Wireless Networking - Online Article

If you've been in an airport, coffee shop, library or hotel recently, chances are you've been right in the middle of a wireless network. Many people also use wireless networking, also called WiFi, to connect their computers at home, and an increasing number of cities use the technology to provide free or low-cost Internet access to residents. In the near future, wireless networking may become so widespread that you can access the Internet just about anywhere at any time, without using wires.

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Also unofficially known as "Wireless Fidelity"

WiFi has a lot of advantages. Wireless networks are easy to set up and inexpensive. They're also unobtrusive -- unless you're on the lookout for a place to use your laptop, you may not even notice when you're in a hotspot. In this article, we'll look at the technology that allows information to travel over the air. We'll also review what it takes to create a wireless network in your home.

What is WiFi?

A wireless network uses radio waves, just like cell phones, televisions and radios do. In fact, communication across a wireless network is a lot like two-way radio communication. Here's what happens:

  1. A computer's wireless adapter translates data into a radio signal and transmits it using an antenna.
  2. A wireless router receives the signal and decodes it. It sends the information to the Internet using a physical, wired Ethernet connection. (A router is a device that extracts the destination of a packet it receives, selects the best path to that destination, and forwards data packets to the next device along this path).

The process also works in reverse, with the router receiving information from the Internet, translating it into a radio signal and sending it to the computer's wireless adapter.

The radios used for WiFi communication are very similar to the radios used for walkie-talkies, cell phones and other devices. They can transmit and receive radio waves, and they can convert 1s and 0s into radio waves and convert the radio waves back into 1s and 0s.

This connection is convenient and virtually invisible, and it's fairly reliable. If the router fails or if too many people try to use high-bandwidth applications at the same time, however, users can experience interference or lose their connections.

Next, we'll look at how to connect to the Internet from a WiFi hotspot.

The area covered by one or more interconnected access points is called a hotspot. If you want to take advantage of public WiFi hotspots or start a wireless network in your home, the first thing you'll need to do is make sure your computer has the right wireless gear. Most new laptops and many new desktop computers come with built-in wireless transmitters. If your laptop doesn't, you can buy a wireless adapter that plugs into the PC card slot or USB port. Desktop computers can use USB adapters, or you can buy an adapter that plugs into the PCI slot inside the computer's case.

Once you've installed your wireless adapter and the drivers that allow it to operate, your computer should be able to automatically discover existing networks. This means that when you turn your computer on in a WiFi hotspot, the computer will inform you that the network exists and ask whether you want to connect to it. If you have an older computer, you may need to use a software program to detect and connect to a wireless network.

Being able to connect to the Internet in public hotspots is extremely convenient. Wireless home networks are convenient as well. They allow you to easily connect multiple computers and to move them from place to place without disconnecting and reconnecting wires.

Uses

Wireless networks have significantly impacted the world as far back as World War II. Through the use of wireless networks, information could be sent overseas or behind enemy lines easily and quickly and was more reliable. Since then wireless networks have continued to develop and its uses have significantly grown. Cellular phones are part of huge wireless network systems. People use these phones daily to communicate with one another. Sending information over seas is possible through wireless network systems using satellites and other signals to communicate across the world. Emergency services such as the police department utilize wireless networks to communicate important information quickly. People and businesses use wireless networks to send and share data quickly whether it be in a small office building or across the world. Another important use for wireless networks is as an inexpensive and rapid way to be connected to the Internet in countries and regions where the telecom infrastructure is poor or there is a lack of resources, like most Developing Countries.

Wireless networks allow you to eliminate messy cables. Wireless connections offer more mobility, the downside is there can sometimes be interference that might block the radio signals from passing through. One way to avoid this is by putting the source of your wireless connection in a place where the signal will have as little interference as possible. Sometimes nearby networks are using the same frequencies, and this can also cause interference within the network and can reduce its performance.

Compatibility issues also arise when dealing with wireless networks. Different components not made by the same company may not work together, or might require extra work to fix compatibility issues. To avoid this, purchase products made by the same company so that there are fewer compatibility issues.

Wireless networks, in terms of internet connections, are typically slower than those that are directly connected through an Ethernet cable. Though the speed is slower, most things will still move at the same speed except for things like video downloads. Though wireless technology continues to develop, it is now easier to get networks up and running cheaper and faster than ever before.

A wireless network is more vulnerable because anyone can try to break into a network broadcasting a signal. Many networks offer WEP - Wired Equivalent Privacy - security systems which have been found to be vulnerable to intrusion. Though WEP does block some intruders, the security problems have caused some businesses to stick with wired networks until security can be improved. Another type of security for wireless networks is WPA - Wi-Fi Protected Access. WPA provides more security to wireless networks than a WEP security set up. The use of firewalls will help with security breaches which can help to fix security problems in some wireless networks that are more vulnerable.

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Comments

Chandra Bhushan on 2009-03-05 21:50:15 wrote,

Gud one ... but i think the article shud end with a best conclusion.. A little ambiguous conclusion