Wireless Internet Service Providers

Wireless Internet Service Providers

Wireless Internet service for mobile devices can be obtained in two main ways:

  • Set up a contract with a wireless carrier directly.

  • Use a wireless service provider.

For individual users, either one of these solutions will be effective, as they both can offer service plans for the device for which you require wireless service. The decision for corporations is a bit more complex.

Wireless carriers typically provide support for one network protocol and for a set of devices that work using that protocol. If an organization supports a diverse set of devices, requiring access to a variety of networks, then working with several individual carriers is not ideal. This is because carriers often offer discounts based on volume. If the organization is forced to set up contracts with several carriers, it will not have the same volume as it would generate with a single carrier. Another drawback is that the organization will have to maintain relationships with a number of companies, all providing a similar service.

This is where wireless service providers come in. They provide wireless Internet service to a variety of devices, using a variety of networks. These networks are often rebranded using the service provider's name. For example, Palm.net rebrands other carriers' Mobitex service under the Palm.net network name. The same is true for GoAmerica, although with other network protocols. The result is that these providers can give an organization wireless Internet access for most, if not all, of the devices within the organization. The organization can work with a single vendor, allowing it to establish both a business and technical relationship that is mutually beneficial. These wireless service providers are often called mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) since they do not own their own spectrum or wireless network infrastructure.

MVNOs typically offer a variety of service plans to meet the needs of their diverse customer base. For enterprise usage, the most common plans are those that offer unlimited data access. These plans make the cost predictable, which makes budgeting much easier. In addition to wireless Internet service, many service providers also offer a software platform that includes a microbrowser and a wireless gateway. The microbrowsers are usually supplied for all of the platforms on which the particular service provider operates, typically Palm, Pocket PC, and RIM devices. These browsers are optimized for the wireless gateways, to improve performance, and include additional features such as data compression. The wireless gateways often provide some basic content-conversion capabilities, making it easier for users to view existing Web content without modification.

Finally, some wireless service providers also offer device provisioning and application hosting services. This allows them to increase their value to an organization by supplying all of the wireless network capabilities that an organization may require. Table 14.3 lists some of the leading wireless service providers.

Table 14.3: Wireless Service Providers



Aether Systems










Research In Motion (RIM)


Virgin Mobile