Wireless telecommunications is any means of electronic data transfer using electromagnetic means, most commonly radio waves. The data transferred is often in the form of digital information, which include voice transmission. Wireless telecommunications can also include analog signals, though these are being phased out in many industries. Telecommunication is also usually thought of as being two-way, with both sides having receiving and transmission capabilities.
Most types of wireless telecommunications work through a base station. This station receives information both from fixed lines and wireless sources, such as radio waves. The base station then takes those signals and converts them from one type of medium to the other. It is possible the radio waves would be forwarded to a satellite or other type of system and then transferred to another base station before going to a fixed land line system.
One major exception to this process is the use of satellite phones, which are still quite expensive, and generally not used by the average consumer. These phones can forgo the use of a base station and transmit directly to overhead satellites. This capability greatly enhances their functionality to receive and send signals in locations where traditional cell phones cannot. The drawbacks are the price of such phones, and the power it takes to run them, both of which are substantially more than with cell phones.
Though they have been around a long time, wireless telecommunications have only recently begun dominating the marketplace, especially for personal phone calls. Popularity since the beginning of the 21st century has ballooned. The use of systems such as cellular telephones enable users to take their phones with them anywhere, which greatly enhances their on-demand communication opportunities. While this may offer many users a greater convenience, there have been some drawbacks to wireless telecommunications as well, including more government regulation, and disputes over who has the right to what airwaves.
The prevalent use of cell phones and other radio transmission devices has prompted the Federal Communications Commission in the United States and other governing bodies around the world to work quickly to improve regulations. As the system becomes increasingly crowded with signals, the FCC has worked to implement changes, such as moving television signals from an analog-based system to a digitized one and allowing certain cellular networks to only transmit on certain frequencies. This frees up more bandwidth across the spectrum.
The switch in reliance from land line telecommunications to wireless telecommunications has concerned some. Some see wireless systems as less reliable, especially in emergency situations. Others argue that when storms knock down phone lines, cell towers usually make it through and provide sometimes the only means of communication. In general, the safest bet is to have both types of systems available to you in an emergency.