Sunday, June 26, 2005

Dial-up Internet Service via WiFi

Dial-up Internet service at 56K and WiFi wireless access at 11 Mbps may seem like two things that don't really go together. But actually it's the perfect marriage of technology for business travelers and home office users.

Here's what I mean. Even though broadband has expanded to include many businesses and hotels, millions of people still use dial-up ISPs. Why? Mostly because broadband is far from ubiquitous. DSL and Cable Internet services are limited to areas where the population density justifies the cost of the wiring. Even in mid-sized cities, there are subdivisions that haven't been wired for cable and are just a little too far from the phone company office to get DSL. Wireless ISPs or WISPs tend also to have very limited line of site service areas. That leaves two-way satellite Internet service and T1 dedicated Internet access, both of which are pricey for the individual user or smaller business.

So what's wrong with dial-up? For a lot of people, nothing at all. If you primarily use your computer for email and general web site browsing, a dial-up Internet connection may run as fast as you really need. What you may be missing is the ability to share your Internet connection with other users in your home or office, or go out on the deck and read your email without having to trail a long phone wire snaking through the house. That's where broadband users with wireless routers have it made. Ah, but now you can have the same convenience. Somebody's invented a wireless router with a built-in modem to access and share dial-up Internet services from most ISPs.

The WiFlyer is a little grey box that you can hold in your hand or easily slip into a laptop case for travel. It's about the size of a DSL or cable modem. Inside is a wireless 802.11b access point, an Internet router and a V.92/V90 dial-up modem. You simply plug your phone line into the telephone port and connect the power adaptor. You configure the WiFlyer using your web browser, so it will work with Windows, Macintosh or Linux operating systems. Up to 5 computers can share the same Internet service.

The WiFlyer also has a broadband Internet port so that it will work as a wireless router for broadband services also. If you later upgrade to DSL or cable Internet, you simply tell the WiFlyer to switch over to the broadband connection and use that. If your broadband goes down, switch back to your dial-up service. That way you'll always be able to connect.

This is also a great little device for taking your computer on business trips and vacation. Regardless of where you are staying, you'll have the convenience of wireless access to the hotel broadband or your dial-up ISP through a phone port. The small size of the base station and its power plug make it convenient to carry along.

The WiFlyer has security provisions to keep hackers, poachers and general snoops out of your connection. The system has hardware based 40/64 and 128 bit WEP encryption along with MAC address authentication. This is similar to what you'll find in most current wireless routers.

Note: If you have your heart set on DSL or Cable Internet broadband service, check residential broadband availability here.

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