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Internet access is the ability of individuals and organizations to connect to the Internet using computer terminals, computers, and other devices; and to access services such as email and the World Wide Web. Internet access is sold by Internet service providers (ISPs) delivering connectivity at a wide range of data transfer rates via various networking technologies. Many organizations, including a growing number of municipal entities, also provide cost-free wireless access and landlines.

Availability of Internet access was once limited, but has grown rapidly. In 1995, only 0.04 percent of the world's population had access, with well over half of those living in the United States,[1] and consumer use was through dial-up. By the first decade of the 21st century, many consumers in developed nations used faster broadband technology, and by 2014, 41 percent of the world's population had access,[2] broadband was almost ubiquitous worldwide, and global average connection speeds exceeded one megabit per second.[3]

History

The Internet developed from the ARPANET, which was funded by the US government to support projects within the government and at universities and research laboratories in the US – but grew over time to include most of the world's large universities and the research arms of many technology companies.[4][5][6] Use by a wider audience only came in 1995 when restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic were lifted.[7]

In the early to mid-1980s, most Internet access was from personal computers and workstations directly connected to local area networks or from dial-up connections using modems and analog telephone lines. LANs typically operated at 10 Mbit/s, while modem data-rates grew from 1200 bit/s in the early 1980s, to 56 kbit/s by the late 1990s. Initially, dial-up connections were made from terminals or computers running terminal emulation software to terminal servers on LANs. These dial-up connections did not support end-to-end use of the Internet protocols and only provided terminal to host connections. The introduction of network access servers supporting the Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP) and later the point-to-point protocol (PPP) extended the Internet protocols and made the full range of Internet services available to dial-up users; although slower, due to the lower data rates available using dial-up.

An important factor in the rapid rise of Internet access speed has been advances in MOSFET (MOS transistor) technology.[8] The MOSFET, originally invented by Mohamed Atalla and Dawon Kahng in 1959,[9][10][11] is the building block of the Internet telecommunications networks.[12][13] The laser, originally demonstrated by Charles H. Townes and Arthur Leonard Schawlow in 1960, was adopted for MOS light wave systems around 1980, which led to exponential growth of Internet bandwidth. Continuous MOSFET scaling has since led to online bandwidth doubling every 18 months (Edholm's law, which is related to Moore's law), with the bandwidths of online communication networks rising from bits per second to terabits per second.[8]

Broadband Internet access, often shortened to just broadband, is simply defined as "Internet access that is always on, and faster than the traditional dial-up access"[14][15] and so covers a wide range of technologies. The core of these broadband Internet technologies are complementary MOS (CMOS) digital circuits,[16][17] the speed capabilities of which were extended with innovative design techniques.[17] Broadband connections are typically made using a computer's built in Ethernet networking capabilities, or by using a NIC expansion card.

Most broadband services provide a continuous "always on" connection; there is no dial-in process required, and it does not interfere with voice use of phone lines.[18] Broadband provides improved access to Internet services such as:

In the 1990s, the National Information Infrastructure initiative in the U.S. made broadband Internet access a public policy issue.[19] In 2000, most Internet access to homes was provided using dial-up, while many businesses and schools were using broadband connections. In 2000 there were just under 150 million dial-up subscriptions in the 34 OECD countries[20] and fewer than 20 million broadband subscriptions. By 2005, broadband had grown and dial-up had declined so that the number of subscriptions were roughly equal at 130 million each. In 2010, in the OECD countries, over 90% of the Internet access subscriptions used broadband, broadband had grown to more than 300 million subscriptions, and dial-up subscriptions had declined to fewer than 30 million.[21] Availability of Internet access was once limited, but has grown rapidly. In 1995, only 0.04 percent of the world's population had access, with well over half of those living in the United States,[1] and consumer use was through dial-up. By the first decade of the 21st century, many consumers in developed nations used faster broadband technology, and by 2014, 41 percent of the world's population had access,[2] broadband was almost ubiquitous worldwide, and global average connection speeds exceeded one megabit per second.[3]

