Wireless Wireless broadband connects a home or business to the Internet using a radio link between the customer’s location and the service provider’s facility. Wireless broadband can be mobile or fixed.
Wireless technologies using longer-range directional equipment provide broadband service in remote or sparsely populated areas where DSL or cable modem service would be costly to provide. Speeds are generally comparable to DSL and cable modem. An external antenna is usually required.
Wireless broadband Internet access services offered over fixed networks allow consumers to access the Internet from a fixed point while stationary and often require a direct line-of-sight between the wireless transmitter and receiver. These services have been offered using both licensed spectrum and unlicensed devices. For example, thousands of small Wireless Internet Services Providers (WISPs) provide such wireless broadband at speeds of around one Mbps using unlicensed devices, often in rural areas not served by cable or wireline broadband networks.
Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) provide wireless broadband access over shorter distances and are often used to extend the reach of a “last-mile” wireline or fixed wireless broadband connection within a home, building, or campus environment. Wi-Fi networks use unlicensed devices and can be designed for private access within a home or business, or be used for public Internet access at “hot spots” such as restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, airports, convention centers, and city parks.
Mobile wireless broadband services are also becoming available from mobile telephone service providers and others. These services are generally appropriate for highly-mobile customers and require a special PC card with a built in antenna that plugs into a user’s laptop computer. Generally, they provide lower speeds, in the range of several hundred Kbps.
Fiber optic technology converts electrical signals carrying data to light and sends the light through transparent glass fibers about the diameter of a human hair. Fiber transmits data at speeds far exceeding current DSL or cable modem speeds, typically by tens or even hundreds of Mbps.
The actual speed you experience will vary depending on a variety of factors, such as how close to your computer the service provider brings the fiber and how the service provider configures the service, including the amount of bandwidth used. The same fiber providing your broadband can also simultaneously deliver voice (VoIP) and video services, including video-on-demand.
Telecommunications providers sometimes offer fiber broadband in limited areas and have announced plans to expand their fiber networks and offer bundled voice, Internet access, and video services.
Variations of the technology run the fiber all the way to the customer’s home or business, to the curb outside, or to a location somewhere between the provider’s facilities and the customer.