Wireless broadband is high-speed Internet service via wireless technology. It is available in Internet cafes, local “hot spots” within many cities, private businesses and many homes. The advantage of this type of Internet connection is that the computer receiving the signal need not be tethered by an Ethernet or network cable to the broadband modem or router. The modem receives the service and transmits it via radio waves to the immediate surrounding area. Any computer equipped with wireless capacity within receiving distance can pick up the signal, making the Internet "portable."
The most common way to take advantage of wireless broadband is by using a laptop computer. The computer will need a wireless adapter, commonly available in a portable computer (PC) card format. This is a small credit-card style device that slips into an external port on the laptop. With a little configuration of the software, the laptop will start searching for a wireless signal. Once detected, a handshake is required between the laptop and the network. If the network is not protected by a secure password or other firewall protocol, the laptop will be able to connect to the wireless broadband signal.
In Internet cafes and other public access areas, there is sometimes a fee required before the wireless laptop is granted access. However, many cities have installed wireless broadband as a courtesy to their citizens, and public access is free. A user might need to find the right spots within the city to obtain access, as the signals get weaker the farther they travel from the source.
Since wireless broadband is transmitted via radio waves, secure passwords and firewalls are used on private networks to ensure unauthorized people cannot connect to the network. Unwanted users can slow network traffic by using up valuable bandwidth resources and may create other more serious problems. Home users with wireless networks are also well advised to install security measures. Unknown users who can connect through a personal network might download illegal materials or commit other online crimes that, if investigated, would point back to the person who is sending the wireless signal. Taking proper precautions will help ensure that only the owner and those that he or she authorizes are able to use the wireless connection.
To set up the hardware for a wireless network, one needs a wireless broadband modem, router and switch, which can come combined in a single inexpensive device. A phone line is required for Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service, while cable television is required for cable broadband. A desktop usually serves as the main computer where the devices are connected. There may be physical cables that must run from the modem to the desktop, but the Internet signal itself is broadcast wirelessly and can be picked up by remote computers or laptops within the home or office.
Wireless broadband makes the Internet more convenient. When purchasing PC cards, consumers should be sure they support the speed of the wireless network since inexpensive cards might only support slower speeds.