Wireless Internet Access - What is a WISP?
WISP is an acronym which stands for Wireless Internet Service Provider. Service providers can build their networks around technology as commonplace as Wi-Fi mesh networking or proprietary equipment designed to operate over open 900MHz and 2.4GHz bands or licensed frequencies in the UHF or MMDS bands. Often they offer additional services, like location based content, Virtual Private Networking and Voice over IP. Isolated municipal ISPs and larger state-wide initiatives alike are tightly focused on wireless networking.
WISP's are predominantly in rural environments where cable and digital subscriber lines are not available. Wireless Internet is expected to become mainstream in the near future, bringing with it dramatic changes to the marketplace by increasing the number of interoperable equipment on the market and making mobile data transmission feasible, increasing the utility of such networks in rural environments. However, high-bandwidth wireless backhauls are already common in major cities, providing levels of bandwidth previously only available through expensive fibre optic connections.
Typically, the way that a WISP operates is to pull a large and usually expensive point to point connection to the center of the area they wish to service. From here, they will need to find some sort of elevated point in the region, such as a radio or water tower, on which to mount their equipment. On the consumers' side, they will mount a small dish to the roof of their home and point it back to the WISP's dish. When operating over the tightly limited range of the heavily populated 2.4 GHz band, as nearly all 802.11-based Wi-Fi providers do, it is not uncommon to also see access points mounted on light posts and customer buildings.
Since it is difficult for a single service provider to build an infrastructure that offers global access to its subscribers, roaming between service providers is encouraged by the Wi-Fi Alliance with the WISP's protocol. WISP's is a set of recommendations approved by the alliance which facilitate inter-network and inter-operator roaming of Wi-Fi users. Modern wireless technology has comparable latency to other terrestrial broadband networks.