What Is Wireless Internet Access?

What Is Wireless Internet Access?

The ability to access the Internet wirelessly is provided by a local area network, or LAN. This network allows Internet access using radio waves rather than wires. Traditionally, the Internet was accessible only through phone lines or cable — but wireless Internet access is fast becoming the standard.

Wireless Internet access starts with a central hub that contains a hard-wired Internet connection. This hub, usually found attached to the main computer system or server in a network, broadcasts radio waves that bring the Internet to specific computers which are part of the same wireless network. How do you become part of a wireless network? If you are in range of the LAN’s radio waves and your computer is equipped with a wireless card, you can access the Internet wirelessly. Generally, these networks are password protected.

Wireless Internet Access in the Home

In a residential setting, wireless Internet will broadcast anywhere from 100 to 250 feet around the central hub. This means that anyone in the home (even on the front porch or upstairs) with a laptop or desktop and a wireless card can connect to the Internet using the home’s wireless network. Sometimes, your close neighbors can access your LAN and use your wireless connection — wireless Internet technology is improving and the size of wireless networks is expanding. This is a big reason why your wireless LAN should be set up with a password. You don’t want people outside your home using your wireless to do something unwholesome.

Wireless Internet Access at Work

What Is Wireless Internet Access?

Millions of people enjoy the convenience of wireless Internet at home, but wireless Internet is a big part of the commercial world as well. An old school wired network is difficult and expensive to install all over your building, and your office setup is set in stone once you’ve hard-wired offices for the Internet. It is difficult to rearrange an office when your Internet access is limited to one spot. Don’t forget that installing new Internet access points with Ethernet cables means tearing up the walls, ceilings, and floors of the office space you’re in. The reasons many businesses were hesitant to switch to wireless Internet are the same reasons most people were hesitant — Ethernet cables provided a greater level of security and faster data speeds. Once wireless technology caught up with (and then began to outperform) traditional wired access, commercial properties began using wireless connections. They’re simply cheaper, more convenient, more secure, and faster.

Wireless LANs can be installed in a few minutes by anyone with a bare minimum of computer savvy. Compared to Ethernet LANs, wireless networks using WPA2 encryption are far more secure than Ethernet connection. All traffic on a wireless network secured by WPA2 is encrypted, not just “sensitive” traffic like that to financial partners or email accounts.

Wireless LAN Technology is still improving. When installing  a new wireless network, be sure to purchase tools that support the latest protocols and security features for wireless networks — buy network cards, hubs, and wireless modems that are built to the highest standard.

This article is part of a series we’re doing on computer basics. The other posts in this series are:

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