Home Networking Guide : Wireless LAN

802.11b supports data rate of up to 11 Mbps. It operates in the ISM band of 2.4 GHz. 802.11a and 802.11g can achieve data rate of up to 54 Mbps. 802.11a operates in the UNII band of 5 GHz while 802.11g in the ISM band. Since 802.11b/g operate in a more crowded ISM band, both have more possible sources of interference than 802.11a, i.e. from Bluetooth devices, cordless phones, microwave oven, door openers, baby monitor, and neighboring Wi-Fi networks that can slow the connection. The latest revision of the IEEE 802.11, i.e. 802.11n which is still a draft specification, promises to boost data rate to over 100 Mbps and this technology is now integrated into pre-n or draft-n wireless adapters, access points, and routers. All wireless LAN versions are distance-sensitive, meaning the farther a computer or a device from a Wi-Fi access point, the slower its data rate. To address this limitation, many vendors offer a range extender (repeater) to extend the reach of a wireless LAN to cover a wider area.

When planning a wireless LAN for your home, you must take into consideration signal degradation caused by physical obstacles like walls and floors, distance from the access point, and interference from other wireless equipment working in the same frequency band. It is a good practice to place the access point at the center of your planned coverage and keep it at a distance from solid barriers (especially those made of metal or other conductive materials and concrete). If your best location for the access point placement has no access to a nearby power outlet, you can get the power from an additional device known as a PoE (Power over Ethernet) adapter. PoE adapter kit is now available for networking devices with or without inline power capability.

If your planned coverage can't be covered by a single access point, you may consider installing a repeater (range expander) near the wireless access point coverage edge. Or you may build a wired network (i.e. preferably Ethernet, alternatively HomePlug or HomePNA) as the backbone and install several access points throughout the house.

To protect your privacy, data security and integrity in your home Wi-Fi network, you must enable a type of data encryption, i.e. WEP, WPA, and WPA2. WPA and WPA2 are more secure than WEP, but using WEP is better than leaving your network without encryption. Even though WEP is more vulnerable to attack, most users don't have the tools to crack your WEP-shielded network. However, if your hardware supports WPA/WPA2, then enabling WPA/WPA2 in your wireless home network is recommended to stay safe from a passer-by or a neighbor who sniffs your home network and attempts to steal your passwords or piggyback your Internet connection.

Newer Wi-Fi equipment that follows IEEE 802.11e standard or has been WMM certified supports QoS to guarantee the delivery of quality audio and video over a Wi-Fi network. Using this type of hardware, you can expect a better experience when running real-time and multimedia applications, such as VoIP, music/movie streaming, and interactive Internet multiplayer game.

What Do I Need?
1. Wi-Fi access point (802.11 a/b/g/n) or wireless router.
2. Wi-Fi adapter (802.11 a/b/g/n), one for each computer or device.

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