Wireless

by Dereck Senter on February 14, 2013

Welcome to Information Technology (IT) made simple.

This week I am going to take on a big subject: Wireless.

Wireless might be the most confusing subject of them all.  There are so many different terms used to describe wireless.  Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G, 4G, 4G LTE.  There are also some lesser known descriptors, like WiMAX for example.

It may be easiest to break them into groups.

Lets talk about home/business wireless first.  Wi-Fi and Bluetooth fall into that category.  Even in these categories, there are sub categories.  Wi-Fi for example has terms associated with it like; 802.11 A, B, G, and N.  Those are the actual standards that Wi-Fi is based on.  Standards are needed to make sure that different companies’ equipment will talk with each other.  All we need to know is that “N” is the most current standard.

Wi-Fi is best used for transmitting larger amounts of data across a limited distance.  Distance is usually limited to a building, as an example, but not always.  Laptops almost always have Wi-Fi as a built in device.  Most cell phones and tablets have it as well.  This allows the devices to be connected together.  It also allows for internet, if the network you are connecting to, has internet available.  Wi-Fi does not automatically mean internet.

Bluetooth is up next.  Bluetooth has a much more limited range and data transmission capability than Wi-Fi.  “Then why do we have Bluetooth?” you might ask.  The answer is simple.  It is inexpensive to build, and very small.  Bluetooth devices can be miniaturized because the electronics to make it work are very small.  It makes it easy to have small ear pieces, and the like.  Not much data exchanges hands between a phone and an ear piece.  It is the right technology for the job.

Next up is the Cell wireless.  I’m sure you have heard the terms 3G, 4G, and LTE, but what does that mean?  Again, those descriptors are for standards.  Though in this case, the standards are much looser. Take 4G for example.  There are a number of different cell companies that say they have 4G.  That just means they are using a 4th generation wireless design.  You usually can’t use the same phone on an ATT account, and then switch it to Verizon.  They are 4th generation, just not the same design.  LTE is another example of 4th generation design.  WiMAX actually is as well.  WiMAX is similar to Wi-Fi as far as technology goes, except the signal from WiMAX travels much farther.

Your cell phone connects to a network, much like Wi-Fi, just a much larger one.  The wireless signal is designed to travel much farther than Wi-Fi.  The equipment to make that possible is of course much more expensive as well.

Even though all of these technologies are considered wireless, you can see they are much different.  Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can be used for the home and office.  It is inexpensive, and does a very good job of moving data.  Cell wireless technologies are much more expensive, but work over a much greater distance.  Once again, this is the right technology for the job.

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