Definitions and Examples of Wireless Technology

A guide to understanding wireless technology

In the most basic sense, wireless refers to communications sent without wires or cables. However, the term may refer to a broad range of technologies and mediums, from cellular networks to Bluetooth devices to local Wi-Fi networks.

What Does Wireless Mean?

Wireless is a broad term encompassing all sorts of technologies and devices that transmit data over the air rather than over wires, including cellular communications, networking between computers with wireless adapters, and wireless computer accessories.

Wireless communications travel over the air via electromagnetic waves. The FCC regulates radio frequency bands in this spectrum, ensuring that they do not get too crowded and that wireless devices and services operate reliably.

A smartphone and a wireless network
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Examples of Wireless Devices

Cordless phones are wireless devices, as are TV remote controls, radios, and GPS systems. Other wireless devices include phones, tablets, Bluetooth mice and keyboards, wireless routers, and most devices that don't use wires to transmit information.

Wireless chargers are another type of wireless device. Although no data is sent through a wireless charger, it does interact with another device (like a phone) without using wires.

Wireless Networking and Wi-Fi

Networking technologies that connect multiple computers and devices without wires, such as a wireless local area network (WLAN), also fall under the wireless umbrella. Often, these devices are referred to by the catch-all term "Wi-Fi," which is trademarked by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Wi-Fi covers technologies that incorporate 802.11 standards, such as 802.11g or 802.11ac network cards and wireless routers.

You can use Wi-Fi to print wirelessly over a home or office network, connect directly to other computers in your network, and turn your phone into a portable Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices.

Bluetooth is another wireless technology that you're probably familiar with. If your devices are close enough together and support Bluetooth, they can be connected to transmit data without wires. These devices might include your laptop, phone, printer, mouse, keyboard, hands-free headsets, and smart devices.

The Wireless Industry

Wireless on its own is typically used to refer to products and services from the cellular telecommunications industry. CTIA, the Wireless Association, for example, is comprised of wireless carriers, such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, and cellphone manufacturers like LG and Samsung. Different wireless protocols and phone standards include CDMA, GSM, EV-DO, 3G, 4G, and 5G.

The term wireless internet most often refers to cellular data, though the phrase can also mean data accessed via satellite.

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