Wireless Devices

Wireless Access Points (WAPs)

In computer networking, a Wireless Access Point (WAP) is a device that allows wireless communication devices to connect to a wireless network using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or related standards. The WAP usually connects to a router, and can relay data between the wireless devices (such as computers or printers) and wired devices on the network.

WLANs usually function in either 2 modes, "Ad-Hoc mode" or "Infrastructure mode". Ad-Hoc mode also called peer-to-peer mode does not require an access point. In an Ad-Hoc network, 2 devices communicate directly with each other when in range. Ad-Hoc networks do allow Internet connection sharing, but bandwidth congestion becomes an issue. Wireless Access Points in Infrastructure Mode are usually better able to handle the load of multiple devices sharing an Internet connection.

Wireless networks running in Infrastructure Mode use one or more WAPs to connect wireless nodes together through a central point. All data is transferred using the access point as the central hub. All wireless nodes in an infrastructure mode network connect to an access point. All nodes connecting to the access point must have the same service set identifier (SSID) as the access point. When using Infrastructure Mode, the location of the WAP becomes key since you need to find the best location to provide adequate coverage for all potential users. Infrastructure mode is much more stable compared to ad-hoc mode.

Wireless Network Interface Cards (WNICs)

A wireless network interface card (WNIC) is a network card which connects to a radio-based computer network. A WNIC, just like a NIC, works on the Layer 1 and Layer 2 of the OSI Model. A WNIC is an essential component for wireless desktop/laptop computer. This card uses an antenna to communicate through microwaves. A WNIC in a desktop computer usually is connected using the PCI bus. Other connectivity options are USB and PC card. Integrated WNICs are also available.
Wireless Network Interface Cards and Wireless Access Points are designed to work at certain specifications based on the IEEE. The most popular wireless specifications in 2010 are 802.11g (Wireless G) and 802.11n (Wireless N). Wireless G works on the 2.4 GHz frequency which allows for backwards compatibility with Wireless B technologies. Wireless G technologies allow for a maximum data rate of 54Mbps. 802.11g is by the far the most popular wireless technology in terms of rapid adoption. Unfortunately, since it suffers from the same interference as 802.11b (Wireless B), because of the 2.4GHz frequency. As a result, in the United States and elsewhere, Wireless G is often implemented in Channels 1, 6, and 11 because these are the three non-overlapping usable channels.

Wireless N improves 802.11g (Wireless G) bringing faster overall speeds, new antenna technologies, and dual-band frequency devices. 802.11n WAPs are backwards compatible with all previous wireless standards including 802.11g (Wireless G) and 802.11b (Wireless B). When this standard is finalized, 802.11n connections should support data rates of over 100 Mbps. 802.11n also offers somewhat better range over earlier Wi-Fi standards due to its increased signal intensity.

Popular Wireless Standards
802.11g (Wireless G)802.11n (Wireless N)

  • 2.4 GHz Frequency

  • OFDM Spectrum

  • 54Mbps Speed

  • ~300 ft.

  • Backwards Compatibility with 802.11b/g

  • 2.4/5 GHz Frequency

  • OFDM Spectrum

  • 100+ Mbps

  • ~300 ft.

  • Backwards Compatibility with 802.11a/b/g/n

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Research Sources


What do you need to set up a Wireless Network

This tutorial will guide you through the process of planning, building, and testing a wireless home network.

Wireless Network Buying Guide

This site, created by CNET, outlines all of the major parts of a wireless network, what they do, and why they are needed.

Access Points- What is a Wireless Access Point (WAP)?

This site provides the user with a basic definition of a WAP and what its responsibility is in the wireless network.

Wireless Access Points - CNET Reviews

This site reviews and ranks some of the most powerful, reliable, and most popular Wireless Access Points from Apple, NetGear, and Cisco, among other manufacturers.

Wireless Home Networking- Wireless Network Interface Cards (WNICs)

This site explains to the user what a WNIC is and what its responsibility is in a wireless network.

Adapters/NICs - CNET Reviews

This site reviews and ranks some of the most powerful, reliable, and most popular Wireless NICs available from Intel, Cisco, and IBM