How Do Air Cards Work?

By Rebecca O'Brien

About Air Cards

Air cards, or connection cards, use cellular networks to connect to the Internet. They use the cellular network to transfer Internet data in a similar way to home connections like dial-up or DSL. Rather than using a wired connection like a telephone or cable line, they use the same wireless connection as your cell phone.

How Data is Transferred

When your cell phone receives a call, it receives a radio transmission from a cellular tower, much like a walkie-talkie. However, when it receives a text message, it receives a "packet" of data. The phone interprets the data into something that you can read. Air cards use a similar form of data transmission to move information between your computer and the cellular network.

Using an Air Card

Air cards are installed like most other pieces of computer hardware. Since they are intended for mobile use, they often connect to the PCMCIA slot (a wide, flat port on the side of a laptop), but USB air cards are also available. Your new card will be assigned a phone number, just like a cell phone, that you will need to enter when you install it. This number allows the card to connect to the network and transfer information. Once it is installed and you have a cellular signal, you can connect to the Internet by running a connection program provided by your carrier.