different flavours of Wireless
A frustrating part of working
in IT is the amount of jargon we use. To make it worse, we often start
using the same terms for different technology which only confuses people
The term “wireless” is a
good example. This simple word manages to confuse not only consumers
but many computer techs and salespeople.
To clarify what’s what, here are the basic differences;
Wireless Internet is a way of
connecting to the Internet by using the mobile phone network or other
wire free technologies. These work over large areas and are designed so
suburbs or districts can have Internet access without needing a telephone
or cable TV connection.
There’s a whole range of
wireless Internet providers, ranging from local businesses covering
regional towns to the big telcos like Bigpond, Optus and Vodafone .
Like everything related to mobile phones the plans are complex and
can be difficult to follow. You need to look very closely at your charges
before connecting to the net through your mobile.
Other wireless Internet providers such as iBurst and Unwired have plans
more like the standard Internet plans at a similar price. We have more
on this issue on our choosing an ISP page.
The common factor with wireless
Internet services is they require a either a modem or a mobile phone
to plug into your computer. The built in wireless functions standard
in most laptops won’t connect to these systems.
It should be kept in mind
that wireless Internet has similar limitations to the mobile phone network.
Some areas get rotten reception and different carriers perform better
than others in certain locations. We recommend you investigate
the alternatives before entering into a wireless Internet contract.
All the wireless Internet
systems have built in security that makes it almost impossible to eavesdrop.
This is where the main confusion is between the two types of wireless
arises. Wireless networking has well deserved reputation for not being
Networking your home or office
wirelessly can be an effective way of sharing files, printers and Internet
connections in your home or office. The security problems are due to many
having basic security enabled.
To link to a wireless network,
a computer uses a wireless Network
Interface Card. Most laptops come with these included. If the network
has security enabled, as we recommend, then you’ll need to type in the
security code (known as WEP or WPA passkey) before you'll be allowed
on the network.
You’ll find wireless networks
in coffee shops, airport lounges and hotels as well as homes and offices.
Many of these networks are set up for you to connect to the Internet,
often at a price. Wireless networks only work in a small area around
where the local network is installed.
Just to confuse matters,
there's are other wireless technologies available. The most common for
computer users is RF (Radio Frequency) equipment that communicate through
a small radio transmitter. These are the most popular type of wireless
mice and keyboards.
The older infra red system
has largely vanished. You might still find the odd PDA,
mobile phone or laptop that uses it but it's rare to find them in shops.
The replacement for Infrared
is Bluetooth. This is now a very common way for connecting with mobile
phones, keyboards, mice, speakers, headphones and printers. It should
be noted that printers marked as "wireless" usually mean they have built
in wireless networking, not Bluetooth or the other wireless connections.
The wire free computer is
still a long way off, even if you use a laptop connected to a wireless
network or with a wireless Internet connection, you'll still have to
plug the thing into the power sometimes.
In the meantime, we'll have
to struggle with a myriad of different wireless technologies. In general,
we think it's best to accept the fact a few wires behind your computer
are inevitable rather than chasing the impossible dream.