How Much Does Wireless Internet Cost?

by Jackson Lewis

In 1997, the Wi-Fi international standard, 80211.X, was first adopted. There was a lot of expectation and build-up created with wireless technologies in in the late 1990s after the standard was adopted, but unfortunately the technology did not start to realize its potential until recent years when almost all computing devices now ship as wireless enabled devices. Wireless hotspots where consumers can connect to the Internet--whether getting coffee at Starbucks or waiting on a connecting airline flight--have also expanded to the point that the average person expects to be able to connect to the Internet in most places at minimal cost.


Today almost every electronic device found in the home and at businesses can be connected to the Internet or business LAN via wireless technology. Wi-Fi is supported by personal computers (laptops and desktops), most modern gaming consoles, phones, printers, scanners and other office peripherals. When the technology first emerged on the market, one had to buy a special Wi-Fi serial card to plug into the computer being used to surf the Internet within range of a wireless router connected to the Internet. The first IEEE standard widely used in commercial applications was the 80211.A standard, which quickly gave way to the 802.11B with improved encryption capability. As use of wireless Internet became more widespread through the early 2000s, the need for a stronger encryption protocol emerged which, resulted in the 802.11G and later N standards. The common theme across all standards was that once the consumer had purchased the applicable wireless card and/or router, there was no additional expense to connect to the Internet. Today, many companies are investing money into ED-VO or 3G technology, which has the potential to significantly increase the availability of wireless Internet to the consumer, though at increased cost.


Wireless Internet's primary function is to connect the consumer's computing device to the Internet without using cables. User devices are used for varying functions such as Internet surfing, multi-player networked gaming, email,and various web services. More recently, improvements in Voice Over IP (VOIP) technology have enabled Internet-based phone services to emerge as an alternative to mobile and in-home telecom providers.


There are two high-level types of wireless protocol used today: 802.11X wireless access points and ED-VO (3G) enabled devices. 80211.X wireless access requires a wireless router to be in range of the consumers computing device in order to connect to the Internet as well as have the appropriate password or authentication code if security is enabled on the network. ED-VO technology was first deployed on mobile phones and since through laptop enabled cards to provide high-speed Internet access to the user. ED-VO connections do not require the user to have the separate network specific password that 802.11 does and generally work in locations where the applicable cellular service works.


802.11X standard based networks and ED-VO connections are very similar. First, each standard permits high-speed Internet connections without having to plug an ethernet cable into a router or Internet switch. Second, each standard supports generally unrestricted Internet use from email to surfing to gaming. Some differences between the two standards are that 802.11X is able to be shared amongst multiple users within range of the wireless router, whereas ED-VO connections are intended to be for single users. ED-VO connections also incur a greater monthly charge than 802.11 X networks located in the business or home. The most inexpensive 3G monthly service fee on the market today is Cricket 3G wireless, which is $35 a month for phone subscribers and $40 monthly for others. An 802.11 network can be setup in the home for as little as $40 USD for a small wireless router without a recurring monthly fee other than for one's DSL or Cable Broadband service.


The single biggest benefit for wireless Internet connections is that they permit the user to go online in just about any location in the home or on the road. With the expanding 'virtual office,' productivity has the potential to significantly increase for both work and play. Although consumers have grown used to not spending a significant amount of money for connecting to the Internet via wireless technology, telecom companies are highly interested in gaining increased market share in ED-VO contract, which should drive the additional monthly cost down in the future.

About the Author

Based in Memphis, Jackson Lewis has been writing on technology-related material for 10 years with a recent emphasis on golf and other sports. He has been freelance writing for Demand Media since 2008. Lewis holds a Master of Science in computer science from the United States Naval Postgraduate School.

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