What Are The Advantages of Wireless Communication?
By John Papiewski
Wireless communication had its beginnings at the turn of the 20th century with the invention of radio. Since then, the power of instant communication over long distance has transformed society and made the world a smaller place. More recently, cell phones have turned traditional radio broadcasting's one-way model into two-way conversations. With 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and other technologies, computer data networks have brought wireless communications into the 21st century.
Because radio waves travel freely through the air, wireless modes of communication give you a great deal of mobility. You can, for example, listen to a radio at the beach or traveling in your car. The technology isn't perfect, as tall buildings, metal furniture and other objects interfere with radio waves, and distances of several miles weaken them. But wireless devices don't tie the receiver down to a particular location as hard-wired ones do.
You must physically connect a device to a wall jack for wired communications to work; this becomes a problem if the jack is in an inconvenient location or if the cable isn't long enough to reach the jack. Wireless devices have no cables to connect; if the signal has sufficient strength, the device will work. This is also true for mobile computing devices; as long as you have the password for the local wireless data network, your smartphone or laptop connects automatically. When you leave a location, your mobile device automatically drops the connection and picks up the next strong network signal it finds.
For a traditional analog system such as AM radio broadcasting, a wireless transmitter accommodates any number of receivers. For example, it doesn't matter if 10 people or 10,000 tune in to the local baseball game. Cell phone systems are almost as generous, although the two-way digital communications technology runs out of private channels if too many people try to use the system at the same time. In a similar sense, a home Wi-Fi network is limited to 254 devices. By contrast, a wired communications system is limited to the number of physical connections on the equipment; if these run out, you must replace the equipment to support more users. A typical Ethernet router for home use, for example, offers only eight sockets, even though its network software can handle 254 users.
Wireless communications networks are less expensive to install and maintain than equivalent wired systems. Not only do you have to pay the per-foot costs of the cable itself, you need to invest time and labor to plan wiring routes and put the wire in place. Any changes to the wiring plan add to these costs. Although even wireless systems need some cabling, the amount involved is a small fraction of that needed for wired equipment.
Chicago native John Papiewski has a physics degree and has been writing since 1991. He has contributed to "Foresight Update," a nanotechnology newsletter from the Foresight Institute. He also contributed to the book, "Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance."