- slide 1 of 4
Wifi to WiMax
We've all used wifi networks, whether to link our homes or businesses together. They're quick, easy, and versatile, just requiring a wireless router to enable many wireless devices in a single wireless network.
Though it's been in the pipes for what seems like an eternity, many cities have been considering (and reconsidering) creating free or cheap municipal wireless networks in their downtown portions. While these would make it incredibly easy for anyone to access the Internet, something that is beginning to be seen as more as a right than a privilege, city councils are often slowed up by both the cost of just an endeavor—and by wireless service providers putting up a great deal of outcry. However, the first trickle of wireless cities have begun, and more cities as varied as Dublin and Seattle have plans for wireless networks of their own. Stay tuned for plans within your own city.
Of course, these are cities we're talking about here. What about getting Internet access to rural areas that may not even have DSL or cable modems? Well, here wifi comes to the rescue. It's an issue of cost effectiveness that prevents wired service providers from providing for these areas. Wifi, on the other hand, can be transmitted over many miles, once set up properly, eliminating the need for expensive infrastructure. Oftentimes, it's not even a wireless service provider who's connecting people, but a hobbyist who feels the need to rig up the appropriate antennae and dish on top of a nearby silo or the like. This is working to spread the Internet to places in the world where before no Internet access even existed.
Wifi's popularity has dictated a few changes as necessary, a victim of its own success. Currently, wifi can only run on three frequencies, which can lead to considerable interference when you've got dozens and dozens of other wifi wireless routers and devices, in addition to Bluetooth and other technologies crowding the same space. Many commercial companies are beginning to include a few other wifi standards in their products, from a to g. This should open up wifi networks to further expansion.
Wifi, however, is sometimes just not good enough in the traditional 802.11b channel. WiMax is being toted as an alternative, using a 802.16 standard and promising to deliver wireless Internet to even more far-flung and remote locations at faster speeds.
- slide 2 of 4
Sound a bit out of this world? Bad puns aside, satellite broadband is beginning to become a commercially viable way to deliver wireless connections to remote and hard to reach areas that even wifi can't touch. While they're still only just barely touching broadband speeds, and a high latency is an issue due to the signal having to go all the way out to the satellite's orbit and back, satellite broadband technology is definitely making ripples. Maybe it won't be powering whole cities anytime soon, but on your next vacation to the most remote of the remote, you might just be checking your news via satellite.
- slide 3 of 4
Stratellite was dreamed up as an alternative to satellite, one that would retain satellite's incredible flexibility and coverage while lessening that obnoxious latency issue by orbiting in the stratosphere, as opposed to the exosphere, of our atmosphere. There hasn't been any real research done into this, just some preliminary work and a little buzz, so don't be expecting to see it anytime soon.
- slide 4 of 4
Wireless Energy Transfer
While we're talking wireless, let's consider a further development: the wireless transfer of energy. Not only can you get your Internet wirelessly, but the device that you're using might just get powered too. Imagine having both power and Internet bundled into the same tidy wireless package! While combining the two technologies—or even making wireless energy transfer commercially viable—is still a bit of a long ways off, it's not so far in the distant future that it's unthinkable to see it in the next decade.