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March 3, 2020 at 3:46 pm #87068Participant@oghenemarho
In the early days of networking, almost all connections between computing devices were through the wired medium. Two or more devices were either connected directly to each other, or they were all connected to a central hub device that managed the connections between them.
These days wired connections are still in use and their data transmission efficiency has improved a lot. However, they still have one major disadvantage which is that they still have a wire tethering them to whatever device or hub they are connected to and this limits the distance between devices or the number of devices that can be connected together. This is especially a problem when it comes to consumer devices. Imagine if your smartphone had to be connected via a cable to whatever cell tower you’re receiving your internet and voice communications from, or that you needed to connect a cable to your laptop every single time you wanted to use the internet.
This is one of the reasons why wireless communications have become so ubiquitous in the modern world. The convenience they bring cannot be understated, especially with regard to ease of setup and communication. Most wireless communication standards may not be as fast or as reliable as wired communication media, but they are fast and consistent enough that most customers are willing to put up with the tradeoffs in speed for the convenience that wireless communications provide.
So, while having your smartphone connect wirelessly to the internet is all good, what happens when you have other devices in your home that you also need to connect to the internet but they can’t make use of a SIM card from your mobile telecom service provider? Well, that’s what we are here to figure out?
What is a Wireless Network?
A wireless network is essentially a computer network that makes use of wireless radio signals to transmit data between the various nodes of the network. There are several different types of wireless networks that differ based on the scale of the network, the topology and the types of wireless signals being used to transmit data but today we will be looking at one of the simpler types which is the wireless local area network or WLAN.
WLAN uses a wireless distribution to connect two or more wireless devices over a relatively short distance. In WLANs there is usually a central device called an access point which is responsible for transmitting and receiving data to and from all the wireless devices connected to it. There are some types of WLANs where the wireless devices don’t require the presence of an access point to route the signals between devices but rather communicate directly with each other. These are called ad-hoc wireless local area networks, but we will be considering the access point based systems in this scenario.
Getting Started: Your Internet Source
Since our initial scenario revealed the need to have these other wireless devices connect to the internet, then the first order of business will be selecting an internet service provider (ISP). Your choice of ISP will be determined by factors such as the quality of their network coverage in your area, the cost of their internet subscription services as compared to the allocated bandwidth and data usage limits. Another thing to consider is what type of last mile connection do they have in your location. This will determine whether you will receive a wired modem or a wireless one.
The setup and installation of the modem will be handled by your ISP after you’ve satisfied all the requirements to subscribe to their service. What you should take note of is the ports at the back of the modem. While the number and type of ports vary depending on the make and model of the modem, there is almost always one port labelled Ethernet. That’s the port that will connect your modem with the next device in your wireless network setup.
The Wireless Router
This is another important piece of the WLAN puzzle. Your typical wireless router performs two major functions: One is that it serves as an access point. This means that it will create the local area network and then project the wireless signal that other wireless devices within its broadcast range can detect and use to connect to it, thus establishing a wireless network. Its second purpose is routing or directing network traffic between different computer networks. In this case, it will forward and control movement of data packets between your local network and the internet.
For your wireless network you will need a router that will perform adequately and not fail under load. Here are a number of factors to consider when shopping for a wireless router:
- The range of the wireless signal. Having an idea of how big your place is will help you determine what range will be suitable for you.
- The wireless data standards. These are usually specified using the numbers 802.11 followed by one or more alphabets. Without going into too much detail about what this means, the least you should consider would be labelled 802.11ac. This particular wi-fi standard supports dual bands (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz) and higher speeds (up to 1Gbps).
- The ethernet port. It should at least support gigabit ethernet speeds, sometimes labelled as 10/100/1000. This way, your wireless router won’t serve as a bottleneck if your ISP supplies high speed internet to your home or office.
- Additional ports for ethernet and USB. While these are not necessary for your wireless network, they are nice to have in case you decide to expand your network in the future and add wired devices or portable storage devices.
- You can check the availability of all these features from the packaging of your modem and when you finally make a choice, your next step will be to connect everything and then configure your devices.
First thing’s first, make sure you position your wireless router somewhere centrally and not blocked by too many walls. Included in the box with your router is usually an ethernet cable. Plug one end of this into the port at the back of your router labelled WAN or Uplink and plug the other end into the Ethernet port at the back of your modem. Then power on both devices.
Next, you will need another ethernet cable to connect from one of the LAN ports at the back of the wireless router to a computer that also has an ethernet port. If the connection is successful, you should see the lights on the connected LAN port at the back of router blinking. On the connected computer, open up your web browser and type in the router’s default IP address. Now you can find this information contained in the manual that comes with the router or sometimes on a sticker on the body of the router and it is usually in the format 192.168.0.1. If typed in correctly, you will be taken to the router’s administration panel and asked to enter a username and password which will also be contained in the manual or on the router’s sticker.
After logging in, depending on the router model, you will either be asked to change the default username and password, or proceed to a setup wizard that will help you configure your wireless network. If none of these options are presented to you, then look around the interface for a menu option labelled Quick Setup or Setup Wizard. For the setup wizard the important details to provide are as follows:
- WAN Connection Type/Internet Source. Usually the router will have an option to auto detect the connection type but, in the event that it doesn’t, go with the default option. Sometimes you may even have received some configuration details for your router in the form of an IP address, a subnet mask and a default gateway. In this case you will need to choose the Static IP/Manual option and enter this information into the space provided.
- Wireless Network Name (SSID): This is the name of the wireless network that will be broadcast by the router and what you will see on your wireless devices when you want to connect to the network. Choose a name that will be easily recognizable.
- Wireless Security Type. This setting will determine the strength of the encryption used for your wi-fi password and how easy it will be to break into your network. In the interest of safety, go with WPA2-PSK (or just WPA2) which is usually the strongest option available on these devices.
- The Wireless Network Password, whose length and complexity will be determined by the wireless security type you choose. You should follow all the usual best practices for choosing passwords here but make sure it is something you will remember.
All the other setting can be left at their default values and when you’re done, click Apply/Ok/Finish to save and apply the new configuration settings to your router. This will cause it to reboot and you can disconnect the cable from your computer to the router. By the time the reboot process is completed, you’re ready to go. From whatever wireless device within range of the router, you should be able to detect the signal it’s broadcasting with the SSID you chose earlier and connect to it using the password you specified.
If everything was done correctly, then now you can enjoy wireless internet on all your compatible devices. This includes your PC, Smart TVs, wireless printers, tablets and smartphones, plus any smart home equipment you may have. And beyond just connecting to the internet, these devices should also be able to communicate among themselves.
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