In telecommunications, wireless communication is the transfer of information without the use of wires. The distances involved may be short (a few meters as in television remote control) or long (thousands or millions of kilometers for radio communications). The term is often shortened to "wireless". It encompasses various types of fixed, mobile, and portable two-way radios, cellular telephones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and wireless networking. Other examples of wireless technology include GPS units, garage door openers and or garage doors, wireless computer mice, keyboards and headsets, satellite television and cordless telephones.
Wireless operations permits services, such as long range communications, that are impossible or impractical to implement with the use of wires. The term is commonly used in the telecommunications industry to refer to telecommunications systems (e.g. radio transmitters and receivers, remote controls, computer networks, network terminals, etc.) which use some form of energy (e.g. radio frequency (RF), infrared light, laser light, visible light, acoustic energy, etc.) to transfer information without the use of wires. Information is transferred in this manner over both short and long distances.
The term "wireless" has become a generic and all-encompassing word used to describe communications in which electromagnetic waves or RF (rather than some form of wire) carry a signal over part or the entire communication path. Common examples of wireless equipment in use today include:
Professional LMR (Land Mobile Radio) and SMR (Specialized Mobile Radio) typically used by business, industrial and Public Safety entities.
Consumer Two way radio including FRS Family Radio Service, GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) and Citizens band ("CB") radios.
The Amateur Radio Service (Ham radio). Consumer and professional Marine VHF radios. Cellular telephones and pagers: provide connectivity for portable and mobile applications, both personal and business.
Global Positioning System (GPS): allows drivers of cars and trucks, captains of boats and ships, and pilots of aircraft to ascertain their location anywhere on earth.
Cordless computer peripherals: the cordless mouse is a common example; keyboards and printers can also be linked to a computer via wireless.
Cordless telephone sets: these are limited-range devices, not to be confused with cell phones.
Satellite television: allows viewers in almost any location to select from hundreds of channels.
Wireless gaming: new gaming consoles allow players to interact and play in the same game regardless of whether they are playing on different consoles. Players can chat, send text messages as well as record sound and send it to their friends. Controllers also use wireless technology. They do not have any cords but they can send the information from what is being pressed on the controller to the main console which then processes this information and makes it happen in the game. All of these steps are completed in milliseconds.
Wireless networking (i.e. the various types of unlicensed 2.4 GHz WiFi devices) is used to meet many needs. Perhaps the most common use is to connect laptop users who travel from location to location. Another common use is for mobile networks that connect via satellite. A wireless transmission method is a logical choice to network a LAN segment that must frequently change locations. The following situations justify the use of wireless technology:
- To span a distance beyond the capabilities of typical cabling,
- To provide a backup communications link in case of normal network failure,
- To link portable or temporary workstations,
- To overcome situations where normal cabling is difficult or financially impractical, or
- To remotely connect mobile users or networks.
Wireless communication can be via:
- radio frequency communication, microwave communication, for example long-range line-of-sight via highly directional antennas,
- or short-range communication, or infrared (IR) short-range communication, for example from remote controls or
- via Infrared Data Association (IrDA). Applications may involve point-to-point communication, point-to-multipoint communication, broadcasting, cellular networks and other wireless networks.
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