The unbelievably rapid advancement of wireless technology brings revolutionary changes to our lives. The wireless network allows you to access information in real time and stay connected via smartphones at all hours. The Internet plays an important role in today’s highly connected world where communication and information exchange is basically accomplished online. Thanks to the Internet, you can keep updated on the latest news with a just few taps on your smartphone, have a video conference or Zoom meeting via a laptop and watch live shows on your tablet. WiFi technology is all about improving performance: cloud-based applications allow work to be done from virtually anywhere, WiFi-based surveillance systems allow the cameras to be streamed remotely to the control center, and smart light bulbs that are built with WiFi capabilities allow users to control and monitor lighting through mobile devices in any location as long as with an Internet connection.
Surely, the importance of WiFi can never be underestimated. Wireless technology has brought us tons of benefits to make our lives quicker, safer and more enjoyable than ever before. It has revolutionized the way we live, the way we talk, and most importantly the way we connect with other parts of the world. Moreover, with the development of technology, WiFi products have become more and more affordable for average users to optimize their network performance within minutes. Now, WiFi has become an inseparable part of our everyday life. You open the WiFi settings in your phone, enter the SSID and passwords, and boom: you’re connected. Connecting to the Internet seems simple, but is it really that easy? The thing is WiFi will not pop up from nowhere! It has to be generated and broadcast by a network modem. We’ve been taking advantage of wireless technology for decades, but we never had a clear idea of what it is? So before we go straight to today’s topic, let’s have a quick rundown of its basics.
What is WiFi?
WiFi is a wireless networking technology that uses a radio frequency signal instead of wires to allow devices such as computers, mobile devices and other network equipment to connect to the Internet and each other. The radio signal will be translated into data that your smartphone and laptop can understand and use. It allows the network devices to exchange information with one another, creating a local network. WiFi gives you more freedom and mobility to access the Internet from basically anywhere around the world as long as you’re within its transmission range. It frees you from the trouble of installing wired connections in different locations for Internet connectivity. You can move your devices around without a direct wired connection. But since the signals are broadcast wirelessly, it’s inherently more susceptible to interference than their wired counterpart.
• A clear line of sight is crucial for wireless networks.
Wireless signals can be easily impeded by physical obstructions like walls, doors and foliage, so a clear line of sight between the source and destination to direct the incoming and outgoing traffic in a more efficient way and allow the connected device to work at its full throughput, which is especially true for less urban areas. And LoS can be mainly subdivided into three categories: Full LoS (no obstacles between two transceivers), Near LoS (partial obstruction present, such as treetops) and Non-LoS (full of obstructions in between). WiFi signals will radically deteriorate when penetrating through any type of obstruction. Light waves and radio signals will get reflected off solid objects in their path, which will result in poor signal strength and even cut off the bridge link. For example, obstructions like trees, nearby buildings, or other landscape features that may partially or fully block the line of sight will jeopardize its network performance.
How WiFi Works?
The basic requirement of a wireless network is a network modem, often a router, to transmit and received the wireless signals. The router receives the Internet connection from an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and rebroadcasts it wirelessly through radios and airwaves to WiFi-enabled devices like your smartphone, tablet and computer. Similarly, a smartphone can also be set up as a WiFi hotspot to share its wireless connectivity to other devices, like another smartphone. The radios used for WiFi communication very much assemble those for walkie-talkies and cell phones. Wireless signals are usually transmitted at the frequencies of 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz (WiFi 6E can operate at 6Ghz channels), which are higher than those of cell phones to allow the signal to carry more data at a time. But because devices can communicate with each other over airwaves, your devices and personal data will become more vulnerable to cyber-threats and phishing attacks, which is especially true when you connect to a public network.
WiFi technology is governed by the 802.11 wireless standards which were first ratified in 1997. These standards may differ in terms of speeds, transmission ranges and frequencies used, but in actual implementation they are similar. The original version of 802.11 standards only supported a maximum data throughput of 1-2 megabits per second, which is far from enough for most applications, but the High Efficiency WLAN 802.11ax, also known as WiFi 6, maxes out at 10Gbps to deliver better network performance at crowded areas (To know more about WiFi 6 networks, please continue to read All You Need to Know to Build WiFi 6 Network with Access Points). And here, we’ve summarized a list of the previous wireless standards outlined from oldest to newest:
How to Get WiFi at Home?
As previously mentioned, a network modem is required to generate the Internet connection for WiFi-enabled devices. The modem’s job is to bring Internet service to your home, and the rest is taken over by the router, but is it the only available choice to get Internet? Is it the perfect choice for your home layout? A wide variety of network devices, such as wireless access points and wireless bridges, have also been developed and introduced to offer wireless connectivity for the average household and cover expanded areas where wires are unavailable. But the question is: which one is best for your home?
What is the WiFi Router?
