Wireless broadband is a general term used for the technology that is able to gain access to the internet wirelessly, and at high bandwidth speeds. Wireless broadband is available on virtually any digital device, so long as it has the proper connectivity hardware. Such hardware can easily be attached to most PDAs and laptop computers.
One of the most popular and well known wireless technology standards is Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity), which allows users to access the internet over a wireless Local Area Network. The speed and range of Wi-Fi, however, is severely limited. There is another wireless connectivity standard, called WiMAX, which is considerably more advanced.
WiMAX is a protocol by which signals are sent to wireless broadband users. A WiMAX base station can theoretically beam a signal as far as 50km (31 miles), meaning that a single station could potentially cover an entire city (unlike Wi-Fi, which is only available in "hotspots").
Although WiMAX are networks are available in several major metropolitan areas in the US, base stations are very expensive to build, and aren’t cost effective in less densely populated areas. Because of this limitation, WiMAX technology is not yet available in most non-urban regions.
Although WiMAX has been a major technological achievement, wireless broadband certainly doesn’t stop there. There are a number of other cutting edge wireless protocols currently in development. The most notable of these is a new protocol called xMax, which is similar to WiMAX, but a lot more efficient. It can cover a broader range at a lower cost, by piggybacking on radio frequencies. Although xMax is not yet available to the public, it will most likely be launched within the next couple of years.
By Jeremy Maddock