Wireless the name says it all: Cut the cord. Wireless networking is cable-free, no-strings-attached networking. Most wireless networks send data through radio waves, broadcasting in all directions.
One or two proprietary products use infrared light to send data. Other than infrared links between laptops and PDAs, you will probably never encounter infrared products outside the specialized environments in which they are used, such as for industrial controllers.
If you have never had to run Ethernet cable, then you can rejoice in your good luck and go skipping into the future free of the emotional (and sometimes physical) scars that many of us carry from years of pulling cable through walls or under houses. If, like me, you suffer from Post Traumatic Ethernet Disorder (PTED), then take heart you have pulled your last Cat5 cable. From this point on your computers are going to be free and untethered.
Wireless networks operate in the unlicensed band of the radio spectrum, typically 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz.
You need three things to set up your first wireless network:
- At least two computers
- A wireless network interface adapter (one for each computer)
- A wireless access point (at least one)
Wireless Network Interface Adapters
Like the Ethernet card on a wired network, the wireless network interface adapter translates between your computer and the network. The network interface adapter is frequently called a network interface card, or NIC. Your computer and the network speak different languages, called protocols, and the NIC acts as an interpreter.
Wireless network interface cards come as PC cards, USB adapters, compact flash cards, or PCI/ISA cards. Each computer on your wireless network needs an adapter.
Wireless Access Points:
A wireless access point (AP) connects wireless devices on your network to each other. Every wireless local area network (WLAN) needs at least one AP. An AP is usually the most expensive piece of hardware in a WLAN (other than the PCs, of course). Prices on wireless products have been coming down, with APs currently ranging in price from $80.00 for a bare-bones AP to over $300.00 for an AP with advanced features.