Wireless ISPs Vs. Standard ISPs


How Is A Wireless ISP (WISP) Different Than A Standard ISP?

Simply put, a wireless ISP is exactly like a standard ISP, but their service allows you to connect to the Internet without any wires. Most people are familiar with wireless networking at home using WiFi. Think of a WISP as being able to get a WiFi-like connection anywhere, not just when you’re connected to your usual network at home.

The major advantage of a wireless ISP over a standard one is mobility and convenience. You can connect wherever your provider has coverage, and not just next to a hot spot. The disadvantage is not all providers are equal. Some provide better coverage, and others offer better speeds or data caps.

Standard ISPs have more consistent speeds and data caps, so large customers almost never hit it. They are also more secure and have better signal integrity. Wireless signals are easier to hack than a typical connection. With the signal essentially floating around in the air, it’s much easier for someone to spy on your activity and potentially intercept your data. Transmitting signals through the air is more “lossy” than through a wire that is specifically built to transmit a signal.

SEE ALSO: Wireless Internet

Types Of Wireless ISPs

The progression of connectivity over the last couple decades has shifted from low-speed wired connections to high-speed wireless connections. Fifteen years ago people were using 56k dialup connections, and now most everybody is surfing the Web on a phone with a 4G connection.

Satellite Internet is a WISP. The benefits include availability in other areas where cable and DSL aren’t offered. The downside is the signal has to travel a bit further, so there’s more delay, and it doesn’t reach as high of a speed as cable or DSL.

WiFi is the type of Internet most people are used to, but it’s still location-dependent, which means it’s not technically a WISP, but just a way of delivering a standard ISP connection. The incoming signal is a wired signal, either cable or DSL, but it then gets transmitted via a wireless router.

We are, however, starting to see more wireless Internet providers, thanks to technological advances. Companies like T-Mobile, Virgin and Verizon are now offering 4G hot spot devices and USB devices that can hook into your laptop. These devices receive a wireless signal allowing you to surf the Web.

SEE ALSO: HughesNet Satellite Internet

The Future Of Connectivity

WISPs are beginning to deliver the same speeds as Cable or DSL providers. People are constantly on the move and demand access to the Internet at all times, so better coverage with high speed 4G access is needed.

One of the new technologies currently being developed is WiMax.“Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access” (WiMax) is like WiFi on steroids. The technology is built to use towers similar to cellular technology, but is designed for data access and not voice communications. The signal can theoretically reach up to 30 miles for fixed stations, as opposed to 300 feet on Wifi, with speeds up to 75 Mbps. WiMax is still being developed and the cost is currently too high for widespread adoption, but when it is available in a few years it should provide excellent mobility and a better network connection than a satellite.

Currently, most people get Internet at home with a standard ISP like Verizon and AT&T via cable, DSL and fiber optics. But the gap between standard ISPs and wireless ISPs is rapidly closing. What once was used in rural areas for people who couldn’t get wired access is becoming ubiquitous. More and more people are using wireless providers as coverage gets better, faster and cheaper.

Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015

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