Mobile broadband internet makes it easy to talk, check email or read the news while on the go. While not as fast as wired internet connections, mobile broadband is a step forward for mobile computing.
Mobile broadband, which refers to a collection of technologies that allow long-range high-speed Internet access, got its start in the early 21st century when the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and other organizations chartered working groups charged with establishing standards for several emerging technologies.
Mobile broadband helps lessen time that business travelers must be out of touch with their offices.
Mobile broadband could also bridge the gap in broadband access between urban and rural areas. Since the cost of installing traditional, wired broadband networks in rural areas has been prohibitively high, many providers have shied away from offering services far from cities. Mobile broadband, however, has the potential to improve this situation, since it requires only an upgrade to the cell towers that already exist in many areas.
As of 2009, the most common types of mobile broadband include General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), 3G and Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX). GPRS is the oldest and slowest of these technologies, with speeds comparable to a dial-up modem (see Reference 2). 3G is commonly used by cellular companies to provide music downloads, mobile TV and email services. WiMAX is the fastest of these three, with expected download speeds of 1 to 5 Megabits per second, although 40 Megabits per second is theoretically possible.
While most mobile broadband services are faster than dial-up modems, they do not offer as high a transfer rate as most wired broadband services, such as cable or DSL. WiMAX comes closest, but only at very close range to the transmitting tower. Also, although mobile broadband users can access the Internet while actually in motion, their download speeds will be higher if they are stationary.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, destroying telephone lines and wired broadband infrastructure. Intel and mobile broadband providers set up WiMAX Internet access to allow victims and relief workers to remain in contact with the outside world (see Reference 3).
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