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Getting Internet Access - Wireless

Getting Internet Access - Wireless
 Technology with Integrity

By Tim Torian, Torian Group, Inc.


Internet access is an essential part of doing business these days. It is difficult to operate without email and access to the web. I often get questions about how to get access, and about which internet provider to use.  There is a new provider in town, so it seems like a good time to review your options.

There are several steps to establishing an internet presence. This can be a little confusing if you are new to the internet.  First, you need to have a way to communicate from your computer to the rest of the world – to “get on” the internet. Second, you can purchase services on the internet, which include access to an email server so you can send and receive email, and web hosting – a place to put the computer files that make up your web site so others can see it.  In addition, you can purchase a domain name. A domain name gives you a unique identity on the internet, making it easier for other interested people to find your web site and email address.  Many times these are packaged together by your internet service provider ("ISP”).

Internet service comes in different speeds, measured in Kilobits per Sec, or thousands of bits per second. With overhead, this comes out to about 100 Bytes for every Kilobit. Speeds can be set in each direction: upload speed is how fast you can send data, download speed is how fast you can receive data.  A dial up connection is 56KB up and down (at best); basic DSL is typically 384 Down / 128 up; Cable is rated at 4MB Down/ 384K up. Download is the greater part of internet surfing – you send a brief request up, and get a lot of data back down.

The other choice you make when ordering service is the type of IP address you will have. The IP address is the unique number that is assigned to each device on the internet to allow them to connect. It is similar to a phone number – there is only one for each place you can call/connect to. Dynamic IP addressing gives you a temporary address for the duration of your connection. This works well if you only need to connect out to the internet, and don’t have a need for others to connect to your computer from the internet. The alternative, usually more expensive, is to purchase service with one or more static IP addresses, which are permanently (while you pay your bill) assigned to your connection. Changing a static IP address can disrupt your business, so be sure your internet provider will assure you that it will not change, and check to be sure that they are financially stable. Having your ISP go out of business can be a nightmare.

This month I want to cover wireless internet options, focusing on the new company in town, ClearWire. Next month we will talk about DSL, Cable and other options.

The big news is the arrival of another option in town: ClearWire. ClearWire is a new type of wireless service, using a privately licensed 2.5 Ghz. frequency.  The importance of the private spectrum is that there cannot be other providers competing on the same frequency, potentially interfering with each other. They provide a modem which is about the size of a cable modem which receives a wireless signal from one of many towers placed around town. The modem contains a directional antenna, and a 2 way wireless radio, and a bridged Ethernet connection all in one package. The higher frequency is more effective at penetrating through trees and buildings. This means you don’t need line of sight to get a signal. Their service starts at  $19.99 / Month first 3 months, 29.99 for 768k Down / 256 K Up $36.99 1.5/256.  These speeds are maximums, and actual speed will depend on signal quality.  You can purchase static IP addresses for an additional cost.

They claim the wireless router will be software upgradeable to the Wi-Max standard when it is finalized.  Because the router connects you to a shared wireless access point, you share the total bandwidth with the other subscribers in your area, similar to cable. The difference is that as they grow, they can just add more antennas to their network to spread the load. They are just getting started, so you need to check if you get a signal in your area. There is a 5 day no risk trial, which gives you time to see if your reception is adequate. To learn more or check availability, go to www.clearwire.com. To learn about the technology, go to www.nextnetwireless.com.  To place orders call 734-2006

Wireless internet services have been around for a while.  There are 3 other main providers in our area that I am aware of- let me know of others and I will update the list in next month’s article.  These are: West Coast Wireless (aka Clear Sky Communications), WirelessTcp, and Olson Computer Services.  Wireless service involves putting an antenna on your building pointing to a wireless access point (another antenna) owned by the wireless service provider. Availability depends on having a line of sight placement for the antenna that is within range. The signal can travel 10 or more miles.  Wireless connections are subject to variations in speed depending on the weather, and the number of other people on the same wireless access point.  Cost for wireless service is typically about $100 / Month, and goes up for higher speeds. Wireless also supports dynamic or Static IP addresses.  This type of wireless operates at 2.4 GHz, which is a publicly usable frequency. It is the same frequency you use for home wireless networking.

For more information on local wireless services:

The almost last resort (other than dial up), for those that are out of range of other services is satellite service. The home version of this service uses a satellite signal to send and receive the internet data.  It is available anywhere you can mount an antenna with a clear view of the satellite. Satellite connections do not work for interactive internet connections such as gaming or remote office (VPN) connections. The signal goes to a satellite in outer space, and then back to earth, which takes a long time in internet speeds – about 1/10 of a second. This delay causes havoc with internet services which rely on a lot of interactive data going back and forth. DirectWay is the most popular service. It can be combined with a DirecTV install. Cost is about $90 / Month, and gives you about 500K Down, and about 50K Up. For more information go to www.direcway.com. Starband is an add-on to Dish Network installs. www.starband.com   For more details on the limitations of Satellite connections, go to: http://www.skycasters.com/SkySecure-whitepaper.html

Being on the internet is becoming a part of life. About 65% of the US population (225 million people) regularly use the internet. With more and more ways to connect, almost everyone is within range of some kind of service. Are you missing out?

Tim Torian has taught computer networking at the College of Sequoias and Cal Poly Extension. He has a BS in Computer Science, and has been consulting on computer networking for the past 30 Years. His industry certifications include: Cisco CCNA and CCNI, Microsoft MCSE. He was recognized as Entrepreneur of the year for 2008 by the Tulare County EDC. He is president of Torian Group, Inc. which provides a full range of Technology Consulting services to local business, including computer services, networking, web and custom software development. www.toriangroup.com


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