Sean - focus on cell signal not wifi. 70% of the public wifi these days is super slow and has horrible bandwidth shared with many people. We find that about 90% of the time a solid cell signal is faster for data then most wifi hotspots. I should mention your focus may differ if you have to pay for bandwidth. We have 2 plans with 2 carriers that both have unlimited data on cellular network.
Dependable wifi is usually a Library, Starbucks, Lowes or a McDonald's that has managed wifi but even in those cases the cellular network is often much faster. Truckstops, Campgrounds and highly populated areas with unmanaged wifi networks are usually the worst.
That's my non-technical 2 cents worth.
Yeah... it's a bandwidth issue and I'm a data hog.
I'm also shopping for external antennas for my hotspot (ATT Unite Pro).
I was on an unlimited data plan (grandfathered) for my iPhones and iPads, but going mobile prompted me into getting a hotspot and trading out my unlimited data plan for what is currently a 15g/month shared data plan. I can almost get by on that if I don't stream much or update my software.
The more that I use a free wifi source, the more data reserve I have on my hotspot for the times when I might not be able to connect to wifi.
This includes unsecured wifi at people's houses and such....where I might update an app' at off hours...etc.
Before anyone freaks out about that, I always left a guest connection unsecured at my house for just that reason (WAN was open, LAN was secure).
Having been around the net since command line BBS's, I've always felt that it would be a better world if people left a guest channel open and didn't get so possessive about it. I have no problem if someone wants to check their email or grab an important update while traveling.
The problem is when your neighbors forego getting their own net in favor of "borrowing" yours 24/7.
Most modern systems have ways to prevent that however.... timeouts and bandwidth limits...etc. I just left mine open an monitored the connections occasionally to look for squatters.
If everyone did this, we wouldn't be looking for a Starbucks to get online, and it would be a small price to pay for the convenience of being able to get online most places you are traveling.