Definition

wireless WAN (Wireless Wide Area Network)

Wireless WAN is a wide area network in which separate areas of coverage or cells are connected wirelessly to provide service to a large geographic area.

WWAN services are typically delivered to smart phones and other handheld devices sold by cellular service providers and their retail partners but other mobile devices can use them as well. Some netbooks are available with WWAN cards installed; you can also purchase wireless WAN cards to install yourself. Unlike Wi-Fi cards, which can be used in just about any hotspot, WWAN devices must be provisioned specifically for access to your service provider's network. Your service provider will take care of billing for roaming access that involves other provider networks.

The three families of WWAN technologies are GSM/UMTS, CDMA One/CDMA2000 and WiMAX. In the United States, service providers include AT&T, Clearwire, Sprint and Verizon. Wireless WAN services are expected to become increasingly available as 4G technologies mature.

This was last updated in April 2010

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