Introduction to Wireless Networking

February 25, 2021

The planet is becoming increasingly more mobile over the past few years. The worlds conventional ways of networking have proved insufficient to address the challenges raised by our current collective lifestyle. When users need to be connected by physical cables to a network, their movement is drastically reduced.

However, wireless networking does not face such a constraint and enables the network user to move much more freely. As a result, wireless technologies invade “fixed” or “wired” networks in the conventional realm. To someone who travels daily, this move is apparent.

Introduction

A whole new industry has been developed by wireless networking for voice telephony. Adding mobile access to the telephony mix had profound influences on the voice calls market because callers could be connected to individuals, not computers. We are at the height of an equally profound shift in networking for computers.

Wireless telephony has been popular becuase it allows people to communicate with each other regardless of venue. For Internet access, modern technology aimed at computer networks promise to do the same. Thus far, 802.11 has become the most popular wireless data networking technology.

In this article, we are going to discuss the following:

  • The definition of wireless networking.
  • How wireless network works.
  • Types of wireless networks.
  • Wireless networking standards.
  • Benefits of wireless networking.

A quick look at networking

Computer network refers to devices, such as computers, fax or even printers connected or linked to each other to communicate and share resources. It makes use of transmission media such as wires and cables. For example, in Local Area Networks (LAN), computers are interconnected in a small area such as an office via communication cables.

The main reason for connecting several devices on a network is to share resources. For example, an office has one shared printer. It can be connected to all computers within this office on a network to allow each department’s usage.

What’s wireless networking?

A wireless network allows devices to remain linked to the network yet to roam without any cables unattached. Wi-Fi signals are amplified by access points, meaning a computer can be far from a router but still be linked to the network. You connect to that organization’s wireless network when you connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot at a cafe or another public location.

The only difference between wireless and wired network is that wired network uses cables to link devices to the Internet or another network, such as laptops or desktop computers. As opposed to a wireless network, a wired network has several drawbacks. The main downside is that a router is tied to your computer. The most popular wired networks use cables attached to an Ethernet port on the network router and the other end to a computer or other system.

Why wireless?

At this point, digging into a particular technology is getting a little ahead of the story, however. Wireless networks share some significant benefits, regardless of how the protocols are built or what kind of information they bring.

Mobility is the most apparent value of wireless networking. Wireless network users can link to existing networks and are then able to travel freely. In a single call, a mobile phone user will travel miles because the phone links the user via cell towers.

Mobile telephony was costly initially. These costs limited its use to highly mobile professionals such as sales managers and significant executive decision-makers who would need to be reached at a moment’s notice regardless of their venue. However, mobile telephony has proved to be a useful service and is now increasingly popular.

Usually, wireless networks have a lot of versatility, which can translate into rapid implementation. Wireless networks use a variety of base stations to connect users to an existing network.

How wireless networks work

Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) serves the same function as a wired one to connect a group of computers. Since “wireless” does not require expensive wiring, the primary advantage is that it is typically simpler, quicker, and cheaper to set up.

By contrast, it can be labor-intensive and costly to build a network by dragging wires over an office’s walls and ceilings. But a wireless network can be a cost-effective way to extend or increase it, even though you have a wired network already in place.

Wireless networks operate using Radio Frequency (RF) technology, a frequency associated with radio wave propagation within the electromagnetic spectrum. An electromagnetic field is generated when an RF current is supplied to an antenna that can then spread through space.

A system recognized as an access point (AP) is the core of a wireless network. An access point’s primary role is to broadcast a wireless signal sensed and tuned into by computers. Since wireless networks are typically linked to wired networks, access points often act as a gateway to a wired network’s resources, such as an Internet connection.

Computers need to be fitted with wireless network adapters to connect to an access point and join a wireless network. These are mostly built right into the device, but if not, by using an add-on adapter attached to an empty expansion slot, USB port, or, in the case of notebooks, a PC card slot, just about any computer or notebook can be made wireless-capable.

Types of wireless networks

We now know how wireless network works, let’s focus our attention to different types of wireless.

1.Fig 1.0 WLAN

Wireless-network-LAN

1. Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN)

WLAN refers to the type of network connecting two or more computers via a wireless distribution method. They have high-frequency radio waves and an AP (access points) to the internet.

They are advantageous to use as it allows users to move around the coverage area, not restricted to a single location. They are also known as Local Area Wireless Network(LAWN).

2. Wireless Wide Area Networks (WWAN)

WWAN is also known as wireless broadband, it makes use of cell towers. These towers transmit radio signals spanning thousands of miles, in contrast to WLAN that spans a few hundred feet. It comprises three major technologies, Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), and the newer WiMAX.

These technologies are beyond the scope of this article, but you’re free to look for more resources on the topic or here. A point to note is that Wide Area Networks do not connect to your individual computers but instead to several Local Area networks.

3. Wireless Metropolitan Area Networks (WMAN)

MWAN has a coverage range size approximately that of a city. It’s smaller as compared to WWAN but larger than WLAN. It belongs to a single entity such as the government, Internet Service Provider, or cooperation. MWAN restricts access to authorized users or subscriber devices only. An example of a form of WMAN would be *WiMAX.

Wireless networking standards

Wireless technology has evolved over a long period so has the technology associated with it. It’s always advisable to do your own research before purchasing any of these technologies.

The most common wireless technologies in use today include:

  • IEEE 802.11b-1999 (802.11b) - This technology provides transmission of up to 11Mbps and is backward compatible.
  • IEEE 802.11g-2003(IEEE 802.11g) - This is a popular technology that provides up to 54Mbps and covers a distance of 150 feet.
  • IEEE 802.11n-2009(IEEE 802.11n) - This technology aims at improving the throughput of the frequency range between 2.4GHz and 5GHz. It uses several antennae, which in turn increases the data rates.

Benefits of wireless networking

  • It has contributed significantly to the Voice over Internet (VoIP) as calls can now be made easily over this protocol.
  • It has enabled mobility, a more significant advantage to its users as servers can be accessed anywhere as long as Access Point access exists.
  • They are relatively cheap when compared to wired networks, which involve a lot of expenses when purchasing cables.
  • The network can be secure due to data encryption method and current technologies. This allows the sharing of sensitive information.

Conclusion

In this article, we have looked at wireless networks, how they works, and some defined standards. We have also seen different types of Wireless Networks and how they relate to each other.


Peer Review Contributions by: Lalithnarayan C


About the author

Miller Juma

Miller Juma, is a web enthusiast with 3+ years experience in PHP and Javascript. On his free time, he likes to learn more tricks on Laravel and Angular.

This article was contributed by a student member of Section's Engineering Education Program. Please report any errors or innaccuracies to enged@section.io.