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Your Wireless Glossary

Unless you work in the computer industry, learning all the jargon associated with technology is like learning a new language. As a business owner, you might want to offer wireless access to your customers or tether your mobile device while on the road — but what’s the difference between a hotspot and tethering?

Here are some of the key terms you need to know and understand when it comes to wireless technology:

4G:

If you’ve heard the terms “3G” and “4G” bantered about but don’t really understand what they mean, 4G simply refers to fourth-generation connectivity. Standards set by the ITU-R (International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector) require connection speeds of at least 100 megabits per second for mobile devices and at least one gigabit per second for mobile hotspots. Basically, it means you connect a heck of a lot faster than with 3G.

Bluetooth:

This is a standard (or communications protocol) that allows your mobile device to send and receive information wirelessly over short distances. Turn on your Bluetooth settings on your device and it will be able to find other Bluetooth-enabled devices in the area to connect with. Bluetooth is most commonly used in mobile phones, though it supports other devices such as printers and keyboards. Bluetooth.com describes it in this way: "Bluetooth…is a wireless communications system intended to replace the cables connecting many types of devices, from mobile phones and headsets to heart monitors and medical equipment." Learn more about Bluetooth here.

Hotspot:

This is a public location where you can find Wi-Fi Internet access. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it requires a password and sometimes you have to pay for it. Hotspots are commonly found in airports, hotels, retail stores, coffee shops and other public hangouts. Find a hotspot using this handy Wi-Fi Hotspot Locator.

LTE:

This wireless broadband technology, which is short for “Long Term Evolution,” is designed to support 4G speeds. It offers high speeds and low latencies over long distances. Basically, it allows your wireless devices to connect even faster, have better quality calls and transfer data more efficiently (eg. uploading a photo to Facebook, having several apps on the go at once or scrolling through multiple Internet pages). Most new cellular devices support LTE for 4G service, according to ExtremeTech. Find out more about MTS’s latest innovations in LTE here.

Roaming:

If you’re traveling outside of your carrier’s local service coverage area, roaming allows you to make and receive calls in another carrier’s service coverage area. It allows you to leave your home area without dropping calls, signal or access to data as long as another carrier has coverage where you are traveling. But the costs can add up if you’re not careful. Here’s how to hit the road and roam like a pro.

Tethering:

Using this technique, you essentially use your smartphone as a modem to connect (aka tether) your laptop to the Internet. Unlike a hotspot, however, you must tether via USB or Bluetooth, and this requires a data plan with a tethering option (which may be more expensive than a standard data plan). Why tether? It can come in handy when traveling, if you live in a rural area where high-speed Internet access is limited or whenever Wi-Fi hotspots are unavailable. It’s also useful as an emergency backup. Here’s how to do it.

Wearables:

Wearable devices, such as watches and fitness bands, can be paired with your mobile device via Bluetooth, allowing you to read texts and emails. These are relatively new in the wireless and tech world, and you've likely heard the "wearables" buzzword on the news. They're going to be popping up even more all over the place in the next few years, so you'll likely come across them sooner than later (if you haven't already). Here’s how wearables could be used to improve connectivity in the workplace.

Wi-Fi:

You use it all the time, but what exactly is it? Wi-Fi is short for “wireless fidelity,” which allows you to connect your devices to the Internet without using any wires. At home or work, a Wi-Fi router allows you to surf the net on your laptop, tablet or smartphone without having to use a wire/cord, which is known as a fixed connection. On the road, a Wi-Fi hotspot (see definition above) provides local area connectivity so you can still keep in touch.

Wireless Access Points (WAPs):

These small hardware devices are used to connect wireless devices to a wired network using Wi-Fi. They’re commonly used in public hotspots and business networks that require a larger coverage area. The average person won't even need to know about WAPs, but this goes to show how much technology is used to keep us all connected wirelessly. 

For more on wireless products and services offered by MTS, click here. Stay tuned for more mini glossaries of tech terms on the MTS Business Hub.

Vawn Himmelsbach

Vawn Himmelsbach is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. She has covered technology and travel for 15 years, for media outlets such as CBCNews.ca, The Globe & Mail, Metro News, ITBusiness, PCworld Canada and Computerworld Canada. She also spent three years living abroad and working as an Asian correspondent.

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