Posted by : Amanda Stein Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Internet Service Providers, or ISPs for short, provide users with access to the internet. Depending upon your location, this access may be over broadband or even the old dialup if you are unlucky enough to live in an area not served by broadband. The word broadband is a marketing term that is generally applied to any access method that provides over 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps). The four primary broadband access methods are; DSL, cable, optic fiber, and wireless. If you live in a large urban area you will probably have your choice of multiple broadband methods and providers. On the other hand if you live in a sparsely populated area, your choice will likely be limited to one of the forms of wireless broadband. If you are considering getting wireless broadband (WiBB), there are a few things you should know in order to select the best type of wireless broadband for your situation.
There are three primary variations of wireless broadband; fixed, mobile, and Wi-Fi. Each of the wireless broadband types has its advantageous and disadvantageous.
- Fixed wireless broadband – This type of wireless broadband requires the home or small business owner to have the antennae installed on their building. The wireless antennae must be pointed at the wireless broadband ISP’s (WISP) transmission tower. One of the disadvantages of fixed broadband is that there must be a clear line of sight between the antennae and the WISP’s transmission tower. Any obstruction such as tree branches or even heavy rain between the antennae and transmission tower can interfere with reception. Despite some vendor’s claims, fixed wireless broadband is normally slower than hard line types of broadband, but it is ten times as fast as dialup. Fixed wireless broadband may be the only choice for users in rural areas where it is not cost effective for regular ISP’s to build the infrastructure for any of the hard line types of broadband such as DSL or cable.
- Mobile wireless broadband – The mobile wireless broadband is hosted by cell phone companies. Access requires a laptop or tablet to have a special card with a built in antennae for reception. Although typically slower than the other non-wireless types of broadband, mobile wireless broadband has the advantage that as long as the user is within range of one of the transmission towers they can have a continuous internet connection. Mobile wireless is becoming increasingly popular with the increase in smartphones and tablets, and it is a popular choice for those users who have to move around a lot for their business.
- Wi-Fi – Wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi as it is commonly called, is another form of wireless broadband that is gaining in popularity. Many homeowners have set up a wireless network in their house which in reality is just a small scale Wi-Fi. The lack of annoying cables combined with the ability to move freely around the house while using their laptop or tablet is a great convenience. Additionally, since many smartphones allow users to utilize available Wi-Fi networks for internet access, homeowners can save their smartphone’s data allowance for times when they are not at home. On a larger scale many businesses have set up public Wi-Fi hot spots for use by their customers. These public Wi-Fi hot spots include restaurants, airports, and universities. Some cities are even in the process of setting up large Wi-Fi infrastructures in order to provide Wi-Fi access from all public sites within a city.
Although wireless broadband can be convenient, reliable, and relatively fast, users should be aware of its security limitations. Contrary to what some vendors may say, wireless broadband is less secure than the other types of hard line broadband. Because the communication medium between the user's computer and the wireless transmission site is through the air, malicious people with the right equipment can easily capture the user's signal. Wi-Fi is especially vulnerable because the encryption algorithms are inherently weak, although improvements have been made. Consequently users should carefully consider whether they want to conduct sensitive business such as financial transactions over a wireless connection.
Wireless broadband is very useful and will probably become even more so in the years ahead as security is tightened and more public Wi-Fi sites are created. It may be the only choice for some users due to their location, and may be the best choice for others based upon their personal or business needs. Users considering any of the forms of wireless broadband should weigh their weaknesses and strengths before selecting the type of broadband wireless access that will work best for them. Wireless broadband internet access can be a good choice for many users in today’s increasingly mobile population.
Jeremy Hillsborough explains the different types of wireless broadband and advises that people use a broadband speed test to determine whether they are using the best option.