Wireless Definition and Solutions

Wireless topics covering definition, objectives, systems and solutions.

What does "wireless" mean?

Wireless means transmitting signals over invisible radio waves instead of wires. Garage door openers and television remote controls were the first wireless devices to become a part of everyday life. Now the cordless keyboard and mouse, PDAs, and digital and cellular phones are commonplace.

Wireless technologies are used for things as simple as making a phone call or as complex as letting the sales force get information from an ERP application.

Once reserved for only the most mission-critical and esoteric applications, wireless communication has entered the mainstream as vendors refine the throughput, stability, security and affordability of an ever-growing range of supported wireless applications. In the wireless world, your colleagues' whereabouts become totally transparent as you remain persistently connected with one another in real-time – even if some of your colleagues are flying cross-country. The ubiquity of wireless communication is confirmed by the results of a www.cio.com survey of CIOs:

  • 83% of CIOs have enabled wireless access to e-mail
  • 75% of respondents are currently undertaking a wireless project
  • 68% said wireless is either important or somewhat important
  • 16% cited wireless as extremely important to their current business goals
  • Almost 10% of CIOs are starting to pursue data-intensive wireless projects, such as access to CRM and ERP systems

For businesses, wireless technology means new ways to stay in touch with customers, suppliers and employees. The future of wireless lies in faster, more reliable methods of transferring data and, to a lesser extent, increased use of voice commands and audio improvements.

What's the difference between wireless and mobile?

Mobile just means portable. A laptop is a mobile device, as is a PDA or a cell phone. A desktop would be a mobile device if you had the inclination to carry it around with you. A wireless device has some sort of network connectivity. A cell phone is wireless, and a laptop or PDA would be wireless if they had a wireless modem. Similarly, applications are wireless when they connect and exchange data with a network.

Wireless can be divided into these categories:

  • Fixed wireless—the operation of wireless devices or systems in fixed locations, such as homes and offices. A typical example would be equipment connected to the Internet via specialized modems.
  • Mobile wireless—the use of wireless devices or systems aboard motorized, moving vehicles; examples include the automotive cell phone and personal communications services (PCS).
  • Portable wireless—the operation of autonomous, battery-powered wireless devices or systems outside the office, home or vehicle; examples include handheld cell phones and PCS units.
  • IR wireless—the use of devices that convey data via infrared radiation. Example: portable wireless devices that normally derive their power from batteries

Today's wireless technology—cellular networks

Four of the five North American cellular networks fall into two main camps: code division multiple access (CDMA) and global system for mobile communication (GSM):

  • Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless offer CDMA2000 1xRTT networks in most areas. They provide throughput of about 30Kbps to 50Kbps. That's adequate for e-mail and short database queries, but little else.
  • Cingular Wireless and T-Mobile offer GSM general packet radio service (GPRS) in most areas, providing the same throughput of 30Kbps – 50Kbps.
  • Nextel Communications, the fifth major U.S. carrier, uses Motorola's iDen cellular technology, which offers throughput of about 35Kbps. Nextel's merger with Sprint likely means it will move to CDMA technologies.

Tomorrow's wireless technology

  • Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless

    To provide greater bandwidth, Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless are migrating to CDMA2000 1xEVDO, which offers throughput of 100 to 300Kbps, which is up to four times faster than the earlier generation. Verizon already offers the new service in 30 major U.S. cities (including New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles) and expects to make it available nationwide by the end of 2005. Sprint plans to launch EVDO service in 2005, but has not said which cities will get it first.

    One Verizon 1xEVDO customer, Optimus Solutions, claims connection speeds of about 250Kbps, which allows users to receive large files such as PowerPoint presentations quickly. While slower than a home broadband connection, Verizon's 1xEVDO networks are less expensive (at about $80 per month per user) than paying for broadband connectivity that confines users to hotels or Wi-Fi hot spots.

  • Cingular Wireless and T-Mobile

    Cingular and T-Mobile's next iteration, Enhanced Data GSM Environment (EDGE), offers throughput of 50Kbps to 200Kbps – significantly less than CDMA2000 1xEVDO. The version beyond that, UMTS, provides 100Kbps to 350Kbps speeds. But Cingular currently offers UMTS service in only six cities (with a national rollout slated for later this year), EDGE in about half its coverage area and GPRS, the slowest network, in the rest.

    T-Mobile, meanwhile, offers just GPRS and plans to offer UMTS service in 2007. But GSM does have an advantage: Although slower, GSM networks operate in much of the world, providing broadband access to global travelers.

  • Data-only connections

    Three new technologies provide data-only connections:

    • Flash orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM)
    • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) 802.16 (popularly known as WiMax)
    • Universal Mobile Telecommunications System's telecommunications display device (UMTS-TDD)

It is not clear which vendors may be adopting any of these three technologies.

1 2 Page 1
Page 1 of 2
Download CIO's Roadmap Report: Data and analytics at scale