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What are the Wireless Broadband Technologies?

What are the Wireless Broadband Technologies?

Wireless broadband services are similar to wired broadband in that they connect to an internet backbone usually a fiber-optic trunk; however they don’t use cables to connect to the last mile or business/residences. Instead they use Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) connections or radio waves. A computer or mobile device has a wireless adapter that translates data into a radio signal and transmits the signal using an antenna. A wireless router receives the signal, decodes it and then sends it to the Internet through a wired Ethernet connection.

Fixed wireless is a type of high-speed Internet access where connections to service providers use radio signals rather than cables. Fixed wireless offers connections speeds between 1 and 10 mbps and use transmission towers similar to cell phone towers that communicate to a resident’s transceiver equipment that, as the name implies is fixed at the premise. The transceiver equipment communicates with the providers’ ground stations.

Wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) is a fixed, short-range technology that is often used in combination with DSL, fixed wireless, fiber, or cable modem service to connect devices within a home or business to the Internet using a radio link between the location and the service provider’s facility. Wi-Fi service can be available in your home or at community locations (airports, coffee shops, schools, businesses, etc.) and are often called “hotspots.” A Wi-Fi network uses radio waves, similar to two-way radio communications. A computer has a wireless adapter that translates data into a radio signal and transmits it using an antenna. A router receives the signal, decodes it, and then sends the information to the Internet using a physical connection, usually via an Ethernet cable, a cable that carries the broadband signal between the modem, router, computer, and other wired Internet capable devices.

Mobile Wireless (3G, 4G)

Mobile wireless is high-speed wireless broadband connection that is accessible from random locations. The locations depend on the provider’s cellular towers and monthly service plans. Many technologies make up wireless networks, but no matter the technology or acronyms you read or hear, mobile wireless networks are radio systems.

Mobile wireless services are continually being upgraded to provide data transmission speeds considered to be broadband. The faster mobile wireless networks are referred to as 3G or 4G.The “G” stands for “generation,” meaning 3rd and 4th generation or the evolution of broadband cellular networks; supposedly, each generation provides a faster more secure wireless network. A mobile wireless service requires a base station that is connected to a high capacity landline data transmission network to reach the Internet. In other words, it’s never wired OR wireless; ultimately, it has to be both. Wireless broadband in common usage means that the so-called “last mile” connection to the user is done via radio signals from a tower to a cell phone or other wireless devices (e.g., a tablet).

Long Term Evolution (LTE)

LTE is a 4G technology provides increased peak data rates, reduced latency, scalable bandwidth capacity than 4G predecessors. LTE can manage multi-cast and broadcast streams and handle quick-moving mobile phones. It uses an IP-based network architecture that allows for seamless handovers for voice and data to older model cell towers.


Satellite broadband is sometimes the only option available to users in very rural or sparsely populated areas. Like telephone and television services, satellites orbiting the earth provide necessary links for broadband. With satellite service, you must have a clear view of the southern sky. Satellite service can be disrupted by weather conditions and changes in line of sight to the orbiting satellite. Satellite may have a higher monthly service charge than other broadband options and the need to purchase more home or business equipment compared to the other options. Because satellites are located a significant distance from customers, there are issues of “latency” and therefore a noticeable time lag between sending and receiving data by the end customer.

Downstream and upstream speeds for satellite broadband depend on several factors, including the provider and service package purchased the consumer’s line of sight to the orbiting satellite, and the weather. Satellite speeds may be slower than DSL and cable modem, but they can be about 10 times faster than the download speed with dial-up Internet access. Service can be disrupted in extreme weather conditions.

Source: Information from Wisconsin’s Broadband Reference Guide produced by: WI Public Service Commission, UW-Extension Madison, and the Center for Community Technology Solutions, January 2014

Printed from the website on September 26, 2020 at 12:15am.