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Introduction to Wireless Communications


  • Wireless communications: transmission of digital data without the use of wires
  • Various forms of wireless data communications:
    • Wi-Fi-based wireless LANs
    • Bluetooth
    • ZigBee
    • WiGig
    • Satellite
    • Cellular
    • Fixed broadband wireless communications

Wireless Metropolitan Area and Wide Area Networks

  • This section covers wireless technologies that can cover areas ranging from an entire city to the entire planet
  • Some of these technologies:
    • Satellite networks
    • Cellular networks
    • Microwave links

Satellite Networks

  • Commonly used in locations where a wired connection to the Internet is not easily available
  • Used to transmit data over very long distance
  • Repeater
    • Located in the satellite itself
    • “Repeats” the same signal to another location down on the surface
    • Used to transmit data from one earth station to another
  • Transmission time can be up to 250 milliseconds
  • Introduction to Wireless Communications img1
  • Satellite communications
    • Often handled through third-party, dedicated providers
  • Global Positioning System (GPS)
    • Also based on satellite technology
  • Satellite radio
    • Another example of a technology that is not strictly data communications

Cellular Networks

  • Maximizes the use of a limited range of frequency channels
  • Located a few miles away to avoid interference
  • The modern cellular telephone network
    • Built around the concept of low-power transmitters
    • With each “cell” handling a number of users
    • Transmission towers are spread throughout a geographical area
    • The same radio frequency channels can be reused by another tower
  • Tablet computers can also be equipped with cellular technology
  • Most smartphones also allow wireless tethering
    • Use them to create a Wi-Fi hotspot and wirelessly connect a tablet or laptop computer to the smartphone
    • Then let you access the Internet
  • Many passenger cards offer connectivity to the Internet via the cellular network
    • Public transportation also offers Wi-Fi capability
  • 4G (fourth generation) technology
    • Uses 100% digital transmission for both voice and data
    • Transmission speed
  • 50 Mbps for slow-moving pedestrians
  • Over 100 Mbps when stationary
  • 20 Mbps in a fast-moving vehicle
  • 3G (third-generation) technology
  • Realistic speeds are between 3 to 11 Mbps

Cellular Networks

Introduction to Wireless Communications img2

Fixed Broadband Wireless

  • In areas where wired Internet connectivity may not be available
    • Solution may be to deploy wireless links based on microwave data equipment or WiMAX
  • These technologies are commonly called fixed broadband wireless
  • T1 lines
    • Very costly option
  • Cable modems
    • Generally only available in residential areas
  • Digital subscriber lines (DSL)
    • Use either regular or special telephone lines – Speed is dependent on distance between FPE’s main office and nearest telephone switching office
  • Wireless metropolitan area network (WMAN)
    • Covers a distance of up to 25 miles
    • Based on the IEEE 802.16 WIMAX Fixed Broadband Wireless standard
    • Uses radio waves and small custom antennas on the roof of each building in WMAN
  • WMAN (WiMax)

– Transmission speeds

  • 75 Mbps at distances of up to 4 miles (6.4 km)
  • 17 to 50 Mbps at distances over 6 miles (10 km)

– Recent amendment of IEEE 802.16m standard can achieve average speeds up to 100 Mbps and up to 1

Gbps in a point-to-point link

The Wireless Landscape

Digital Convergence and Future Trends

  • Digital convergence
  • Refers to the power of digital devices to combine voice, video, and text-processing capabilities
  • As well as to be connected to business and home networks and to the Internet
  • The same concept applies to the development of VoIP networks
  • Use the same protocols and media that once only carried data
  • Wireless technologies are used to fulfill many daily activities

Wireless Advantages and Challenges

  • As with any new technology, wireless communications offers both advantages and disadvantages

Advantages of Wireless Networking

  • Mobility
  • Freedom to move about without being tethered by wires
  • Permits many industries to shift toward an increasingly mobile workforce
  • Creating “flatter” organizations with fewer management levels between top executives and regular employees

Advantages of Wireless Networking

  • Easier and Less Expensive Installation
    • Installing network cabling in older buildings can be a difficult, slow, and costly task
    • Makes it easier for any office to be modified with new cubicles or furniture
    • Installing network cabling can usually take days or even weeks to complete
  • In countries where labor costs are high, this can make it very expensive

Advantages of Wireless Networking

  • Increased reliability
    • Network cable failures may be the most common source of network problems
    • Eliminating cable failures increases the overall reliability of the network
  • Disaster recovery
    • In the event of a disaster, managers can quickly relocate the office
    • Some planners keep laptop computers with wireless NICs and access points in reserve

Challenges of Wireless Networking

  • Radio signal interference
    • The potential for two signals to interfere exists
    • Common office devices that could cause interference:
  • Microwave ovens
  • Elevator motors
  • Heavy electrical equipment
  • Outdoor lighting systems
  • Theft protection systems
  • Cordless telephones
  • Solution: locate the source of interference and eliminate it

Challenges of Wireless Networking

  • Security
  • It is possible for an intruder to be lurking outdoors with a laptop computer and wireless NIC
  • With the intent of intercepting the signals from a nearby wireless network
  • Some wireless technologies can provide added levels of security
  • Network managers can limit access to the network by programming it with a list of approved devices
  • Rogue APs can be connected to a wired network by a disgruntled employee

Challenges of Wireless Networking

  • Health risks
  • High levels of RF can produce biological damage through heating effects
  • Wireless devices emit low levels of RF while being used
  • No clear picture of the biological effects of this type of radiation has been found to date
  • Science today does not yet permit anyone to draw a definitive conclusion on the safety of wireless mobile devices
  • Be aware of the possibility and monitor ongoing scientific research


  • Wireless communications is quickly becoming the standard in the business world
  • There are many different types of wireless networks and devices
  • Wireless wide area networks will enable companies of all sizes to interconnect their offices
  • Without the high cost charged by telephone carriers for their landline connections
  • RFID and NFC short-range wireless have revolutionized counting inventory, item identification, and payment systems
  • Digital convergence refers to the fact that data networks today carry digitized audio, video, and graphics in addition to other types of data
  • Mobility is the primary advantage of a WLAN
  • Other advantages include easier and less expensive installation, increased network reliability, and support for disaster recovery
  • Challenges to a WLAN include:
  • Radio signal interference, security issues, and health risks may slow down growth of these technologies

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