A wireless local area network (or LAN) is a data connection which uses radio waves rather than physical Ethernet cables to connect a network together. It enables any devices connected to the LAN to freely roam within the area of the wireless broadcast, making it ideal for use with laptops or mobile devices. There are a few types of wireless LAN configurations available.
Private Wireless LANs
This is the most common area to see a wireless LAN. Home WLANs are meant to be used for small areas, usually with up to a 200-foot radius, and as such are suitable for homes or small businesses. The private WLAN subscribes to the 802.11 technology standard for wireless networking, with the most common being the 802.11b standard, often referred to as Wi-Fi.
Private WLANS will frequently be based around a single router/access point which will connect to the Internet and then allow computer terminals to share the network. Any device compatible with 802.11 will be able to connect to a private WLAN.
Wide Area WLAN
These types of WLAN work in the same way as a private WLAN, however they offer a much further reach in terms of access to the network: up to a 10-mile radius. The technology still uses an 802.11 connection, but to transmit a wider radius more powerful antennas and transceivers are used.
This type of WLAN is useful for connecting a network over a long distance, over a large industrial estate for example, where a wired network would be costly and unfeasible.
A business network is an expansion of the private WLAN in terms of technology, except that this network will use multiple access points rather than one. All of the access points will connect to a central "hub" which splits the connection into multiple streams, creating a signal which can cover many different areas. The user will only connect to one network but will have access to all of the connected access points.
This WLAN is an expansion on the business WLAN. It covers a much larger area and is found within governmental, academic or large corporate organizations that need to share a network over multiple locations. The network is controlled by a central computer, and the access points all connect wirelessly to this computer. Changes can be made to each access point from this central computer, and this setup makes it easy for the network to be changed from one central location rather than multiple locations.
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