What was I thinking? I’ve covered a big bunch of basic computer subjects in the last couple of years and I left this one out. Well, not anymore.
There are several different types of wireless connectivity:
1. Wi-Fi (stands for Wireless Fidelity): Either installed internally in a computer or plugged through a USB port, devices that use Wi-Fi allow you to connect your computer, through radio frequency (wirelessly) and a relatively short range, to a device that in turn connects to the Internet. Typical scenario could be at home, where you have a device that connects to a phone line or TV cable connection (from which it achieves Internet connectivity), and then it broadcasts the signal to all rooms at home, wirelessly. Or maybe an Internet Cafe, where customers bring their laptops and connect to the local wireless network. Bottom line, for your Wi-Fi-equipped computer to be able to have Internet access, a relatively close-by device needs to be in the vicinity, transmitting a wireless signal and connected itself to the Internet through a wire.
2. Bluetooth: A proprietary radio frequency technology similar to Wi-Fi, it allows you to connect (“pair”) two devices — such as your computer and a mouse, or your cell phone and a headset — so they can interact. Typically, the range is shorter than with Wi-Fi, i.e., roughly within a room.
3. Mobile broadband: Generally speaking, these are devices that can achieve Internet access using your cell phone network, so they are not dependent on a nearby device transmitting a signal they can receive. We’re now talking about cell towers that provide connectivity in the same way that they allow you to make a phone call from your cell phone. These can be subdivided into two types:
a) Mobile broadband cards: These are devices that attach to your computer, whether internally or through a USB port, and provide such mobile broadband connectivity to one computer. Like your cell phone, they require a subscription to a service that will allow such connectivity.
b) Mobile hotspots: These are devices that use mobile broadband technology to receive an Internet connection signal from a long distance, and then use Wi-Fi technology to broadcast it to several computers simultaneously. Again, a subscription to a service plan is required to use it.
Note: Nowadays, some cell phones can serve as 3a), 3b), or both 3a) and 3b) above, and even have, at the same time, Wi-Fi receiving capabilities as in 1 above.