Increasingly, people access the Internet wirelessly, either through a laptop computer or from a mobile handheld device, such as an iPhone, Blackberry, or Google phone. Today, there are two common types of wireless Internet access. In a wireless LAN, wireless users transmit/receive packets to/from an access point that in turn is connected to the wired Internet. A wireless LAN user must normally be within a few tens of meters of the access point. In wide-area wireless access networks, packets are transmitted to a base station over the same wireless infrastructure used for cellular telephony. In this case, the base station is managed by the cellular network provider and a user must normally be within a few tens of kilometers of the base station.

Wireless LAN access based on IEEE 802.11 technology, that is WiFi, is now just about everywhere - universities, business offices, cafes, airports, homes, and even in airplanes. Most universities have installed IEEE 802.11 base stations across their entire campus, allowing students to send and receive e-mail or surf the Web from anywhere on campus. In many cities, one can stand on a street corner and be within range of ten or twenty base stations (for a browseable global map of 802.11 base stations that have been discovered and logged on a Web site by people who take great enjoyment in doing such things, see [wigle.net 20091]). As discussed in detail in "Wireless and Mobile Networks", 802.11 today provides a shared transmission rate of up to 54 Mbps.

Many homes combine broadband residential access (that is, cable modems or DSL) with low-cost wireless LAN technology to create powerful home networks. "Wide-Area Wireless Access" figure, shows a diagram of a typical home network. This home network comprises a roaming laptop as well as a wired PC; a base station (the wireless access point), which communicates with the wireless PC, a cable modem, providing broadband access to the Internet; and a router; which interconnects the base station and the stationary PC with the cable modern. This network allows household members to have broadband access to the internet with one member roaming from the kitchen to the backyard to the bedrooms.


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