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Wireless Network Equipment

Wireless Network Hardware

The network hardware used in wireless computer networks performs the same functions as the equipment used in wired networks: it connects the computers and other hardware to a common network. Network adapters, hubs, and routers are used in wireless networks, just as in wired networks. In addition, special devices—access points and bridges—are used for wireless data transmission over various distances.

Network Adapters

A wireless adapter is a unique interface designed for hardware devices—computers, servers, printers and scanners. Hardware devices communicate with each other in the computer network using the network adapters. Each hardware device needs its own wireless network adapter to connect to a wireless network. Hardware devices with wireless network adapters can communicate directly with each other provided that they are within the operating range of the network adapters. Such communications is called “ad hoc” or “peer-to-peer” networking. For example, three network adapters (one for each device) are needed for two computers and a printer to communicate in an ad hoc network. An ad hoc network is the simplest and least expensive network for small home networks and networks in small companies. Network adapters are divided into internal adapters (also called "wireless network cards" since they are built into the hardware device or inserted into an internal port in the hardware device) and external adapters (connected to an external port on the hardware device).

Access Points

Wireless access points are used for networks consisting of a large number of computers, and where the capacity or operating range of a network must be expanded. An access point in a wireless network performs the same function as a telephone exchange or switchboard in a telephone network. Just as telephone exchanges or switchboards are used to connect distant telephones, the access points are the wireless communications nodes for the hardware devices in the computer network. The hardware devices equipped with network adapters establish communications with the access point, and can communicate and exchange data with other devices in the network via this access point. A network configuration in which devices communicate with each other through an access point is called an “infrastructure mode”. The use of several access points makes it possible to significantly expand the operating radius of an office network where hardware devices are located on different floors of a building or in different buildings on the company premises. Access points can also be used as routers to create hybrid networks where wireless networks connect to existing wired LANs or to the Internet.


So-called “bridges” are used where two or more remote sites need a wireless connection to each other. At least two access points equipped with antennas pointed at each other are needed to create a bridge. For example, a bridge may be needed if independent LANs located at geographically remote offices of a company need to be connected. A bridge is also needed to connect networks in different buildings on the company premises. Like highway or railway bridges, wireless bridges may be single-span or multispan bridges. Access points operating in repeater mode to relay the signal from adjacent access points are used to support bridges for long-range communications and to connect individual segments in multispan bridges.


Access points equipped with powerful directional antennas that significantly increase the operating range of the radio signal are used to create bridges. The antennas differ in directivity, gain, radio signal frequency supported, shape, and design.

More information:

     Wireless Technology
     Wireless Standards
     Network Equipment

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