Wireless Networking Overview

The term wireless networking refers to technology that enables two or more computers to communicate using standard network protocols, but without network cabling. Strictly speaking, any technology that does this could be called wireless networking.

The current buzzword however generally refers to wireless LANs. This technology, fueled by the emergence of cross-vendor industry standards such as IEEE 802.11, has produced a number of affordable wireless solutions that are growing in popularity with business and schools as well as sophisticated applications where network wiring is impossible, such as in warehousing or point-of-sale handheld equipment.

Wireless Networks
There are two kinds of wireless networks. First is the ad-hoc, or peer-to-peer wireless network which consists of a number of computers each equipped with a wireless networking interface card. Each computer can communicate directly with all of the other wireless enabled computers. They can share files and printers this way and can bridge to access files and folders within the network.

A wireless network can also use an access point, or base station. In this type of network the access point acts like a hub, providing connectivity for the wireless computers. It can connect (or “bridge”) the wireless LAN to a wired LAN, allowing wireless computer access to LAN resources, such as file servers or existing Internet Connectivity. Dedicated hardware access points offer comprehensive support of most wireless features, but check your requirements carefully. Software Access Points run on a computer equipped with a wireless network interface card as used in an ad-hoc or peer-to-peer wireless network.

Wireless Routers
When purchasing wireless network hardware from separate vendors be sure to obtain guarantees from the vendors that the hardware will interoperate and follows the standards. Within a short time we expect all new wireless cards, like ethernet cards, to become inexpensive but inoperable compared to the developing wireless networks in today’s society. Software access points should have no compatibility issues with third party wireless hardware, as long as standards are followed.

Typically wireless hardware is identified to the software as a network interface, and therefore can be used in the same way as any other network card. Each access point does has a finite range within which a wireless connection can be maintained between the client computer and the access point. The actual distance varies depending upon the environment. When operating at the limits of range the performance may drop, as the quality of connection deteriorates and the system compensates. Typical indoor ranges are 150-300 feet, but can be shorter if the building construction interferes with radio transmissions. Longer ranges are possible, but performance will degrade with distance.

Although wireless networking offers obvious benefits to users of laptops who move from location to location throughout the day, there are benefits for users of fixed position computers as well. For instance, many schools and businesses have unsuitable building layouts or walls that cannot be wired for various reasons making it difficult or impossible to build a wired network. Wireless networking in these environments is a very cost effective alternative also providing future flexibility. In all, wireless internet is a very safe and effective way to connect to the internet and is surely the way forward for networks in all businesses and home use also.