A wireless access point (WAP), which is also known as Access Point (AP), is a small hardware device that connects a wired network (e.g. LAN) to wireless devices. The access point can be a standalone device that is connected to a router (using an ethernet cable). However, nowadays, routers come integrated with wireless access points. The most common access points these days support Wi-Fi.
- Also read: Do You Get Most from Your Wifi Router?
You can create a wireless local area network (WLAN) using a wireless access point. WAP does this by creating a hotspot which allows multiple devices to connect wirelessly to the network. The proximity of the created hotspot depends on the range of your WAP.
Hardware Specifications of a wireless access point (WAP)
WAP hardware consists of a radio transceiver, antennas and device firmware. A unit that contains both a receiver and a transmitter is called a transceiver.
Since 1920, radio devices came with a separate unit for receiver and transmitter. Nowadays, all modern radio devices come with a transceiver.
To understand the function of an antenna, consider an access point to a kind of radio for computers. The antenna, in the analogy, would be speakers. The antenna is used to spread the signals over a limited area, also known as range of the access point.
The strength of the signal and range depend on the strength of the antenna and number of antennas on your access point. Based on their function, the antennas can also be of several types.
Most commonly used antenna (also used to create a WLAN) is a directional point to multipoint system. The signals travel in only one direction (from your access point to your wireless device) and can be transferred to multiple devices.
Next, the firmware is a set of instructions that are programmed into a hardware device. It provides the necessary instructions on how the device (WAP in our case) will communicate with other devices.
The access point comes with an installed firmware but can be updated using a firmware updater, if required.
Using a wireless access point (WAP) at home
If you use broadband, then the chances are good that your broadband router comes integrated with a wireless access point. In case you have an old router, you can easily expand your network to provide wireless support by adding an access point.
You will need a small piece of hardware which will have a port for an ethernet cable. Use the ethernet cable from your router and plug it into your access point.
Using an access point can allow a large number of users to connect to your local network. Earlier, an access point could support 20 users. Modern access points can allow up to 255 users in the wireless LAN.
The access point also acts as a bridge between the WLAN and other WLANs or LANs creating a bigger network. For example, you can use an access point to connect to the internet.
Using Range Extenders with an access point (AP)
If you live in a big house and want the ability to use your access point in the entire home, you can consider using a range extender. As the name suggests, range extenders lengthen the range of an existing wireless network.
They should be placed in areas where the Wi-Fi signal is strong so that the Wi-Fi signal can be retransmitted around the entire house.
While range extenders are very helpful when used in a home network, they have certain limitations. These limitations make them less useful when adapted in an office network. A range extender allows up to only 20 connections.
Also, range extenders maintain a specific bandwidth as they extend signal only from one access point. With a large number of users connected, the speed will reduce, and there can be signal drop as well.
If you are looking towards setting up a WLAN at your home or office, you will need an access point. They are very easy to install and use and offer a great many advantages.