Wireless Internet/Networking Tutorial

What is a Wireless Network?
A wireless network is very similar to the wired network in that all the same pieces are still required, a wireless NIC, Access Point (similar to a wired network Ethernet Switch) and a wireless router. The only thing that's missing are the cables.

First, you will need to determine if your desktop or Laptop PC already has a wireless NIC built in. Again, check your users guide to confirm this. Once your wireless NIC is installed you will need to configure the SSID (service set identifier) on each of the PC's to use the same name. Also, you need to make sure all the wireless NICs are configured to be on the same channel and set levels of encryption if desired. Your wireless access point or router should come with detailed explanation of how to configure the SSID and security features such as encryption and access lists. Many of today's wireless routers come with the access point functionality built right in.

802.11a
An IEEE standard developed in 1997 for wireless Ethernet networking that operates in the 5 GHz radio band (ISM frequency band) and uses the IP protocol. Maximum transmission speed is 54Mbps and approximate wireless range is 25-75 feet indoors. Other characteristics include:

  • Uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) Transmission Method
  • Not normally interoperable with other 802.11 standards
  • Not subject to interference from other wireless devices (cell, microwave, and 802.11b/g) due to frequency range
  • Most expensive than 802.11b and less widely adopted

802.11b
An IEEE standard developed in 1997 for wireless Ethernet networking that operates in the 2.4 GHz radio band (ISM frequency band) and uses the IP protocol. Maximum transmission speed is 11Mbps and approximate wireless range is 100-200 feet indoors. Other characteristics include:

  • Usually interoperable with 802.11g
  • More widely adopted due to equipment availability and cost
  • Uses Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) tranmission method

802.11g
An IEEE standard for wireless Ethernet networking that operates in the 2.4 GHz radio band (ISM frequency band) and uses the IP protocol. Maximum transmission speed is 54Mbps and approximate wireless range is 100-200 feet indoors. Other characteristics include:

  • Compatible with 802.11b/g
  • Uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) Transmission Method

802.11n (802.11n-2009)
An IEEE standard for wireless Ethernet networking that operates in the 2.4 GHz or 5GHz frequency bands and uses the IP protocol. Maximum transmission speed is approximately 125 to 600Mbps and approximate wireless range is approximatley 230 feet indoors.

Access Point
A wireless Access Point is used to connect PC's with wireless adapter cards to a wired Ethernet network. Access points can support several or all of the three most popular IEEE WLAN standards including 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g. Sometimes people may refer to an Access Point as a Wireless Hub.
Adapter: A wireless adapter or NIC (Network Interface Card) that is used to connect to a laptop or PC to a wireless LAN (Local Area Network).

Ad-hoc
An Ad-hoc wireless network is made up of a group of PC's and/or laptops connected as an independent wireless LAN. A wireless network in ad-hoc mode have the following characteristics:

  • Wireless clients connects to each other to communicate directly, wireless access point not needed.
  • Cannot communicate to wired computers
  • Each wireless computer would be its own 'wireless access point'
  • With no wireless point, each wireless client cannot exceed maximum tranmission distance. A wireless access point can double the distance the wireless can be

Encryption
Encryption is used to hide or mask the data being sent through wireless transmissions. There are several popular and widely used encryption methods used today including WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy, and WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access).

Hot Spot
A wireless Hot Spot is a public area where wireless laptops can connect to WLAN and receive Internet access. Recently many coffee shops and airports have added this capability for their customer's convenience.








Infrastructure
A Wireless Infrastructure is comprised of both wired and wireless LAN's. Typically this type of configuration is found in SOHS and Enterprise environments where there are many user groups or divisions requiring access to shared resources. A wireless network in infrastructure mode have the following characteristics:

  • Most common implementation of radio frequency
  • All wireless clients connects to a central point (e.g., wireless access point)
  • Required if wireless clients needs to connect to a non-wireless host

ISM Band
The ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) band, which is controlled by the FCC in the US, generally requires licensing for various spectrum uses. To accommodate wireless LAN's, the FCC has set aside bandwidth for unlicensed use including the 2.4Ghz spectrum where many WLAN products operate.

Roaming
The ability to use a wireless device and be able to move from one access point's range to another without losing the connection.

Router
A wireless router is a protocol dependent device that is used to connect sub networks or different independent WLAN's together. Routers provide security as they can be configured to only allow certain users access to different services such as the Internet and file servers when connecting a WLAN to the Internet a router is required.

SOHO (Small Office/Home Office):
Is a widely used acronym, which defines applications or products that are used in homes or in small offices.

SSID
The SSID is the unique name shared among all devices on the same wireless network

WI-FI
Wi Fi stands for Wireless Fidelity and is used to define any of the IEEE 802.11 wireless standards. The term Wi-Fi was created by the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA). Products certified as Wi-Fi compliant are interoperable with each other even if they are made by different manufacturers