The Internet developed from the ARPANET, which was funded by the US government to support projects within the government and at universities and research laboratories in the US – but grew over time to include most of the world's large universities and the research arms of many technology companies.[4][5][6] Use by a wider audience only came in 1995 when restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic were lifted.[7]

In the early to mid-1980s, most Internet access was from personal computers and workstations directly connected to local area networks or from dial-up connections using modems and analog telephone lines. LANs typically operated at 10 Mbit/s, while modem data-rates grew from 1200 bit/s in the early 1980s, to 56 kbit/s by the late 1990s. Initially, dial-up connections were made from terminals or computers running terminal emulation software to terminal servers on LANs. These dial-up connections did not support end-to-end use of the Internet protocols and only provided terminal to host connections. The introduction of network access servers supporting the Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP) and later the point-to-point protocol (PPP) extended the Internet protocols and made the full range of Internet services available to dial-up users; although slower, due to the lower data rates available using dial-up.

An important factor in the rapid rise of Internet access speed has been advances in MOSFET (MOS transistor) technology.[8] The MOSFET, originally invented by Mohamed Atalla and Dawon Kahng in 1959,[9][10][11] is the building block of the Internet telecommunications networks.[12][13] The laser, originally demonstrated by Charles H. Townes and Arthur Leonard Schawlow in 1960, was adopted for MOS light wave systems around 1980, which led to exponential growth of Internet bandwidth. Continuous MOSFET scaling has since led to online bandwidth doubling every 18 months (Edholm's law, which is related to Moore's law), with the bandwidths of online communication networks rising from bits per second to terabits per second.[8]

Broadband Internet access, often shortened to just broadband, is simply defined as "Internet access that is always on, and faster than the traditional dial-up access"[14][15] and so covers a wide range of technologies. The core of these broadband Internet technologies are complementary MOS (CMOS) digital circuits,[16][17] the speed capabilities of which were extended with innovative design techniques.[17] Broadband connections are typically made using a computer's built in Ethernet networking capabilities, or by using a NIC expansion card.

Most broadband services provide a continuous "always on" connection; there is no dial-in process required, and it does not interfere with voice use of phone lines.[18] Broadband provides improved access to Internet services such as:

In the 1990s, the personal computers and workstations directly connected to local area networks or from dial-up connections using modems and analog telephone lines. LANs typically operated at 10 Mbit/s, while modem data-rates grew from 1200 bit/s in the early 1980s, to 56 kbit/s by the late 1990s. Initially, dial-up connections were made from terminals or computers running terminal emulation software to terminal servers on LANs. These dial-up connections did not support end-to-end use of the Internet protocols and only provided terminal to host connections. The introduction of network access servers supporting the Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP) and later the point-to-point protocol (PPP) extended the Internet protocols and made the full range of Internet services available to dial-up users; although slower, due to the lower data rates available using dial-up.

An important factor in the rapid rise of Internet access speed has been advances in MOSFET (MOS transistor) technology.[8] The MOSFET, originally invented by Mohamed Atalla and Dawon Kahng in 1959,[9][10][11] is the building block of the Internet telecommunications networks.[12][13] The laser, originally demonstrated by Charles H. Townes and Arthur Leonard Schawlow in 1960, was adopted for MOS light wave systems around 1980, which led to exponential growth of Internet bandwidth. Continuous MOSFET scaling has since led to online bandwidth doubling every 18 months (Edholm's law, which is related to Moore's law), with the bandwidths of online communication networks rising from bits per second to terabits per second.[8]

Broadband Internet access, often shortened to just broadband, is simply defined as "Internet access that is always on, and faster than the traditional dial-up access"[14][15] and so covers a wide range of technologies. The core of these broadband Internet technologies are complementary MOS (CMOS) digital circuits,[16][17] the speed capabilities of which were extended with innovative design techniques.[17] Broadband connections are typically made using a computer's built in Ethernet networking capabilities, or by using a NIC expansion card.

