junk.

The movies actually WORTH watching today are those where cell phones and modern tech are not even seen and / or mentioned or implied throughout the entire movie. They're few and far between in the world of 2019, but these are the gems of today's cinema.
zyzzle is offline  
Old 12-05-19, 12:09 AM
  #9  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 17,808
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

T-Mobile started "Wifi Calling" in the US because their cell frequencies and coverage was so bad that people would lose cell signal going into their house. So it did happen. Typically though it might not be a full outage, but a lot of "dead spots," or maybe a few "live spots," like near a window, since the cell signal can get through glass easier than through a wall.
Jay G. is offline  
Old 12-09-19, 11:20 AM
  #10  
Member
Thread Starter
 
L Everett Scott's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: The Cosmopolis of Barrie
Posts: 164
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

Originally Posted by Jay G. View Post
T-Mobile started "Wifi Calling" in the US because their cell frequencies and coverage was so bad that people would lose cell signal going into their house. So it did happen. Typically though it might not be a full outage, but a lot of "dead spots," or maybe a few "live spots," like near a window, since the cell signal can get through glass easier than through a wall.
That sounds the closest to what the movie was implying, but what happened to internet service in these dead spots? Would you still be able to get online despite not being able to make calls?
L Everett Scott is offline  
Old 12-09-19, 11:23 AM
  #11  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 39,113
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

Yup, this is a problem in our office building actually. Wifi everywhere, Cell doesn't work for shit.

Originally Posted by L Everett Scott View Post
That sounds the closest to what the movie was implying, but what happened to internet service in these dead spots? Would you still be able to get online despite not being able to make calls?
Wifi is normally sourced from cable or fiber, not cell towers. So yeah, perfectly normal for that situation to arise.

But the person would need credentials to get on the Wifi network, unless it was unsecured.

Last edited by RichC2; 12-09-19 at 11:29 AM.
RichC2 is offline  
Old 12-09-19, 11:27 AM
  #12  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: MA
Posts: 12,416
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

Happens to me at work often. The wifi is great and I can do any internet stuff with ease. If someone tries to call me, my phone won't even ring and I eventually get a missed call notice when I go somewhere else in the building.
Noonan is offline  
Old 12-09-19, 11:32 AM
  #13  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 17,808
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

Originally Posted by L Everett Scott View Post
That sounds the closest to what the movie was implying, but what happened to internet service in these dead spots? Would you still be able to get online despite not being able to make calls?
Well, you originally stated that they had Wifi in the house, which is different than mobile data. I assumed the house maybe had unprotected wifi they logged into. The wifi would be connected to a wired connection, so wouldn't be affected by cell signal strength. As the wifi is being generated by a router in the house, it's able to broadcast within most of the house where the more distant cell tower can't reach.

There can also be situations where one could send/receive texts and maybe have limited internet while also not being able to place a call, when there's a really intermediate cell connection. Texts are just short bursts of data, and internet is likewise data broken up into chunks, and both with keep trying to send/receive until all of it gets through. A phone call needs a fairly steady, continuous, connection to maintain the call, or even complete the initial dial.
Jay G. is offline  
Old 12-09-19, 12:18 PM
  #14  
Member
Thread Starter
 
L Everett Scott's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: The Cosmopolis of Barrie
Posts: 164
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

Originally Posted by Jay G. View Post
Well, you originally stated that they had Wifi in the house, which is different than mobile data. I assumed the house maybe had unprotected wifi they logged into.
Sorry, I didn't describe the scenario very well. From what I could tell, the movie suggested it *was* mobile data that the guy was using. The bad guys were old dudes who used an ancient-looking desktop computer. I'm just inferring from what's shown in the movie that they weren't the most tech-savvy guys and probably would've used older technology, like a cabled ethernet connection.

And the guy with cell phone wasn't texting, which would've been a much more sensible way to try to get help. He was using Facebook and actually saw responses to his status update from friends who thought he was horsing around.

So based on what you're saying, the guy likely only had intermittent connectivity (even though he never says so in dialogue) and was able to use Facebook whenever he was able to connect. If that's the case then I can sort of understand why the movie doesn't actually spell out all of this because it'd probably bore the audience who just want to see who makes it out alive.
L Everett Scott is offline  
Old 12-09-19, 12:45 PM
  #15  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 17,808
Re: Wifi available but no phone service - only in the movies?

Originally Posted by L Everett Scott View Post
Sorry, I didn't describe the scenario very well. From what I could tell, the movie suggested it *was* mobile data that the guy was using. The bad guys were old dudes who used an ancient-looking desktop computer. I'm just inferring from what's shown in the movie that they weren't the most tech-savvy guys and probably would've used older technology, like a cabled ethernet connection.
Actually, that might lend credence to them having unprotected wifi, since it may be something built into the modem they got from the ISP, but never used themselves so never configured to be properly protected. Later, ISPs started sending out modems with unique default IDs and passwords, but around 2010 I could imagine the wifi just had a default name and no password.

Originally Posted by L Everett Scott View Post
And the guy with cell phone wasn't texting, which would've been a much more sensible way to try to get help. He was using Facebook and actually saw responses to his status update from friends who thought he was horsing around.
I think this lends credence to the idea that it's wifi, since if he had mobile data, he'd test.

Another possibility is that the wifi is from a neighbor. It would have to be a situation where the cell tower is far enough away to not penetrate walls, but the neighbor's router is close enough its wifi can get through.

Originally Posted by L Everett Scott View Post
So based on what you're saying, the guy likely only had intermittent connectivity (even though he never says so in dialogue) and was able to use Facebook whenever he was able to connect. If that's the case then I can sort of understand why the movie doesn't actually spell out all of this because it'd probably bore the audience who just want to see who makes it out alive.
Also, keep in mind that as a foreign language film, the English subtitles are going to be inexact. They're often edited for brevity, so people can read them before the next set of subtitles come up, which sometimes means simplifying dialogue so that while it's still in general pretty correct, it's missing some nuance and details.
Jay G. is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.