What Is A Wireless Access Point? Understanding Terminology & Getting Started

50 years ago the very first message was sent between computers. Although extremely different to the internet of today, this was the fundamental starting point of the internet and modern social connectivity.

Today, the internet plays an important part in everyday life and terms such as ‘Wireless Access Point’, (WAP) are phrases that people assume others understand.

But, the truth is that most people use the internet, but they don’t understand the workings or connectivity processes. On the whole, this is acceptable. But, in the case of a Wireless Access Point it’s a good idea to understand what it actually is.

What Is A Wireless Access Point?

What Is A Wireless Access Point

In the beginning you had to connect your computer to the internet via a cable. The cable, similar to many telephone cables, was plugged into your computer and into the router, that’s the box where the internet arrives in your home.

Of course, the location of your computer was limited by the length of your cable.

The router is still a necessary piece of equipment, it is the box that provides access to the internet. However, once the internet is in your home you can use radio waves to send the signal around the home. In effect, your computer does not need to be physically connected to the router.

This allows you to access the internet on multiple devices without being physically connected to it.

It’s worth noting that in most domestic setups the wireless access point is part of your router. However, it is possible to purchase a wireless access point separately and connect it to your router, providing wireless access to the internet.

This potentially increases the number of places that you can put your wireless router.

Understanding Signal Strength

It’s worth noting that wireless strength is generally measured in milliwatts. However, because the signal is so low even a good quality signal will be something like 0.0001mW, the same as 40dBm (Decimals Relative To A Milliwatt). You should also be aware that these will be negative numbers so a lower number actually indicates a stronger signal.

If you’re reading in dBm then the following is a good guideline to signal strength.

  • -70 dBm for browsing the web and dealing with emails.
  • -67 dBm is a minimum for voice over IP or streaming video content.
  • -65 dBm is essential if you want to connect via Smartphone and tablet.

The top signal strength is -30 dBm, unfortunately, you’ll need to be practically on top of the wireless access point to achieve this which defeats the point of wireless!

If you want to verify your signal strength just use one of the many apps available online.

Wireless Data Standards

You’ve probably heard of 802.11a or perhaps 802.11g. These are simply indications of wireless data standards. Technology is constantly evolving and the newer the technology the safer it is and the faster it is capable of delivering data. Obviously, the latest option is generally the best one.

The fastest is 802.11ac, previously, in descending order, there was:

  • 11n
  • 11g
  • 11b
  • 11a

It is recommended that you have no more than 25 clients on one wireless network. That should be enough to cover most domestic applications.

Advantages Of Wireless Access Point

The most obvious advantage of a wireless access point is that you can connect to the internet from anywhere in your home. You may even be able to connect in your garden, although this will depend on several points, as mentioned above.

But it’s not just convenient and quick to connect. You already know that your Smartphone has wireless technology and can connect to your internet, it isn’t usually possible to connect a phone to a wired network.

This makes connecting quicker and more practical, allowing you to search on multiple devices without the cables becoming trip hazards.

But, that’s not all! A wireless access point creates a network that any wireless-enabled device in your home can connect to. This means you can combine smart lighting, alarms, and even heating units with your wireless network, allowing you to control all the elements of your home through a wireless network. This can be done with your phone or your voice!

Wireless technology really is paving the way for the future!

Disadvantages of Going Wireless

There are several imitations to a wireless access point, it’s a good idea to understand what they are.

The main issue with wireless is the signal. As already mentioned it is weakened by walls, doors, and other physical obstacles. The greater the number of obstacles, the lower the strength of your signal. When your signal becomes too weak you’ll either notice a slowing down of the internet or you won’t be able to access it at all.

Fortunately, this can usually be overcome by using signal boosters. These connect to an electrical socket and your wireless access point. A second unit is plugged into another electric socket, where the signal is becoming weak. The two units communicate via the electrics in your home, allowing the internet signal to be sent from one device to the other, boosting the signal where you need it.

Alongside this, it is worth noting that if there are too many devices accessing one wireless access point it can slow down the internet.

The exact number of devices will depend on the strength of your signal, the obstacles in the room, and the number of people trying to use the wireless network.

Setting Up You Wireless Access Point

Setting Up You Wireless Access Point

Creating your own wireless access point is extremely easy. In fact, it’s normal for the router box supplied by your internet provider to have wireless capability.

You simply need to plug your internet box (with wireless)into your phone line and wait for it to start up. If your box doesn’t have wireless you’ll need to purchase a wireless box and connect I to your router.

You’ll find a button on the box which turns wireless on, press this and wait, your wireless internet light will illuminate.

At this point, you can connect to your wireless network using the name and password provided by your router.

However, it is a good idea to log into your wireless box and change the network name and password. If you don’t its possible others can get onto your personal network and see your files.

To access the wireless box you simply need to type into your internet address bar. If it’s different then your wireless box supplier will have recorded it on the box or within the paperwork.

You can then enter the username and password, which is often ‘admin’, followed by ‘admin’. This will get you into the box and allow you to change the network name and the password. You’ll then be the only one that knows it.

Simply enter it into your devices and they’ll connect to your wireless network securely, allowing you to access any internet page you want to see.

Don’t forget, preventing others from easily accessing your wireless access point is not the same as staying safe on the internet. At the least, you do need a good antivirus program.

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