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Support - Introduction to Wireless Networking

<< Support Index
This is an overview for people new to wireless networking. It provides some basic information but you can find out much more by looking at our FAQs and then the rest of our Support pages.
    There are 6 popular applications for wireless networking equipment at the time of writing (February 2007) and doubtless more will emerge in the next few years.
    1.   to replace, supplement, or start-from-scratch, e.g. an office or home network
      An Access Point plugs into a local area network network through a Cat5 connection and broadcasts the network data by radio into the local area. Computers connect to the Access Point by radio using
        PC a PCI card with an antenna
        PC an ethernet client radio
        PC a USB radio or dongle, usually with a built-in antenna
        Laptop a PCMCIA card with a built-in antenna
        Laptop a built-in wireless card and antenna
      Inside a building the Access Point typically transmits over a distance of 50-80 metres, depending on the building construction andhow good the pair of little 2dBi antenna screwed on the back are.
    2.   to link buildings together on a network e.g. two offices in nearby, or distant, buildings
      Using wireless eliminates the need for leased lines between buildings. Two access points are used, one at each end, set up in Bridge Mode, with external antenna. Line of sight between antennae is very important. 11 Mb/s is the default rate using a standard known as 802.11b, with 54 Mb/s available using 80211g. and 802.11a. (The 802.x numbers are standards laid down about how the systems work.)
    3.   to link rural areas together (e.g. providing broadband to a rural community)
      An DSL feed provides web connectivity to a wireless router. An external antenna is attached to the router and mounted so that the web connection can be radiated by wireless to anyone with a radio to receive it, and connected to their own PC. The radio in the end-user's property is called a CPE, or Customer Premises Equipment.

Sometimes the DSL feed is brought in using wireless as well ('backhaul'), for local onward redistribution by wireless.
    4.  to provide a ‘Hotspot’
      An Access Point is connected to an incoming SDL line and an antenna radiates the signal into a very local area such as a coffee shop, railway station or other public building so that members of the public may access the web through the access point, usually in exchange for a small fee.
    5.  to provide VOIP facilities
      Similar to a Hotspot, with the emphasis on enabling users of VOIP phones to make calls via a local access point.
    6.  to provide surveillance via CCTV cameras
      IP CCTV cameras are connected directly to 80211.n radios which then talk wirelessly back to a central location – or can be viewed from any computer connected to the web, anywhere in the world.
    Wireless equipment for use in wireless networking is widely available and costs from a few tens of pounds to thousands of pounds. Quite basic and perfectly adequate equipment, with some knowledge and careful planning, can be made to achieve links over many kilometres robustly and with good data throughput.
    There are two frequency bands allocated for use by by wireless networking systems in Europe and the same frequency ranges are used worldwide, albeit with some variations on different continents.

2.4 GHz systems are unlicensed in the UK while 5.8 GHz systems (Band C fixed wireless) need a ‘light touch’ inexpensive Licence from Ofcom.

In the UK the transmission power of a system must not exceed 20 dBm and exceeding the limit is a criminal offence. In the US and Australia the limits are higher.


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MS (Distribution) UK Ltd. is a United Kingdom based RF Hardware and Wireless Distributor. Est. 2002
Registered in England and Wales (Company no: 4455490 - VAT Reg: GB 784144711)