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How Does the Wireless Internet Work?

Wireless internet is an innovative technology that allows internet access over several computers without the use of extra cables or lines (wire-free).
Kevin Mathias Sep 26, 2018
Wireless internet has many advantages for both the business as well as residential users. It provides excellent broadband speeds. Today, speeds of over 20 MBPS for commercial use are attained using wireless internet.
Service providers aim at providing even higher speeds to business and residential customers through cables (fiber optic). This internet is more reliable as compared to internet via cable or satellite. Initial costs to the service provider are reduced, as they do not have to lay out expensive cables or pay highly for satellite transmission.
All that is required is the setting up of internet towers (very similar to mobile towers). The user will be connected to the internet as long as his laptop / device receives a signal from the nearest tower (again, very similar to using a mobile phone).
Comparisons between the workings of a mobile network and wireless internet network can be made to some extent, but the working of a wireless internet network is much more complex in nature.

How WiMax works

  • We can single out the WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology that is widely used for setting up wireless internet. High speeds can be achieved over a wireless network using this technology.
  • Based on the IEEE 802.16 communications standard, this technology if fast replacing cumbersome cable and expensive satellite networks.
  • The WiMax network consists of base stations (similar to mobile towers) set up by the service provider, and a receiving antenna (similar to a mobile phone antenna) at the user end.
  • The users pay the service provider for wireless internet access, just as they would for a normal internet connection via a cable network.
  • The service provider provides the end user with the software, a login id, and a password.
  • Most of the laptop manufacturers today equip high-end models with a built in antenna bundled with the required software for the unit to be WiMax compatible.
  • The service provider beams the internet signals from the base station. The antenna at the user end catch the signals, providing uninterrupted internet as long as the signal is available.
  • With a laptop equipped with an antenna, you could be connected to the internet wherever the signal is available from the base station.
  • As with mobile phones that catch a signal from the nearest tower of the particular service provider, so is it with new generation WiMax services. One WiMax base station can send signals over distances of several miles depending on the terrain.
  • The more flat the terrain, more the coverage. Once you move from one base station area to another, your laptop receiver will hook up to the other base station (of the same service provider) with a stronger signal.
  • As WiMax service providers spread out their operations, everyone will be connected to really high-speed internet 24X7 wherever they are.

Other Common Uses of Wireless Internet

Wireless internet is not limited to WiMax. Most of us have used some sort of wireless internet some time or the other.

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service)

When a mobile user subscribes to the GPRS service, the receiving mobile unit could receive voice as well as data signals. In simple terms, the mobile phone could be used as a phone for voice calls and also as a modem to connect to the computer to surf the internet. The only limiting factor here was the speed which was very slow.

EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution)

The GPRS technology was gradually replaced by the EDGE technology. EDGE was able to provide more capacity for voice traffic, and at the same time, have high-speed data transfer capabilities.

3G (Third Generation)

EDGE technology has been replaced by the 3G Speeds of over 20MBPS are attained using 3G. These speeds will keep on increasing with advancing technology.

4G (Fourth Generation)

Recently, the 4G technology has been adopted by many service providers. Further research is being carried out in this domain.


Mobile phones have passed the stage where they were used to just make and receive calls. Today, one can buy smartphones that do almost everything that your personal computer or laptop can.
Operating systems can be loaded, virtually making them one instrument for all your phone and computing needs. This is where wireless internet will play a major role in the future. It will connect you 24X7 with virtually no breakdowns.
Cables will still be used for the internet till the time wireless internet can match data transfer speeds of cables. Once this happens, technologies such as WiMax and 3G will help in making this world a 24X7 connected, wire-free world.