A service provider is a business that supplies expert care or specialized services rather than an actual product. The term is usually saved for companies related to communication or technology, such as mobile phone companies or Internet service providers. Other service-related businesses, such as banks or mechanics, rarely are called a service provider, even though the name would fit. It is common for companies in this field to provide subscriptions for their clients rather than work through single sales.
There are many different types of service providers. These companies typically have a narrow focus and customer base. While it is not uncommon for a person to deal with more than one type of service provider, it is uncommon for that person to deal with two of the same type. For instance, few people have more than one type of Internet, cable and DSL, coming into the same house.
Internet service providers (ISP) provide access to the Internet and are a base for several other computer-related service providers. While there are a wide variety of service types, dial-up, cable modem, or DSL to name a few, the overall service is similar across the companies. Most ISPs require a monthly subscription fee in exchange for letting the user access their systems and network to transmit data. Their network is in turn connected to others, allowing full Internet access.
A network service provider (NSP) connects ISPs and business networks together, allowing separate networks to talk. Some NSPs have moved into home and business service as ISPs, blurring the line between the two company types. NSPs may also provide access to phone companies, allowing transmission of both normal and cellular calls.
Application service providers (ASP) provide computer services like program access or remote troubleshooting and repair. These software-as-a-service companies typically have highly specialized software used for specific tasks. This software is used through a web portal for as long as the subscribing company requires it. While typically seen as a business service, online games also fall under the ASP header. These games can have millions of paying subscribers making them one of the largest sectors of the ASP market.
Hosting service providers hold Internet-based information, such as webpages or downloadable files. Hosts provide a platform for the creation of webpages, file storage, or information exchange. This service keeps home and business users from needing to maintain a webserver for their information.
A telecommunications service provider allows people to talk to one another through the phone system. Communication over landlines has become less common, and most communication is done through satellites and full ground networks. It is increasingly common for a land call and a cell call to be transmitted along the same line as an Internet video or a cable TV show.