Wireless Basics Your Mother Can Understand
Wireless Networking can be a bit of a mystery for some. A lot of these blogs here are directed at those with a technical understanding of how wireless works generally. This blog is geared towards those with little to no understanding, so if you are fairly up to speed with current wireless technology, you may want to skip this blog!
I will break down this down into 2 sections. Outdoor Point to Point wireless links and indoor Wireless, or WLAN, or "WI-FI"
Point to Point Wireless
This is a Wireless connection between 2 points. You are trying to connect 2 buildings together but the distance is too far to use a cable. For example, if you have an internet connection at the main house and you would like the office at the end of the garden to use that internet connection. A point to point wireless bridge can be used in this case. This would involve a radio with an antenna to be installed on the outside of each building. The radio/antenna would normally send a narrow beam signal from the house and be received by the radio/antenna at the office, as opposed to using a pole antenna which sends signals out in 360 degrees. This allows the signal to be concentrated and reach much further.
The Radio would be cabled back into each property and this cable goes into a power adapter called a PoE (power over Ethernet) injector. This PoE injector plugs into the mains, has a cable that goes to the radio from an Ethernet port (labelled PoE), there is a 2nd Ethernet port (labelled LAN) that can be cabled back to a network device.
- For the House the PoE injector would be cabled to your router
- For the Office the PoE Injector would be cabled back to wireless access point or directly into a laptop/PC
The Office now has a direct connection to the router via this point to point wireless bridge.
WLAN or WIFI
WLAN or Wireless Local Area Network is more commonly known as WIFI in households. If you have a wireless router, you have a device that will provide wireless access to connect you wireless devices to this router without a cable, and that router usually has a modem connected to it or built in, which provides the internet connection. A router is essentially a switch with a wireless access point built in.
In a lot of cases that router will not be sufficient to provide wireless coverage for a whole property. In order to extend that wireless coverage, more radios are required to be deployed to expand the coverage area and cover the dark sports your puny wireless router cannot reach.
The best way to extend that coverage is to use additional "Wireless Access Points" or AP's. These are essentiality radios with an antenna, like your router has, but without the switch.
To get the best performance out of these additional access points, the AP's would need to be cabled back to the router. I often get asked if you can connect the additional AP's back to the router wirelessly, without a cable. While you can do this, it is not recommended. There are 2 main reasons for this. Repeating the signal and wireless distribution to client devices automatically halves available through compared to a direct cable connection. Also the Wireless Signal back to the router will likely be passing through 1 wall or more, which will also reduce signal strength and therefore throughput again, so all in all you will have a weak connection at this additional access point. Cabling back to the router eliminates all of these issues.