The Wireless Network
The Wireless Network
A wireless network consists of devices that can transmit and receive information in the form of radio waves. Devices like laptops, tablets, PCs and smartphones are equiped with a wireless network card (also called a "WIFI card", see below) that is capable of sending and receiving radio waves.
A wireless network adapter
Wireless access point
At the heart of each wireless home network is a wireless access point. The wireless access point functions as a central communications hub. All laptops, PCs, phones and tablets in the network connect to the access point and use it to send and receive information to and from other devices in the network.
Below is a picture of a wireless router (the WRT54G from Linksys). A wireless router is a wireless access point that also has routing functionality.
The popular Linksys WRT54G wireless router,
While a wireless access point enables wireless connectivity, a router takes care of routing traffic between different networks. The router ensures that the proper information ends up at the proper device in the proper network. In a home network a router acts as a traffic regulator between the home network and the network of the internet service provider (ISP). So, a wireless router combines two functions: routing and wireless connectivity.
The wireless router is usually connected to a modem or it has an integrated modem that connects your home network to your ISP. You should see the modem, router and wireless access point as three functions that are needed to create a wireless home network with internet access. But they don't have to be three eparate devices. They can be combined into one or two devices or be completely separate devices.
Now that you know what a wireless networks looks like let's look into what makes wireless networks work. You now know that wireless devices use radio technology to communicate with each other. Radio waves can transport information through the air, through water, through solid materials and even through empty space. On the next page we will take a closer look at what radio really is.