Most broadband services provide a continuous "always on" connection; there is no dial-in process required, and it does not interfere with voice use of phone lines.[18] Broadband provides improved access to Internet services such as:

In the 1990s, the National Information Infrastructure initiative in the U.S. made broadband Internet access a public policy issue.[19] In 2000, most Internet access to homes was provided using dial-up, while many businesses and schools were using broadband connections. In 2000 there were just under 150 million dial-up subscriptions in the 34 OECD countries[20] and fewer than 20 million broadband subscriptions. By 2005, broadband had grown and dial-up had declined so that the number of subscriptions were roughly equal at 130 million each. In 2010, in the OECD countries, over 90% of the Internet access subscriptions used broadband, broadband had grown to more than 300 million subscriptions, and dial-up subscriptions had declined to fewer than 30 million.[21]

The broadband technologies in widest use are ADSL and cable Internet access. Newer technologies include VDSL and optical fibre extended closer to the subscriber in both telephone and cable plants. Fibre-optic communication, while only recently being used in premises and to the curb schemes, has played a crucial role in enabling broadband Internet access by making transmission of information at very high data rates over longer distances much more cost-effective than copper wire technology.

In areas not served by ADSL or cable, some community organizations and local governments a

The broadband technologies in widest use are ADSL and cable Internet access. Newer technologies include VDSL and optical fibre extended closer to the subscriber in both telephone and cable plants. Fibre-optic communication, while only recently being used in premises and to the curb schemes, has played a crucial role in enabling broadband Internet access by making transmission of information at very high data rates over longer distances much more cost-effective than copper wire technology.

In areas not served by ADSL or cable, some community organizations and local governments are installing Wi-Fi networks. Wireless, satellite and microwave Internet are often used in rural, undeveloped, or other hard to serve areas where wired Internet is not readily available.

Newer technologies being deployed for fixed (stationary) and mobile broadband access include WiMAX, LTE, and fixed wireless, e.g., Motorola Canopy.

Starting in roughly 2006, mobile broadband access is increasingly available at the consumer level using "3G" and "4G" technologies such as HSPA, EV-DO, HSPA+, and LTE.

In addition to access from home, school, and the workplace Internet access may be available from public places such as libraries and Internet cafes, where computers with Internet connections are available. Some libraries provide stations for physically connecting users' laptops to local area networks (LANs).

Wireless Internet access points are available in public places such as airport halls, in some cases just for brief use while standing. Some access points may also provide coin-operated computers. Various terms are used, such as "public Internet kiosk", "public access terminal", and "Web payphone". Many hotels also have public terminals, usually fee based.

Coffee shops, shopping malls, and other venues increasingly offer wireless access to computer networks, referred to as hotspots, for users who bring their own wireless-enabled devices such as a laptop or PDA. These services may be free to all, free to customers only, or fee-based. A Wi-Fi hotspot need not be limited to a confined location since multiple ones combined can cover a whole campus or park, or even an entire city can be enabled.

Additionally, Wireless Internet access points are available in public places such as airport halls, in some cases just for brief use while standing. Some access points may also provide coin-operated computers. Various terms are used, such as "public Internet kiosk", "public access terminal", and "Web payphone". Many hotels also have public terminals, usually fee based.

Coffee shops, shopping malls, and other venues increasingly offer wireless access to computer networks, referred to as hotspots, for users who bring their own wireless-enabled devices such as a laptop or PDA. These services may be free to all, free to customers only, or fee-based. A Wi-Fi hotspot need not be limited to a confined location since multiple ones combined can cover a whole campus or park, or even an entire city can be enabled.

Additionally, Mobile broadband access allows smart phones and other digital devices to connect to the Internet from any location from which a mobile phone call can be made, subject to the capabilities of that mobile network.

