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Beginners Guides: Wireless Home Networking

Beginners Guides: Wireless Home Networking - PCSTATS
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Abstract: This article will cover purchasing and setting up home wireless equipment, look at the available standards for wireless networking, and cover some basic security guidelines.
Filed under: Beginners Guides Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: PCSTATS Jul 29 2007   Mike Dowler  
Home > Reviews > Beginners Guides > PCSTATS

Current 802.11 Wireless Standards

The standard most used goes by 802.11b, and it uses the 2.4GHz radio spectrum to transmit data at a maximum rate of 11Mbps. Actual data transfer rates tend to be around 4-6Mbps. Realistic range for 802.11b devices in an urban environment is between 70 and 150 feet.

Although no where near as fast as wired 100Mbps Ethernet, 802.11b still has more than enough bandwidth to enable high-speed internet access, games and small to medium size file transfers, and is currently the best choice for a home network.

802.11b's one major disadvantage is in the way it handles the channels it uses to connect devices within the 2.4GHz spectrum. The standard allows for a maximum of only three distinct channels, manually configured on the access point. Each access point will use one channel at a time to service all clients, sharing the bandwidth between them.

Problems arise with this when you have more than three wireless access-points within each other's range. When multiple access points are attempting to service clients using the same channels, considerable signal interference will occur. As wireless networks become more common, this issue will become a more pressing problem. 802.11B networks are also subject to some interference from common electronic devices such as cordless phones and microwaves, which may use the 2.4GHz spectrum.

802.11a uses the 5GHz radio spectrum, and is capable of transfer rates up to a maximum of 54Mbps, though some manufacturers have improved on this using proprietary modes. Range is about equal to that of 802.11b.

The major advantage of 802.11a is in how it handles signaling. Besides the fact that is uses the 5GHz spectrum, and is thus not subject to interference by the variety of common electronic devices which share the 2.4GHz range. It also has 8 distinct channels available, compared to the 3 that 802.11b can use. This makes configuring large wireless networks much easier.

Drawbacks to 802.11a are threefold; first it is not directly compatible with 802.11b devices so you would need to have separate access-points for each standard with a network switch in between in order to allow devices with the different standards to communicate. Two, availability is limited, compared to 802.11b devices at least. Three, 802.11a devices are intended for business use, and as such tend to be priced at a premium.

802.11g is another officially accepted standard, and a sort of a hybrid of A and B, at least in terms of its feature set. It is capable of 54Mbps, but on the 2.4 GHz spectrum.

It is completely compatible with 802.11b devices (using 802.11b's default 11Mbps speed, of course), but has better channel availability than that standard. 802.11g devices have gradually replaced 802.11b since it is interoperable with both a/b standards and offers better data throughput. All in all, 802.11g is the way to go.

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Contents of Article: PCSTATS
 Pg 1.  Beginners Guides: Wireless Home Networking
 Pg 2.  Selecting the Right Wireless Networking Gear
 Pg 3.  — Current 802.11 Wireless Standards
 Pg 4.  Setting up A Wireless Network
 Pg 5.  Securing A Wireless Network

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