Wireless networks serve as a better alternative to traditional cable networks. Today, wireless networks are crucial for enabling mobility, allowing smart devices such as mobile phones, tablets, IoT devices, and desktop computers to access the internet.
However, a few basic components need to be in place for all this to work. These components include a wireless router, wireless access points (WAP), client/wireless adaptors (NICs), wireless bridge/repeater, and wireless controller.
Here’s a breakdown of each. But first:
What is a Wireless Network?
A wireless network is a computer network that is not connected by cables of any kind. These networks use radio waves for data transmission and reception.
With a wireless network, devices can stay connected while untethered physically to a connection point. In more extensive networks, access points amplify the wireless signal to allow devices far from the wireless router to have a connection still.
Examples of wireless networks include cell phone networks, satellite communication networks, wireless local area networks (WLAN), wireless personal area networks (WPAN), mobile ad hoc networks (MANET), terrestrial microwave networks, and wireless sensor networks.
Wireless networks, particularly WLANs, bring convenience and accessibility to a business by enabling mobility and flexibility around the office.
What Are the Components of a Wireless Network?
A wireless network has five basic components. They include:
At the heart of a wireless network is a wireless router. This device allows wireless and even wired devices to connect to the internet.
Most modern wireless routers integrate a wireless access point, router, and ethernet switch into one device. This allows the three functions of these components to be configured and managed in the router. This is done through the router’s management interface and hardware.
A wireless router can thus permit a wireless or wired device to access the internet through a cable, DSL, or ADSL modem.
Some advanced wireless routers have a parallel port to allow them to function as print servers.
Wireless Access Point (WAP) or Access Point (AP)
An access point is a device that contains a radio card that communicates with individual user devices on a wireless local area network or WLAN. Access points also have a wired NIC that interfaces to a network distribution system such as Ethernet.
System software installed in the access point bridges the WLAN and wired distribution side. Therefore, the access point provides a wireless connection to the remaining wired LAN, receiving and transmitting data to all the wireless devices in a particular area.
Access points also manage multiple connections within the wireless network. However, if one WAP gets overloaded with numerous devices, the network’s overall performance will drop. One or more access points are typically enough for a small office or building.
Most access points look like a small box with multiple aerials, synonymous with the looks of a router. And despite modern routers also integrating a wireless access point, some devices serve this role exclusively.
Wireless Adaptors or NICs
Wireless adaptors, also known as wireless network interface cards (NICs), act as the radio receiver and transmitter for the computer or device connected to a wireless network. This component is coupled with the computer’s operating system using a software driver.
Many modern computers and laptops come with Wi-Fi capability built-in. You may have to install this feature using a network card connected to your computer’s motherboard or externally through a USB interface for older generation computers.
NICs are designed chiefly to connect to an access point. However, some NICs allow a peer-to-peer connection. This type of connection allows computers with compatible network cards within range to communicate.
Peer-to-peer connections are helpful for a small roaming workgroup of devices that don’t need LAN or the internet to operate.
A wireless bridge aims to improve your Wi-Fi coverage or extend it. Their primary purpose is to receive an existing Wi-Fi signal, relay requests, and respond back and forth between your device and the main access point or Wi-Fi router.
Wireless bridges are at times referred to as wireless repeaters. They can double the range of the WLAN.
Thus, a wireless bridge provides a high-speed, long-range, outdoor link between buildings. Most bridges have a range of about twenty-five miles. They’re not usually affected by water bodies, railroads, or physical obstacles since they’re based on line-of-sight.
However, the range of most WLANs will typically be affected by the access points in the network. Most WLANs have access points with omnidirectional aerials or antennae which transmit the signal in all directions.
On the other hand, some WLANs use access points with directional antennae that produce a more concentrated signal covering a narrower area. You may thus need to replace the antennae on your wireless access point to get a better range.
Wireless controllers are necessary when a wireless network needs many wireless access points. The job of a wireless controller is to provide a centralized Wi-Fi management platform that manages all the access points in the network.
With wireless controllers, you get advanced features and management capabilities such as access control, centralized authentication, and the ability to restrict bandwidth on a group or user basis. You can also perform traffic and Quality of Service (QoS) prioritization.
Expand Your Knowledge of Wireless Networks
Wireless networks form the bedrock of modern communication. This piece is just an introduction to the vast world of wireless networking.
Your next steps should be to learn more about wireless networks from some of the best tech tutors in the business and share your knowledge with others climbing up the ladder if you become a professional.