The bit rates for dial-up modems range from as little as 110 bit/s in the late 1950s, to a maximum of from 33 to 64 kbit/s (V.90 and V.92) in the late 1990s. Dial-up connections generally require the dedicated use of a telephone line. Data compression can boost the effective bit rate for a dial-up modem connection from 220 (V.42bis) to 320 (V.44) kbit/s.[22] However, the effectiveness of data compression is quite variable, depending on the type of data being sent, the condition of the telephone line, and a number of other factors. In reality, the overall data rate rarely exceeds 150 kbit/s.[23]

Broadband technologies supply considerably higher bit rates than dial-up, generally without disrupting regular telephone use. Various minimum data rates and maximum latencies have been used in definitions of broadband, ranging from 64 kbit/s up to 4.0 Mbit/s.[24] In 1988 the CCITT standards body defined "broadband service" as requiring transmission channels capable of supporting bit rates greater than the primary rate which ranged from about 1.5 to 2 Mbit/s.[25] A 2006 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report defined broadband as having download data transfer rates equal to or faster than 256 kbit/s.[26] And in 2015 the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defined "Basic Broadband" as data transmission speeds of at least 25 Mbit/s downstream (from the Internet to the user's computer) and 3 Mbit/s upstream (from the user's computer to the Internet).[27] The trend is to raise the threshold of the broadband definition as higher data rate services become available.[28]

The higher data rate dial-up modems and many broadband services are "asymmetric"—supporting much higher data rates for download (toward the user) than for upload (toward the Internet).

Data rates, including those given in this article, are usually defined and advertised in terms of the maximum or peak download rate. In practice, these maximum data rates are not always reliably available to the customer.[29] Actual end-to-end data rates can be lower due to a number of factors.[30] In late June 2016, internet connection speeds averaged about 6 Mbit/s globally.[31] Physical link qu

Broadband technologies supply considerably higher bit rates than dial-up, generally without disrupting regular telephone use. Various minimum data rates and maximum latencies have been used in definitions of broadband, ranging from 64 kbit/s up to 4.0 Mbit/s.[24] In 1988 the CCITT standards body defined "broadband service" as requiring transmission channels capable of supporting bit rates greater than the primary rate which ranged from about 1.5 to 2 Mbit/s.[25] A 2006 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report defined broadband as having download data transfer rates equal to or faster than 256 kbit/s.[26] And in 2015 the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defined "Basic Broadband" as data transmission speeds of at least 25 Mbit/s downstream (from the Internet to the user's computer) and 3 Mbit/s upstream (from the user's computer to the Internet).[27] The trend is to raise the threshold of the broadband definition as higher data rate services become available.[28]

The higher data rate dial-up modems and many broadband services are "asymmetric"—supporting much higher data rates for download (toward the user) than for upload (toward the Internet).

Data rates, including those given in this article, are usually defined and advertised in terms of the maximum or peak download rate. In practice, these maximum data rates are not always reliably available to the customer.[29] Actual end-to-end data rates can be lower due to a number of factors.[30] In late June 2016, internet connection speeds averaged about 6 Mbit/s globally.[31] Physical link quality can vary with distance and for wireless access with terrain, weather, building construction, antenna placement, and interference from other radio sources. Network bottlenecks may exist at points anywhere on the path from the end-user to the remote server or service being used and not just on the first or last link providing Internet access to the end-user.

Users may share access over a common network infrastructure. Since most users do not use their full connection capacity all of the time, this aggregation strategy (known as contended service) usually works well and users can burst to their full data rate at least for brief periods. However, peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing and high-quality streaming video can require high data-rates for extended periods, which violates these assumptions and can cause a service to become oversubscribed, resulting in congestion and poor performance. The TCP protocol includes flow-control mechanisms that automatically throttle back on the bandwidth being used during periods of network congestion. This is fair in the sense that all users that experience congestion receive less bandwidth, but it can be frustrating for customers and a major problem for ISPs. In some cases the amount of bandwidth actually available may fall below the threshold required to support a particular service such as video conferencing or streaming live video–effectively making the service unavailable.

When traffic is particularly heavy, an ISP can deliberately throttle back the bandwidth available to classes of users or for particular services. This is known as traffic shaping and careful use can ensure a better traffic shaping and careful use can ensure a better quality of service for time critical services even on extremely busy networks. However, overuse can lead to concerns about fairness and network neutrality or even charges of censorship, when some types of traffic are severely or completely blocked.

