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A WWAN (Wireless Wide Area Network) uses mobile telecommunication cellular network technologies to provide data transfer. It is the generic term for more specific names like 3G (3rd Generation) network which is one implementation of a WWAN.

[edit] Overview

WWAN connectivity allows a user with a laptop and a WWAN card (often USB based, or an eBook Reader with this connectivity available to access the web. Some Web Tablets also include this ability either built in or as an addon. A general connection can surf the web with a Web Browser, check email, or connect to a virtual private network (VPN) from anywhere within the regional boundaries of cellular service. However some connections have restricted access to specific sites and perhaps for specific purposes such as buying eBooks or syncing eBooks. Some computers and eBook Readers now have integrated WWAN capabilities. This means that the system has a cellular radio (GSM/CDMA) built in, which allows the user to send and receive data. Since radio communications systems do not provide a physically secure connection path, WWANs typically incorporate encryption and authentication methods to make them more secure.

Note that while a cellular-service is used to provide this connection you typically won't be able to use this service for standard voice communication. It is for data only. See also cell phone and Smartphone. The specific hardware used to provide this service is called a wireless modem.

WWAN devices that also support Wi-Fi can sometimes be used as a Hot-spot providing router like services for Wi-Fi only capable devices so they can use the Internet. Wi-Fi itself is considered a Wireless Local Area Network and is often called WLAN. A newer feature is being able to use Wi-Fi for cellular communication when cell service is not available. Phones supporting this feature can even provide it to other Wi-Fi devices or via Bluetooth to an attached smart watch. Both text and voice are supported.

[edit] Voice vs. WWAN

Voice audio and WWAN are very different forms of communications although both are often available on the same device.

Voice audio is real time duplex analog signals with low bandwidth and no data integrity. It is connected to phone networks both wireless and landline with seamless interface. It is billed based on minutes connection time. Typically the bandwidth is so low that multiple voice lines are multiplexed together at the tower or central routing.

WWAN Data is digital encoded information transmitted using a special digital protocol that packages blocks of information with error checking to ensure the integrity of the information and security to avoid eavesdropping. It is high bandwidth and the phone company charges by the bytes transferred. Data integrity is ensured with both error checking and retransmission capabilities where the data packets are identified by number and order and can be reassembled even if received out of order. The protocol is different and it does not use the voice service lines at all. No phone numbers, no ringing circuits, etc. It is point to point using Internet protocols.

Text messaging is a simple form of WWAN with a lower bandwidth and is used for point to point communication between two users. The Text is often sent without establishing an actual live connection with the recipient who then reads the Text message later. However, live communication is supported with a duplex connection. In this way it is very different from email.

[edit] Available Services

  • Whispernet is available for Amazon Kindle devices. The wireless connectivity is free.
  • Nook 3G+Wi-Fi includes FREE wireless connectivity via AT&T, the nation's fastest 3G network - with no fees or contracts.
  • iPad has a 3G model that has AT&T wireless built-in. The iPad 2 offers a choice of AT&T or Verizon.
  • Motorola XOOM has Verizon support built-in.
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