#TechExchange: A closer look into Wireless Technologies

The Internet of Things continue to spearhead the way people engage into business and social lives. As the world braces up for the expected 50 billion devices on the Internet by 2020, we should also start looking into the critical roles played by Wireless Networks in this battle for relevance. 

By Cisco Eng. Shingie Lev Muringi 

Wireless technologies involve the transmission of data through the radio frequency spectrum without using physical cabling, though the cables will later play a background support role on the networking infrastructure.  

The major drive behind the adoption of wireless networks was the issue of scalability where physical cables continue to limit the number of connected users. But with various wireless technologies, a single local area network can accommodate more users when Wi-Fi is implemented. In today’s #TechExchange, l will walk you through the most popularly used Wireless technologies and standards up to date.

Although the mix of wireless technologies is continually expanding, the focus of this discussion is on wireless networks that allow users to be mobile. Wireless networks can be classified broadly as:


  • Wireless Personal-Area Networks (WPAN) – Operates in the range of a few feet. Bluetooth or Wi-Fi Direct-enabled devices are used in WPANs.
  • Wireless LANs (WLANs) – Operates in the range of a few hundred feet such as in a room, home, office, and even campus environment.
  • Wireless Wide-Area Networks (WWANs) – Operates in the range of miles such as a metropolitan area, cellular hierarchy, or even on intercity links through microwave relays.

Click each component in the figure to display more information about the various wireless technologies available to connect devices to these wireless networks:

  • Bluetooth – Originally an IEEE 802.15 WPAN standard that uses a device-pairing process to communicate over distances up to .05 mile (100m). Newer Bluetooth versions are standardized by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (https://www.bluetooth.org/).
  • Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) – An IEEE 802.11 WLAN standard commonly deployed to provide network access to home and corporate users, to include data, voice and video traffic, to distances up to 300m (0.18 mile).
  • WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) – An IEEE 802.16 WWAN standard that provides wireless broadband access of up to 30 miles (50 km). WiMAX is an alternative to cable and DSL broadband connections. Mobility was added to WiMAX in 2005 and can now be used by service providers to provide cellular broadband.
  • Cellular broadband – Consists of various corporate, national, and international organizations using service provider cellular access to provide mobile broadband network connectivity. First available with 2nd generation cell phones in 1991 (2G) with higher speeds becoming available in 2001 and 2006 as part of the third (3G) and fourth (4G) generations of mobile communication technology.
  • Satellite broadband – Provides network access to remote sites through the use of a directional satellite dish that is aligned with a specific geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) satellite. It is usually more expensive and requires a clear line of sight.

The battle for relevance continues…follow Shingie Levison Muringi our Technology Research Specialist and Sub Editor on Twitter @ShingieMuringi1, Email [email protected] or direct Cell: 0775 380 652 for all the latest trending technological issues in and outside Zimbabwe. 

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