Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A New Generation in Wireless Technology

Since Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, we've been scrambling to improve upon the technology as quickly and efficiently as possible. From party lines to dedicated lines, and then on to conference calls and the advent of the Internet, wired technology seemed to be boundless. Then, in the 1980's, we figured out how to get rid of the wires, and a whole new generation of communication was born.

The first generation of wireless technology was pretty basic by today's standards. It was slow, unreliable, and capable of sending only minimal amounts of data. Pagers, however, became a fixture in some professions, as it was possible to reach people at any time, even when a telephone was nowhere around. 2G, or the second generation, cropped up in the early 1990's. It was quite a bit better, making it possible to communicate wirelessly by telephone. These early cell phones were quite large, and usually had a bag attached. I remember the joy of being able to trick my friends into thinking that I was just about to leave my house, when I was actually sitting in their driveway. My dad was not as amused, because he was the one that dealt with the very expensive bill that followed.

It wasn't until the third generation that we began to apply this wireless technology to our Internet connections. Up to this point, we had telephone modems and then cable modems, and we were pretty pleased with the speed of data transfer. The idea of being able to take our work outside to the back deck on pretty days was appealing, though. And when smartphones picked up the technology and made wireless calls and wireless Internet available on one device, it was love at first sight.

It may be hard to imagine that this wireless technology could get any better, but it actually can! Prepare yourself for the fourth generation in wireless communication, or 4G. The industry name is actually WiMAX, which stands for Worldwide Interoperability Microwave Access. While your familiar WiFi keeps you tethered to your home or office, WiMAX will make it possible to venture out into the city with your laptop and surf from just about anywhere.

The WiMAX cell towers have a proven range of up to four miles in an urban setting, which means that even buildings don't get in the way of its signal. With just a few strategically placed cell towers, the entire city would become an Internet hotspot, making it possible for people to work during their morning commute or surf their favorite websites while the kids play at the park. All you'll need is one of the many subscriber units that are available. For the home, these can be either indoor or outdoor receiver. The indoor receiver is about the size of your current router, while the outdoor receiver is roughly the size of a laptop. For your laptop computer, you can have the receiver embedded, or you can purchase a USB dongle. It won't be long before we're all communicating with WiMAX.