An Internet blackout or outage can be caused by local signaling interruptions. Disruptions of submarine communications cables may cause blackouts or slowdowns to large areas, such as in the 2008 submarine cable disruption. Less-developed countries are more vulnerable due to a small number of high-capacity links. Land cables are also vulnerable, as in 2011 when a woman digging for scrap metal severed most connectivity for the nation of Armenia.[32] Internet blackouts affecting almost entire countries can be achieved by governments as a form of Internet censorship, as in the blockage of the Internet in Egypt, whereby approximately 93%[33] of networks were without access in 2011 in an attempt to stop mobilization for anti-government protests.[34]

On April 25, 1997, due to a combination of human error and software bug, an incorrect routing table at MAI Network Service (a Virginia Internet service provider) propagated across backbone routers and caused major disrup

On April 25, 1997, due to a combination of human error and software bug, an incorrect routing table at MAI Network Service (a Virginia Internet service provider) propagated across backbone routers and caused major disruption to Internet traffic for a few hours.[35]

When the Internet is accessed using a modem, digital data is converted to analog for transmission over analog networks such as the telephone and cable networks.[18] A computer or other device accessing the Internet would either be connected directly to a modem that communicates with an Internet service provider (ISP) or the modem's Internet connection would be shared via a Local Area Network (LAN) which provides access in a limited area such as a home, school, computer laboratory, or office building.

Although a connection to a LAN may provide very high data-rates within the LAN, actual Internet access speed is limited by the upstream link to the ISP. LANs may be wired or wireless. Ethernet over twisted pair cabling and Wi-Fi are the two most common technologies used to build LANs today, but ARCNET, Token Ring, Although a connection to a LAN may provide very high data-rates within the LAN, actual Internet access speed is limited by the upstream link to the ISP. LANs may be wired or wireless. Ethernet over twisted pair cabling and Wi-Fi are the two most common technologies used to build LANs today, but ARCNET, Token Ring, Localtalk, FDDI, and other technologies were used in the past.

Ethernet is the name of the IEEE 802.3 standard for physical LAN communication[36] and Wi-Fi is a trade name for a wireless local area network (WLAN) that uses one of the IEEE 802.11 standards.[37] Ethernet cables are interconnected via switches & routers. Wi-Fi networks are built using one or more wireless antenna called access points.

Many "modems" provide the additional functionality to host a LAN so most Internet access today is through a LAN[citation needed], often a very small LAN with just one or two devices attached. And while LANs are an important form of Internet access, this raises the question of how and at what data rate the LAN itself is connected to the rest of the global Internet. The technologies described below are used to make these connections.

The term broadband includes a broad range of technologies, all of which provide higher data rate access to the Internet. The following technologies use wires or cables in contrast to wireless broadband described later.

Dial-up access

Dial-up Internet access uses a modem and a phone call placed over the public switched telephone network (PSTN) to connect to a pool of modems operated by an ISP. The modem converts a computer's digital signal into an analog signal that travels over a phone line's local loop until it reaches a telephone company's switching facilities or central office (CO) where it is switched to another phone line that connects to another modem at the remote end of the connection.[38]

Operating on a single channel, a dial-up connection monopolizes the phone line and is one of the slowest methods of accessing the Internet. Dial-up is often the only form of Internet access available in rural areas as it requires no new infrastructure beyond the already existing telephone network, to connect to the Internet. Typically, dial-up connections do not exceed a speed of 56 kbit/s, as they are primarily made using modems that operate at a maximum data rate of 56 kbit/s downstream (towards the end user) and 34 or 48 kbit/s upstream (toward the global Internet).[18]

