Friday, November 09, 2007

WiFi is the way to go for computers

Wireless networking, also called WiFi or 802.11 networking, is taking off in a big way throughout the world.

Papua New Guinea, however, has been very slow in catching up to this technology – that allows information to travel over the air – and which is very efficient and cheap in developed countries of the world.

For instance, in cities like Tokyo, Taipei and Singapore which I visited recently, you can use your laptop computer to access the Internet almost anywhere without the need for a wire connection.

WiFi is currently only available in Port Moresby at selected buildings and “Hotspots” at hugely-inflated prices.

This contributes to the massive digital divide within Papua New Guinea and is an enormous barrier to the ability of the people to participate in and benefit from the digital economy.

Daltron is currently Papua New Guinea’s leading WiFi provider and has already “wired up” buildings such as Ela Beach Tower, Deloitte, Pacific Place, Monian Tower, Somare Foundation and Investwell House to use its Wireless Internet system.

Daltron’s Hotspots are located at places predominantly frequented by the well-to-do such as Latitude 9, Yacht Club, Golf Club and Crowne Plaza

“Other centres will be covered in due course,” Daltron promises on its website.

Many people throughout the world use WiFi or to connect their computers at home, and an increasing number of cities use the technology to provide free or low-cost Internet access to residents.

In the near future, wireless networking may become so widespread that you can access the Internet just about anywhere at any time, without using wires, but in the meantime, that remains a far-off, unaffordable and inaccessible dream for many Papua New Guineans.

One wireless router can allow multiple devices to connect to the Internet.

WiFi has a lot of advantages.

Wireless networks are easy to set up and inexpensive.

They're also unobtrusive - unless you're on the lookout for a place to use your laptop, you may not even notice when you're in a Hotspot.

A wireless network uses radio waves, just like cell phones, televisions and radios do.

In fact, communication across a wireless network is a lot like two-way radio communication.

Here's what happens:

• A computer's wireless adapter translates data into a radio signal and transmits it using an antenna.
• A wireless router receives the signal and decodes it. It sends the information to the Internet using a physical, wired Ethernet connection.
• The process also works in reverse, with the router receiving information from the Internet, translating it into a radio signal and sending it to the computer's wireless adapter.

The radios used for WiFi communication are very similar to the radios used for walkie-talkies, cell phones and other devices.

They can transmit and receive radio waves, and they can convert 1s and 0s into radio waves and convert the radio waves back into 1s and 0s.

But WiFi radios have a few notable differences from other radios.

They transmit at frequencies of 2.4 GHz or 5GHz.

This frequency is considerably higher than the frequencies used for cell phones, walkie-talkies and televisions.

The higher frequency allows the signal to carry more data.

WiFi radios can transmit on any of three frequency bands.

Or, they can "frequency hop" rapidly between the different bands.

Frequency hopping helps reduce interference and lets multiple devices use the same wireless connection simultaneously.

As long as they all have wireless adapters, several devices can use one router to connect to the Internet.

This connection is convenient and virtually invisible, and it's fairly reliable.

If the router fails or if too many people try to use high-bandwidth applications at the same time, however, users can experience interference or lose their connections.

If you want to take advantage of public WiFi Hotspots or start a wireless network in your home, the first thing you'll need to do is make sure your computer has the right wireless gear.

Most new laptops and many new desktop computers come with built-in wireless transmitters.

If your laptop doesn't, you can buy a wireless adapter that plugs into the PC card slot or USB port.

Desktop computers can use USB adapters, or you can buy an adapter that plugs into the PCI slot inside the computer's case.

Many of these adapters can use more than one 802.11 standard.

Once you've installed your wireless adapter and the drivers that allow it to operate, your computer should be able to automatically discover existing networks.

This means that when you turn your computer on in a WiFi Hotspot, the computer will inform you that the network exists and ask whether you want to connect to it.

If you have an older computer, you may need to use a software program to detect and connect to a wireless network.

Being able to connect to the Internet in public Hotspots is extremely convenient.

Wireless home networks are convenient as well.

They allow you to easily connect multiple computers and to move them from place to place without disconnecting and reconnecting wires.

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