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Wireless Networking Wi-Fi standards, explained

Wireless Networking allows for two or more computers to communicate using standard network protocols but without the cables. There are two types of wireless networks Ad-hoc or peer-to-peer, to perform each computer needs to have a wireless network card installed and once setup they can access shared folders and communicate with the other computers on the Wireless LAN.

Wireless connectivity can be added to existing computers by a USB, PCMCIA, PCI, wireless adapters or a separate Access point. Alternatively if you have a main PC which is connected to your ADSL/Cable connection you can use an ADSL/Cable router.

Netgear Wireless RouterBelkin Wireless Router & PCMCIA Wireless AdapterLinksys Wireless RouterWireless PCI Adapter

If you wish to add wireless to an existing office networked environment you can add an access point which will allow users to connect wirelessly to the access point and any other network locations you permit. For this type of use you should of course ensure you have security policys in place.

Wireless Standards - 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g

The original wireless networking standard was finalised in the late nineties called IEEE 802.11, this standard meant that makers could work to a code to ensure wireless devices from other companies would be compatible with each other.

802.11b - In 1999 the IEEE expanded on the standard to form 802.11b this supported up to 11Mbps compared to the lower original 802.11 standard. This newer version now closely matched the traditional Ethernet standard. The technology works by using radio frequencies and the band it uses is 2.4 GHz this may not mean a great deal but as it is unregulated it can suffer from interference from cordless phones, microwaves and anything else using the same 2.4GHz range.

For: lowest cost, good signal range and strength

Against: slow speed, especially if you intend to have simultaneous connections, possible interference with other radio wave devices.

802.11a can support bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and uses a regulated range of 5 GHz compared to unregulated 2.4 GHz range of 802.11b. Because the two standards use different ranges they were incompatible with each other and subsequently this did cause confusion at the time. To use either standard you needed to ensure you used devices which supported the same standard.

Because 802.11a uses a higher frequency the signals can suffer problems going through walls, in some cases people have found a better signal is achieved connecting from above or below as these have lower resistance for the signal to the solid walls.

For: Faster maximum speed, capable of simultaneous connections, regulated frequency prevents signal interference from other radio technology devices.

Against: Higher cost and shorter signal ranges which can be more easily obstructed.

802.11g - In 2002 Wireless LAN devices which supported 802.11g started to be sold. Essentially this standards aim was to remove the confusion over the different standards and combine the best of both 802.11a and 802.11b into one standard. The result is 802.11g supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and uses the 2.4GHz frequency which gives it greater signal range. It is also backwards compatible with 802.11b standard products and vice versa.

For: Fastest maximum speed and support for simultaneous connections, good signal range.

Against: Can cost more than previous standards, minor interference possible due to the unregulated signal frequency.

Wireless technology is already moving forwarded, Super G now features in wireless devices and acts as a kind of turbo mode by using two 54Mbps channels to deliver an increase in actual speed the result to the end-user is speed is increased to 40Mbps-60+ compared to the 20-30Mbps of a standard 802.11g/a device.

 

Common Scenarios

Share your Broadband Connection in the home

We will assume that the connection is either a USB modem or an Ethernet equivalent. First thing would be to replace both the modem for an Ethernet connection or Ethernet version. And then purchase a Wireless router, this makes connecting devices both wireless and wired much easier than needing additional cables and hubs and switches.

With a Router ready you will need to connect the Modem to the Internet port of the router and the other end into your main PC. This PC acts as a gateway or host and you will not notice any difference in speed from using a wireless router to your previous setup. Your next task is to view the routers admin panel and setup security so that only devices with the specified MAC address can connect through your router.

Connect two computers together through wireless networking.

To connect peer-to-peer all you need is two wireless adapters these can be picked up for £15 per adapter. Once installed you can easily share printers, folders or share the internet connection of one PC. Alternatively yin addition to the individual adapters you can use a

Previously the only way you could do this was to have a crossover cable running between the PC's.

This method

The cost of Wireless products has now become very affordable mainly due to newer version which claims to be faster than the earlier versions.

This means that you can afford to connect wirelessly and share an ADSL/Cable Internet connection for around £60 or less.