With the proliferation of wireless networks across the country, chances are that 80% of places you hang around have Wi-Fi. These places include the most visited areas,like libraries, airports and even your local coffee shop. You probably have your own Wi-Fi at home as it is now the most popular home broadband solution and the cheapest way for multiple users to get connected to the web.
The reason for the fast spread of Wi-Fi technology is the numerous advantages it provides, chief among these being ease of setup and affordability. It is also unobtrusive. Most people who are not actively on the lookout for a Wi-Fi connection are unaware there is such great provision in the place they are seated. Here, well review how Wi-Fi works and what it would take you to setup your own connection at home.
A Wi-Fi network is based on radio waves just like we have with televisions, mobile phones and radios. The communication is a two-way process. Firstly, your computers wireless component transforms data, turning into a radio signal which is them transmitted via an antenna. Then the signal sent is decoded by a wireless router which in turn sends the information to the internet through a physical wired Ethernet connection. This process can also play out in reverse with the router receiving information from the web and sending it across to a computers wireless adapter.
The radios used for Wi-Fi setups are virtually the same as those used for mobile phones and other devices save for some notable exceptions. These include:
Being able to transmit at higher frequencies (2.4GHz or 5GHz)
Use of 802.11 networking standards
Ability to transmit on any of three frequency bands
Ability to do frequency hopping.
Frequency hopping is what allows multiple devices to connect to the web on the same Wi-Fi network. A Mi-Fi device transforms mobile broadband service to wireless internet and it only allows 5 devices to be connected to the web simultaneously.
This is just a little peak into how Wi-Fi/Mi-Fi operates, leaving out the overly technical stuff.
Your device and Wi-Fi hotspots
If you are looking to hook up to a Wi-Fi hotspot, or setup your own wireless network at home, you need to first of all confirm that you have all the right tools required; starting with your device. Thankfully, almost all new devices made today come with factory fitted wireless transmitters, and this includes not just computers and laptops but also, smartphones and tablets.
However, if you have a laptop that isnt one of the newer models, you can get a wireless adapter that would fit into your computers USB port. For a desktop computer, you could get an adapter that would slot into the computers PCI port. Most of these adapters can make use of two or more 802.11 standards.
After the installation your computer can now automatically detect existing Wi-Fi networks. So when next you are around Wi-Fi coverage, your computer will ask you if you would like to connect to the network. Please note that older model desktop computers may not connect to a Wi-Fi network without the installation of software that aids in detection and connection to the wireless network. The ability to connect to the web via public or private hotspots is extremely convenient. Nothing beats having your computer connected without having to worry about connecting and disconnecting wires.
Creating a Wi-Fi network at home
If you need to setup a Wi-Fi network at home but already have several computers networked all you need to setup a wireless access point. On the other hand, if your computers are not yet networked or you simply want to replace your Ethernet connection, youll have to make use of a wireless router. A wireless router is simply a compact setup that includes a wireless access point, a firewall, an Ethernet hub, a router and finally, a port to connect to your cable or ADSL modem.
With a wireless router you will be able to build a link between all the computers in your house, the printer (or any other devices of the sort) and the internet. Even though walls and doors can affect signal strength, most wireless routers can go as far as 100 feet. With this in mind, you will need range extenders, or repeaters, if you live in a really big home. These extenders are not expensive.
Youll find that most people prefer to use the 802.11g routers. This is because of speed and reliability. The 802.11b types are less expensive, but being an older variation, the speed wont match up to that of an 802.11a or g.
Once plugged in the router starts working on its default settings. If you want to change anything you can do so through a web interface. On the web interface, you can change the name of the network, also known as the service set identifier. The default name will be that of the manufacturer. Secondly, you can also change the channel which the router makes use of. Most routers operate on Channel 6 by default so if your neighbour uses a router on channel 6 too there could be slight interference. Most importantly, you can also set your security options via the web interface too.
The importance of making your wireless network secure cannot be overemphasised. You dont want strangers accessing your network. Here are two ways you can tackle this problem:
Using Media Access Control, or MAC: With this, your computers physical hardware is simply used as a method of identification. This method is different from other security methods as you will not be required to sign in with a password. Here, only machines whose hardware has been registered, (i.e. those who the MAC address have been whitelisted) can access the Wi-Fi network. This is a very secure method but has its own downsides. For example, visitors to your home, or friends and family, will not be able to access your network if you are not on hand to whitelist their device. Also, hackers can copy an already whitelisted MAC address and use it to access the network.
Using Wi-Fi Protected Access: WPA security is an advanced form of WEP. It is a part of the 802.11i wireless network security protocol. This method makes use of the temporal key integrity protocol, also known as the TKIP encryption. This method involves using a password to access the network. It is among the most used Wi-Fi security methods out there.
Sam Jones uses his Mi-Fi connection almost all day and has been very pleased with his service provider. However, when he saw a better deal while browsing the online price comparison sites like uSwitch, he considered a change to save money.
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