Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Do you have to have wires to get the internet? Or more commonly: can you just get the internet from the air? With new services, it may be possible.

Do all wireless routers require a cable connection to a modem for internet service?

In this excerpt from Answercast #7, I look at the various ways that wireless services can work, look at wireless providers, and discuss if you can get it for free.

Where does internet come from?

The most common form of this question (what people are really asking and I have to assume this is probably what you are asking) is, "Can I just get internet from the air? I hear about all of this wireless stuff? Can I just have a router that just grabs it from the air?"

The answer to that is actually, "Yes."

Cellular wireless

There are routers that will connect to your cellular provider (your cellular or mobile phone provider) and act as a wireless router. It's based on using an internet connection off of your cellular or mobile connection.

There's also something called WiMax. In my area, it's provided by a company called Clearwire that is very similar. You sign up for their service, they give you a router that basically plugs into the wall, and that's it. You can connect hardwire computers to it if you want to. It picks up the internet from the WiMax service and makes it available to you in your home.

The downside for both of these is that you have to be in a coverage area. If you're out of there, or if you don't have wireless WiMax coverage in your area, you can't use that service. If you don't have cellular phone coverage in your area, then that service is not going to apply.

Free internet

The other part of this question (that people often are really asking) is, "Can't I get it out of the air for free?"

The answer there is, "No."

Both of these services that I just suggested are services for which you sign up and pay for on a monthly basis, just like you do with your regular wired ISP.

So, the short answer is, "Yes, there are absolutely devices that do that." You need to sign up for the services that provide internet wirelessly and you can go on from there.

Connecting to a modem wirelessly

If you have a wired connection and you have a modem that you are attempting to connect to wirelessly, the answer there is probably, "No."

The modem itself would have to have the capability of being connected to wirelessly. Sometimes what ISPs will do is they will provide a combination modem-router-wireless access point. What they've done is combined all three devices into a single box. In which case, you don't need another router.

What the ISP has provided is a wireless access point, and you're ready to go. You plug in your DSL or your cable into one side and everything is then wireless on the other side ready to connect to your computers.

Next - Can my neighbor view and monitor my browsing if I use his wireless connection?

Article C5177 - April 7, 2012 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Bill McGehee
April 9, 2012 8:12 AM

Thanks for the response Leo.
You have answered my question. Actually, what
I was attemping to do was connect wireless cameras to a router that I wanted to place in a remote (~100 ft from cable modem) location. Also, I wanted internet access to the cameras. I didn't want to have a 100 ft cable through the house. I have tried repeaters but without much
Thanks again,

June 7, 2012 3:02 AM

If I have a wireless modem, is there any need for provides a way to connect to the internet through an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Sorry, I don't understand your question.

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.