There are numerous buzzwords floating through the world of business today, but recently it seems that wireless fidelity access has been tossed around more than others. Places like restaurants, train stations and airports, libraries, hotels, hospitals, coffee shops, bookstores, and many other public places are opening their networks to the public, either for free or for a small cost, giving laptops, Wi-Fi phones and other suitable portable devices instant access to the Internet.
Known as hotspots, these venues that are offering Wi-Fi access seem to make traveling outside of the home or office easier on the traveling businessman, students, and those looking for casual Internet access. There are also other technologies available, for a monthly fee, which will give a user instant access to the Internet without relying on a hotspot. But, either way, the mobile computing is being revolutionized by wireless technology.
In 2007, most laptops that were sold contained wireless network adaptors built into the machine - eliminating the need to purchase an external wireless networking card. In the same year, Wi-Fi technology had also spread widely within business and industrial sites, allowing business environments to increase the number of access-points and provide roaming and increased overall network-capacity. When leaving the office, the built-in adaptor will allow the computer to search for a network to connect to and then give the user options for connecting to that network.
At first, many venues chose to charge users for access to the Internet. But, over the years, free hotspots have continued to grow, and have been used as a tactic for many venues to entice customers. Major airports, like Denver International Airport, have opened their network up for free access; and, approximately 300 cities nationwide have started municipal broadband, a wireless network that covers an entire city - giving those traveling on public transportation access to the Internet during their commute.
Free hotpots work in two ways. The first is the open public network. All the user needs to access the venues is a Wi-Fi router. This is unsecured access to the Internet, where user data is shared as clear text as all users access the hotspot. The second way is the closed public network, which uses a hotspot management system to control the hotspot. This helps the venue authorize who is accessing the Internet, and access is usually associated with a menu or purchase limit.
Other wireless options
Whiles Wi-Fi Hotspots offer an Internet connection alternative for those looking to get away from the office, cellular carriers are offering yet another option for laptop users who want a gateway to the Internet essentially everywhere they go. Many cell phone companies are now offering high-speed Internet access over many of the most populated and heavily traveled regions worldwide. Made possible by a new network, all the user needs is to purchase the carriers external network card and a service plan, both of which can become costly.
To use the service on a laptop, a PC-card slot is needed, which is the same place that an external wireless networking card would be inserted if a wireless adaptor is not built into the computer. Built-in wireless modems are available for some notebook models from makers like Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell.
The services offered by cell phone carriers deliver download speeds of about 400 to 700 kilobits a second, which is roughly 10 times as fast as dial-up; however, upload speeds are less in the range of 50 to 80 kilobits.
An example of this service is Sprint Mobile Broadband, which provides coverage in 219 U.S. metropolitan areas, according to the company. An unlimited plan with a two-year contract, for $60 a month, is available for Sprint cell phone customers; the rate is $80 a month without a voice plan. The company advertises the above mentioned download speeds.
What this type of connection offers business is essentially a cleaning up of the network. It eliminates the need for modems, routers, configuring machines, and Ethernet cords. All the user needs is a laptop with a PC-card slot and the company's network card. Cellular carriers are offering the public Internet access virtually everywhere they go, from the park to the office - without having to search for venues that are Wi-Fi hotspots.
Which is better?
In some cases free is always better. Both options provide a user access to the Internet outside of the home or office. However, one offers the user access for free, or the cost of a coffee and a muffin, while the other could cost about $100 a month, depending on which carrier is used.
Today, laptop technology has made it easy for the user to access a network outside of their home or office, which may be increasing productivity. Either way, it is up to the user entirely on how they want to use that technology to access the World Wide Web.