What is the difference between mobile and wireless?

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The terms “mobile” and “wireless” are often used interchangeably but in reality, they are two very different concepts applied to modern computing and technology.

Mobile is a word that is commonly used to describe portable devices. A mobile device is one that is made to be taken anywhere. Therefore, it needs an internal battery for power, and must be connected to a modern mobile network that can help it to send and receive data without attaching to a hardware infrastructure.

Wireless, on the other hand, does not mean mobile. Traditional computers or other non-mobile devices can access wireless networks. One very common example is the use of a localized browser product in a local area network (LAN), where the router takes what used to be a cabled interaction and makes it wireless. Other kinds of wireless networks called wide area networks (WAN) can even use components of 3G or 4G wireless systems made specifically for mobile devices, but that doesn’t mean that the devices on these networks are mobile. They may still be plugged in or require proximity to a router or network node.

Mobile and wireless systems really accomplish two very different things. While a wireless system provides a fixed or portable endpoint with access to a distributed network, a mobile system offers all of the resources of that distributed network to something that can go anywhere, barring any issues with local reception or technical area coverage.

For another example of the difference between mobile and wireless, think of businesses that offer Wi-Fi hotspots. A Wi-Fi hotspot is typically a resource for someone who has a relatively fixed device, such as a laptop computer that doesn’t have its own internal Internet access built in. By contrast, mobile devices already have inherent access to the Internet or other wireless systems through those cell tower networks that ISPs and telecom companies built specifically for them. So mobile devices don’t need Wi-Fi routers – they already have their connections.

To some who are used to using both wireless and mobile networks, this distinction may seem very simple. However, the difference between providing mobile and wireless is likely to be something that gets explored more as new technologies continue to develop, and companies continue to offer more different kinds of interfaces to consumers.

Techopedia Staff

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