These days, you have an abundance of options available to you to connect to the internet. In addition to the popular DSL and cable Internet service, wireless Internet service has gained popularity because of its numerous advantages in terms of convenience and mobility. Gone are the days when you need to mandatorily attach your device to wire be it copper or fiber to access the internet. As the name itself suggests, wireless internet Services means accessing internet without any attached cable.
Many popular forms of wireless Internet Services which are currently in the market are based on Wi-Fi, Satellite, and mobile or cellular technologies.
Wireless internet Services used to offer much lesser internet speed than the wired ones. But with the improving Wireless standards, Wireless Internet speeds have soared making wired Internet service (Ethernet) more and more redundant.
- Suggested read: How to Measure WiFi Signal Strength
When we think of a wireless network, we automatically think about Wi-Fi. In our homes, we create wireless local area network using wireless routers. These routers are plugged into a broadband modem using an Ethernet cable.
The Wi-Fi we use at home does provide with wireless connectivity but is a kind of wired Internet service (because the connection from your ISP to your home is wired).
However, several Internet services exist that are purely wireless in nature. We list out a few of these services which are popular in consumer space.
As the name suggests, this Internet service is provided through satellites. It was launched in the 1990s and was the first Internet Service to have penetrated into consumer space.
Satellite Internet requires communication between antennas located on Earth (on your rooftop) and satellites orbiting around the Earth. Some of the most popular wireless internet providers in Satellite Internet are Viasat and Hughesnet.
Types of Satellites
There are mainly two types of Satellites used in Wireless Internet service, geostationary and Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
These Satellites are located in space in such as way that when you view from earth’s surface, they appear stationary at all times. This phenomenon happens because the satellite orbits the Earth at the same speed at which the Earth is rotating.
So, by the time Earth completes one rotation (in 24 hours), the satellite would have completed one orbit around the Earth. Geostationary Satellites are located very far (~22,300 miles) above the Earth’s surface at the equator.
Geostationary satellites transmit and receive data from Network Operations Center (NOC), located on the Earth’s surface. The NOC (pronounced as ‘knock’) communicate with the local networks.
Any information from the private network first goes to NOC and then is transmitted to the satellite. With the latest technology, geostationary satellites can offer a relatively high downlink speed of 50Mbps.
Low Earth Orbit Satellites
These satellites orbit very close to Earth’s surface. Their distance from Earth can be anywhere between 400 and 1000 miles. They move at extremely high speeds and do not appear fixed in space in relation to the earth.
When used in reference to the Internet, they are useful in applications such as email, video conferencing and paging.
Public Wi-Fi Networks
In several parts of your town, you can get access to a public Wi-Fi network. This network is built on the concept of making Wi-Fi available in every corner. Wireless mesh networks are deployed to avail this service.
In a mesh network, the nodes (numerous wireless access points) are arranged in a mesh topology. All the nodes in the network communicate with each other to repeat radio signals.
Using Wi-Fi for public networks is a cheaper alternative to wired networks. This is because it eliminates the cost of setting up wires and other expensive equipment. In addition to that, a wireless mesh network is quite robust.
If a node (access point) fails, the network can automatically reconfigure itself to provide uninterrupted service.
Using wireless mesh networks help connect remote areas to the Internet. However, as of now public access to Wi-Fi is available only in selected metropolitan cities. In suburbs and rural areas, you may not get access to a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
However, with the advent of newer technologies, cost of setting public Wi-Fi is coming down and soon more and more areas will have public Wi-Fi hotspots.
Is it the same as ‘Super Wi-Fi’?
Public Wi-Fi Networks should not be confused with Super Wi-Fi. Super Wi-Fi is wireless networking proposal meant for longer-distance wireless Internet access. The usage of the term Wi-Fi in the name is confusing as the technology used in this standard is very different from Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi uses radio frequencies in the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequency band. Super Wi-Fi, on the other hand, uses lower-frequency white spaces between the frequencies used by Television channels. Although Super Wi-Fi has been implemented in the US for public use (Hugh MacRae Park, Wilmington, North Carolina) and in university campuses (like in West Virginia University), it is not very widely adopted as of yet. (1)
Because of use of the lower frequency, Super wifi can cross over the obstacles like buildings and wooden structures.
Fixed Wireless Broadband
Fixed Wireless Broadband is a type of wireless internet service where the service providers use radio signals in place of cables. For this purpose, antennas mounted at your rooftops are pointed at radio transmission towers to create a direct link with the Internet Service Provider (ISP).
This service is different from Satellite Internet and mesh networks.
This type of Internet service is preferred in areas where there is a lack of fiber optic cables, cable TV lines or DSL (Digital Subscriber Line).
Fixed wireless Internet service can support a data transmission speed of up to 30Mbps and is a lot more expensive than the traditional internet service such as DSL. One of the popular wireless internet providers in this category is Trucom.
Mobile broadband is a widely used marketing term for Internet access (wireless) through a portable modem through mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The second generation (2G) of mobile phone technology became available in 1991.
This was the advent of mobile wireless Internet access. A significant drawback of this technology was its low speed (2). In 2001, the third-generation (3G) of mobile phone technology introduced higher speed followed by the fourth generation (4G) in 2006.
As of now, Internet speed offered by this service is comparable to cable Internet service. Mobile Internet Service requires an Internet subscription from your cellular provider.
Many providers sell these subscriptions plans separately from the voice plans. However, with the introduction of VoIP, Internet subscriptions plans are favored over voice calling plans. All of the cellular providers like ATT, Verizon, etc are wireless internet providers in this category.
Long range wireless connections are slowly replacing traditional mobile based wireless technology. WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is one implementation of this new wireless technology.
WiMAX offers low cost and flexibility in terms of installation. It uses shorter towers and fewer cables. It also supports non-line-of-sight coverage (a feature missing in WiFi) over a long distance such as an entire city. (3)
WiMAX can offer data speed up to 30Mbps, but the connection speed can vary based on your location. WiMAX technology is also available for fixed lines and can provide speed up to 1Gbit. But this speed dramatically varies on the number of users in your WiMAX sector.
So far, Wi-Fi is far more popular than WiMAX. So, a lot of devices come enabled with Wi-Fi technology and not WiMAX. This has made it difficult for WiMAX to penetrate the consumer market.
Final words on wireless internet service
Wireless Internet Services is getting very popular because of the convenience and mobility. With advancement in technologies, they are getting better in terms of speed and reliability as well.
Wireless Internet is the future. Mobile broadband is the most popular wireless internet service that is commonly used currently. Check for wireless internet providers in your location in case you are looking for one.