A Wireless Wide Area Network or WWAN is wireless connectivity to the Internet achieved through using cellular tower technology. Cellular services like AT&T™, Verizon™ and Sprint™ offer WWAN for a monthly fee, or alternately on a pay-as-you-need-it basis. WWAN connectivity allows a user with a laptop and a WWAN card to surf the Internet, check email, or connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) from anywhere within the regional boundaries of cellular service
As people become more dependent on online technology to conduct business and keep information flowing, wireless connectivity has become a virtual necessity. Many hotels and communities offer local connectivity, but coverage is often spotty or nonexistent. WWAN can all but guarantee connectivity when you need it.
To take advantage of WWAN, a user must first purchase a WWAN PC card for his or her laptop unless WWAN connectivity is built-in. By purchasing the card and paying a monthly fee, one need only slip the card into the PC-card slot (formerly known as the PCMCIA slot) to access the WWAN. Plans vary among providers but most are rated according to data download caps, with unlimited plans running about $80 US Dollars (USD) per month. Data transfers of 5 Megabytes per month can start as low as $20 USD.
In some cases a person may not require 24/7 access to a WWAN, but would like to use it occasionally when free local networks are not available. In this case some WWAN providers will charge by the day for connectivity. By using the WWAN card, the user commits to a small charge, securing a 24-hour pass. At the end of the 24-hour period access to the WWAN is denied unless the user purchases another pass.
As an alternate to a WWAN card, it is possible to connect some cellular phones directly to a laptop using a Universal Serial Bus (USB) cable. The cell phone acts as a modem to patch the laptop into the Internet. This is only possible with certain cellphone models and plans, and the data transfer speed will be slower than connecting with a WWAN card. Before using this method, check with your cellular provider to see what charges (minutes) might apply, if any.
While there are certainly less expensive ways to get wireless connectivity in many cases, none cover the territory offered by WWAN for those visiting, living or working in remote or “nonwired” areas. WWAN is commonly available in regions where services like Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and cable might not be. It can also be an international solution for global travelers, offering one more option for staying connected.