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An Introduction to Wireless Networking

Wireless Networking refers to any kind of networking between computer based equipment that is not connected by wires. It is a fast developing practice by which a wide range of users, ranging from enterprise level, telecommunications networks down to small-office-home-office users, can install and create connections between their computer equipment in various locations whilst avoiding the process of installing high cost, data transmission cabling. This is generally achieved by transmitting the data over free air space using RF (Radio Frequency) Waves between transmitters and receivers connected to the computing equipment, hence the name, Wireless Networking.

Wireless Networking continues to grow and develop at a rapid rate and usage levels are ever increasing. Some examples of wireless networking solutions include:

  • Point-to-Point Links (i.e. Wireless Networking Ethernet Bridges) can be used by individuals and businesses to send and share data rapidly wirelessly, whether it be in a small office building or across the world, at high data transmission rates. This can be essential to the operation of businesses where the management and use of critical data is needed in more than one location.

  • Example of a Point-to-Point network

    An example of a point to point network

  • Wi-Fi Routers (i.e. Access Points) are a feature of many modern day homes and in the industrial workplace where internet access is needed by one or more users in different locations. Multiple devices connect to the router and can access either the internet, an internal network between the other devices, or both.
  • Cellular Networks (i.e. Smartphones), which have grown to be a part of an everyday lifestyle, utilise wireless networking through different Cellular Networking transmissions, such as GSM, allowing easy and personal communication all over the world.

In summary, wireless networks can offer a wide variety of uses that are transmitted through different forms of media that are most commonly found in both home networking and in the business environment. Some uses of wireless networking are more common and obvious; however they do not have a generic order of significance to you, the end user, as it all depends on the situation in which they are to be employed.

Performance

Wireless Networking Throughput Speed varies greatly depending primarily on a few certain parameters.

Standards

Wireless Networking Standards are set so that wireless equipment can be banded into groups to help the end user know what their equipment can offer. The most common set are the IEEE 802.11 standards for implementing wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication in the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands but there are others that apply to lower and much higher frequencies and also other, more specialist, equipment. Standards will usually dictate the characteristics of the equipment which in turn suits them for different applications. For example (typical application):


3G HSUPA 5GHz 802.11n 80GHz Full Duplex Gigabit
Frequency
900-2100MHz 5150-5850MHz 80GHz
Range
Network Dependant Up to 400m Up to 12km
Throughput
Up to 5.76Mb/s Up to 600Mb/s Up to 1250Mb/s

The performance of the three standards varies greatly with the 3G HSUPA being much more suited to mobile, on-the-road applications, the 5GHz 802.11n for large Wi-Fi WLANs or small Point-to-Point links and lastly the 80GHz Full Duplex Gigabit for long distance, high bandwidth, Point-to-Point backhaul links; each has their pros and cons.

Range

Wireless Networking Range is primarily affected by transmit power, antenna gain, receiver sensitivity and the operating frequency. Advertised ranges are usually obtained in perfect conditions with no interference and therefore margins should be taken into account to make sure that you receive a good signal from the link. High throughput link ranges can be up to many kilometres when using high frequency equipment with much focused signal paths but the majority of links will be within a couple of hundred metres.

Note: In general, the shorter the distance between the two points in question, the stronger and more reliable the signal will be.

Wireless Networking Applications

Below is a short, but not definitive, list of applications that the various wireless networking technologies could be used for:

3G

  • Very remote location internet access
  • Transportation and Mobile internet access
  • Remote Device communication
  • Internet Connection Failover

2.4GHz

  • Lower Range, Wi-Fi Networks
  • CCTV

5GHz

  • Higher Range, Wi-Fi Networks
  • Long Range, Point-to-Point, Ethernet Bridge

Millimetre Wave

  • Long Range, Point-to-Point, High Throughput, Carrier Backhaul Link
  • Long Range, Point-to-Multipoint, High Throughput, Enterprise Network

FSO (Free Space Optics)

  • Long Range, Point-to-Point, High Throughput, Carrier Backhaul Link

For more information regarding the different opportunities the various Wireless Networking technologies can offer you, please refer to our selection of Wireless Networking Technology Introduction articles.

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