Multilink dial-up

Multilink dial-up provides increased bandwidth by channel bonding multiple dial-up connections and accessing them as a single data channel.[39] It requires two or more modems, phone lines, and dial-up accounts, as well as an ISP that supports multilinking – and of course any line and data charges are also doubled. This inverse multiplexing option was briefly popular with some high-end users before ISDN, DSL and other technologies became available. Diamond and other vendors created special modems to support multilinking.[40]

Integrated Services Digital Network

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) is a switched telephone service capable of transporting voice and digital data, and is one of the oldest Internet access methods. ISDN has been used for voice, video conferencing, and broadband data applications. ISDN was very popular in Europe, but less common in North America. Its use peaked in the late 1990s before the availability of DSL and cable modem technologies.[41]

Basic rate ISDN, known as ISDN-BRI, has two 64 kbit/s "bearer" or "B" channels. These channels can be used separately for voice or data calls or bonded together to provide a 128 kbit/s service. Multiple ISDN-BRI lines can be bonded together to provide data rates above 128 kbit/s. Primary rate ISDN, known as ISDN-PRI, has 23 bearer channels (64 kbit/s each) for a combined data rate of 1.5 Mbit/s (US standard). An ISDN E1 (European standard) line has 30 bearer channels and a combined data rate of 1.9 Mbit/s.

Leased lines

Satellite Internet access provides fixed, portable, and mobile Internet access.[66] Data rates range from 2 kbit/s to 1 Gbit/s downstream and from 2 kbit/s to 10 Mbit/s upstream. In the northern hemisphere, satellite antenna dishes require a clear line of sight to the southern sky, due to the equatorial position of all geostationary satellites. In the southern hemisphere, this situation is reversed, and dishes are pointed north.[67][68] Service can be adversely affected by moisture, rain, and snow (known as rain fade).[67][68][69] The system requires a carefully aimed directional antenna.[68]

Satellites in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) operate in a fixed position 35,786 km (22,236 miles) above the Earth's equator. At the speed of light (about 300,000 km/s or 186,000 miles per second), it takes a quarter of a second for a radio signal to travel from the Earth to the satellite and back. When other switching and routing delays are added and the delays are doubled to allow for a full round-trip transmission, the total delay can be 0.75 to 1.25 seconds. This latency is large when compared to other forms of Internet access with typical latencies that range from 0.015 to 0.2 seconds. Long latencies negatively affect some applications that require real-time response, particularly online games, voice over IP, and remote control devices.[70][71] TCP tuning and TCP acceleration techniques can mitigate so

Satellites in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) operate in a fixed position 35,786 km (22,236 miles) above the Earth's equator. At the speed of light (about 300,000 km/s or 186,000 miles per second), it takes a quarter of a second for a radio signal to travel from the Earth to the satellite and back. When other switching and routing delays are added and the delays are doubled to allow for a full round-trip transmission, the total delay can be 0.75 to 1.25 seconds. This latency is large when compared to other forms of Internet access with typical latencies that range from 0.015 to 0.2 seconds. Long latencies negatively affect some applications that require real-time response, particularly online games, voice over IP, and remote control devices.[70][71] TCP tuning and TCP acceleration techniques can mitigate some of these problems. GEO satellites do not cover the Earth's polar regions.[67] HughesNet, Exede, AT&T and Dish Network have GEO systems.[72][73][74][75]

Satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO, below 2000 km or 1243 miles) and medium Earth orbit (MEO, between 2000 and 35,786 km or 1,243 and 22,236 miles) are less common, operate at lower altitudes, and are not fixed in their position above the Earth. Lower altitudes allow lower latencies and make real-time interactive Internet applications more feasible. LEO systems include Globalstar and Iridium. The O3b MEO constellation is a medium Earth orbit system with a latency of 125 ms. COMMStellation™ is a LEO system, scheduled for launch in 2015, that is expected to have a latency of just 7 ms.

