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A wireless Internet service provider (WISP) is an Internet service provider (ISP) that allows subscribers to connect to a server at designated hot spots (access points) using a wireless connection such as Wi-Fi. This type of ISP offers broadband service and allows subscriber computers, called stations, to access the Internet and the Web from anywhere within the zone of coverage provided by the server antenna. This is usually a region with a radius of several kilometers.
The simplest WISP is a basic service set (BSS) consisting of one server and numerous stations all linked to that server by wireless. More sophisticated WISP networks employ the extended service set (ESS) topology, consisting of two or more BSSs linked together at access points (APs). Both BSS and ESS are supported by the IEEE 802.11b specification.
One example of a WISP is T-Mobile, which provides access to wireless laptop users in the 2,000 plus chain of Starbucks coffee houses.