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How Does Wireless Internet Work?

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The term “wireless Internet” refers specifically to a wireless method of sending and receiving data across the Internet rather than using the wired “backbone” infrastructure. It is also sometimes used to describe a wireless network within your home or office or many retail locations around the world. The latter is more accurately called a “wireless network” or “wireless networking”, and this article will explain both wireless Internet and wireless networking.

There are three types of wireless Internet that both send and receive data

Point Distribution Wireless Internet
This type of wireless Internet utilizes unlicensed bands on the radio spectrum rather than the wired telephone backbone infrastructure. Transmitter towers send the Internet signal out and transceivers that are within visible range, usually no more than 8-10 km or 4-6 miles, can both pick up and transmit over the same frequency.

Mesh Wireless Internet
In a mesh wireless Internet network, one node or gateway has a wired access to the Internet and uses radio frequencies to wirelessly share the Internet signal which can hop across multiple nodes, extending the reach of the original node.

Satellite Wireless Internet
Using satellites in geosynchronous orbit, which means they stay in the same position in the sky relative to a point on the earth, Internet connectivity can be provided to many locations around the world that do not have access to the wired backbone, similar to the way satellite television access works.

Combination Wired and Wireless Networks

Cellular Wireless Internet Network
Cellular Internet services utilize both the wired backbone of the public switched telephone network and a network of cellular broadcast towers that transmit and receive the signal. This is the network that cell phones and PDAs use both for voice and Internet connectivity.

Hot Spot Wireless Internet Access
A public wireless hot spot provides Internet connectivity for computer, PDA or cell phone access within a range of 300-600 feet. Many hot spot networks at airports, restaurants and other retail locations charge a fee for hourly access or offer monthly subscriptions. Some locations provide this WiFi access free of charge to customers. Some cities provide multiple WiFi access points throughout the city that can be used anywhere within range. This Internet connectivity may utilize a wired connection to the Internet like fiber optic or DSL, or it may get its Internet signal from a wireless Internet source like satellite.

Wireless Networking at Home or Office

Regardless of whether the Internet signal to your home is provided by wire or wireless, you can have a wireless network inside your home just like the “hot spot” locations have. If your Internet connectivity is provided by the wired backbone infrastructure (either by dialup, DSL, cable or fiber optic) you will need a special device called a “wireless router”. The wireless router is connected via a cable to your Internet source and uses an antenna to broadcast the signal throughout your home. Wireless enabled devices (computers, PDAs and cell phones) within your home can then connect to the Internet from anywhere inside.

If the Internet signal to your home is wireless, via satellite or radio tower transmitters, you may have a completely wireless configuration where you have a transceiver that pulls in the signal from the outside and then transmits to your computer or other devices in the house, or you may have a router inside the house that connects to the transceiver, either wirelessly or with a cable.

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