Terrestrial Wireless Networks; April 1998; Scientific American Magazine; by Hills; 6 Page(s)
In the past decade, cellular phones have gone from being a rarity to being commonplace. More than 50 million Americans, one in five, use these devices; one in six uses a wireless pager. In developing countries where standard telephone service is not universally available, cellular is often seen as a better alternative to conventional wired service, because wireless systems can be built quickly. Clearly, if a communications service can be made portable, convenient and affordable, demand is great.
Consumers and businesses have been much slower to adopt wireless systems for data communications than for telephone service. (Paging barely scrapes the surface of wireless¿s potential.) In the U.S., data communications have been estimated to account for only 3 percent of wireless traffic with mobile terminals, and the proportion is probably even less in most other countries. One explanation for this imbalance between voice and data services is that wireless telephone service has been available to consumers for longer than wireless data-- since the early 1980s. And long before that, people in industrial countries were already accustomed to using telephones. Widespread use of computers, in contrast, is fairly recent, and so applications for wireless data links are much less mature.