Mobile broadband is the marketing term for wireless Internet access delivered through mobile phone towers to computers, mobile phones (called "cell phones" in North America and South Africa, and "hand phones" in Asia), and other digital devices using portable modems. Some mobile services allow more than one device to be connected to the Internet using a single cellular connection using a process called tethering. The modem may be built into laptop computers, tablets, mobile phones, and other devices, added to some devices using PC cards, USB modems, and USB sticks or dongles, or separate wireless modems can be used.[76]

New mobile phone technology and infrastructure is introduced periodically and generally involves a change in the fundamental nature of the service, non-backwards-compatible transmission technology, higher peak data rates, new frequency bands, wider channel frequency bandwidth in Hertz becomes available. These transitions are referred to as generations. The first mobile data services became available during the second generation (2G).

Second generation (2G) from 1991:
Speeds in kbit/s down and up
WiMAX was originally developed to deliver fixed wireless service with wireless mobility added in 2005. CDPD, CDMA2000 EV-DO, and MBWA are no longer being actively developed.

In 2011, 90% of the world's population lived in areas with 2G coverage, while 45% lived in areas with 2G and 3G coverage.[77]

WiMAX

Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) is a set of interoperable implementations of the IEEE 802.16 family of wireless-network standards certified by the WiMAX Forum. WiMAX enables "the delivery of last mile wireless broadband access as an alternative to cable and DSL".[78] The original IEEE 802.16 standard, now called "Fixed WiMAX", was published in 2001 and provided 30 to 40 megabit-per-second data rates.[79] Mobility support was added in 2005. A 2011 update provides data rates up to 1 Gbit/s for fixed stations. WiMax offers a metropolitan area network with a signal radius of about 50 km (30 miles), far surpassing the 30-metre (100-foot) wireless range of a conventional Wi-Fi local area network (LAN). WiMAX signals also penetrate building walls much more effectively than Wi-Fi.

Wireless ISP

Wi-Fi logo

Wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) operate independently of mobile phone operators. WISPs typically employ low-cost IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi radio systems to link up remote locations over great distances (Long-range Wi-Fi), but may use other higher-power radio communications systems as well.

WI-FI Range Diagram

Traditional 802.11a/b/g/n/ac is an unlicensed omnidirectional service designed to span between 100 and 150 m (300 to 500 ft). By focusing the radio signal using a directional antenna (where allowed by regulations), 802.11 can operate reliably over a distance of many km(miles), although the technology's line-of-sight requirements hamper connectivity in areas with hilly or heavily foliated terrain. In addition, compared to hard-wired connectivity, there are security risks (unless robust security protocols are enabled); data rates are usually slower (2 to 50 times slower); and the network can be less stable, due to interference from other wireless devices and networks, weather and line-of-sight problems.[80]

With the increasing popularity of unrelated consumer devices operating on the same 2.4 GHz band, many providers have migrated to the 5GHz ISM band. If the service provider holds the necessary spectrum license, it could also reconfigure various brands of off the shelf Wi-Fi hardware to operate on its own band instead of the crowded unlicensed ones. Using higher frequencies carries various advantages:

  • usually regulatory bodies allow for more power and using (better-) directional antennae,
  • there exists much more bandwidth to share, allowing both better throughput and improved coexistence,
  • there are less consumer devices that operate over 5 GHz than on 2.4 GHz, hence less interferers are present,
  • the shorter wavelengths propagate much worse through walls and other structure, so much less interference leaks outside of the homes of consumers.

Proprietary technologies like Motorola Canopy & Expedience can be used by a WISP to offer wireless access to rural and other markets that are hard to reach using Wi-Fi or WiMAX. There are a number of companies that provide this service.[81]

Local Multipoint Distribution Service

Local

Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS) is a broadband wireless access technology that uses microwave signals operating between 26 GHz and 29 GHz.[82] Originally designed for digital television transmission (DTV), it is conceived as a fixed wireless, point-to-multipoint technology for utilization in the last mile. Data rates range from 64 kbit/s to 155 Mbit/s.[83] Distance is typically limited to about 1.5 miles (2.4 km), but links of up to 5 miles (8 km) from the base station are possible in some circumstances.[84]

LMDS has been surpassed in both technological and commercial potential by the LTE and WiMAX standards.

Hybrid Access Networks