WiFi routers can be found everywhere; they’re an inseparable part of our daily life. They can transfer data wirelessly or through a wired connection to intelligent devices. A router usually serves two functions: 1) provide Internet access to all compatible networking devices; 2) set up a local area network (LAN) where only authorized access is permitted. It’s often connected to a network modem through an Ethernet cable and enables all the devices within its range to connect to it. The WiFi router normally uses the radio frequencies of 900Mhz, 2.4Ghz, 5Ghz, 3.6Ghz and 10Ghz bands to provide Internet access for your smartphone, computer or other Internet-connected appliances. In addition to serving as a platform where different devices can communicate with each other, routers also have a firewall and password protection feature to protect themselves and connected devices from hackers.
What is the Wireless Access Point?
The wireless access point is a network portal where multiple other devices can connect to it to the local network. In most cases, it’s connected to the router by a wired connection (some models can be connected wirelessly), transforms the wired signals to the wireless ones, and then broadcasts them to the WiFi devices. But it can serve many other practical purposes. It can be used to extend the WiFi coverage of an existing network and cover the dead spots of one’s property. The access point works very similarly like an amplifier but not just extending WiFi. It takes the bandwidth from the router and projects the signals to the designated area, to an extended distance.
Powerline adapters are a type of wireless access point that allows you to transmit the signals through the standard power outlets in your home. It’s a cost-effective way if you just want to extend WiFi coverage to one particular room. It provides instant internet access to hard-to-reach rooms as long as you have a power outlet available on the wall. More frequently, the access points are used in the mesh system, where they all belong to a single wireless network and share the same SSID and password, so you can easily access one of these wireless stations without the need to switch between different SSIDs. It’s a good option for homes with multiple floors or a spread-out layout. Signal issues can be easily addressed by installing multiple mesh nodes in different rooms.
What is the Wireless Bridge?
Wireless bridging is a technology developed to extend the network connectivity via infrared or microwave transmission between physically isolated locations where cable connection is not viable. The wireless network bridge joins different segments of networks together over a wireless channel by enabling two access points to connect to each other over long distances using their radios. By deploying the wireless network bridge, you can cover a larger physical area with higher throughput to build a point-to-point (P2P) or point-to-multipoint (P2MP) connection between cross-building offices, neighboring districts, and nearby towns. Wireless bridges are very similar to access points but they are designed to serve different purposes. The central difference between the two devices is their functionality. The wireless bridge is designed to integrate two divided networks through a radio link to facilitate data sharing, while the access point connects multiple wireless devices with a router to provide Internet access to devices that are out of the transmission range of the router. Simply put, the access point acts as the extender of a WiFi network, and some wireless APs can even provide the functionality of the wireless bridges to connect two network clusters.
450Mbps Outdoor Wireless CPE
450Mbps Outdoor Wireless CPE is a useful tool to extend your current network range for improving signal strength and coverage. It offers a better network performance in long-range applications to power network devices like IP cameras, VoIP phones and remote printers, without additional network cabling. The wireless bridge is equipped with a Gigabit PoE port and 1*10/100Mbps LAN port, so you can connect 2 devices at once. It comes with the next-generation WiFi standard of 802.11ac and runs flawlessly at 450Mbps at an extended range of 1km. Covered in the IP65-rated enclosure, this wireless CPE can perform well in any harsh, outdoor environment. It features a plug-and-play design so you can match the channel of the Master and Slave APs easily and set them up within minutes.
5GHz 802.11ac Outdoor Wireless Bridge
This wireless bridge is an excellent solution to extend WiFi network coverage. It’s designed to work with 5Ghz networks and comes with a superb network speed of 900Mbps and excellent coverage of up to 3km to help set up multiple IP cameras over long distances. Similarly, this device is equipped with a Gigabit PoE port and 1*10/100Mbps LAN port. It offers a clean and smooth connection Since it’s made for outdoor applications, this entire unit is weather-sealed, covered in a casing of IP65 ratings, ideal for applications in outdoor and harsh environments like parking lots, highways, and oil pipelines, or other combustible places. This wireless network bridge supports encryption modes like WEP, WPA, TKIP/AES and IEEE802.1x.) and has an invisible SSID to avoid any direct tempering on the device.
Wireless Bridges Deliver Better Connection in Large-Scale Networks
1) Wireless bridges deliver better performance over long distances.
By deploying the wireless network bridge, you can cover a larger physical area at a greater distance and higher throughput. It helps further the extension of physical networks without running any wires, saving time and installation costs. And the wireless network also makes it easier to modify the network for future expansion. It ensures the optimal performance of the network segments and reduces bandwidth waste by preventing unnecessary data flows between the networks considering the radio signals can be broadcast in a 360-degree pattern. Moreover, the network reliability is higher in the wireless network bridge, and it’s relatively easier to maintain and troubleshoot.
2) Wireless bridges increase WiFi coverage by congregating network segments.
It helps increase the network length without installing any hardware equipment. By deploying the network bridge, you can take advantage of the existing network and broadcast the radio signals further to the job site by congregating the network segments together, so you will never bother to create a new IP subnet. The function of the network bridge is not only limited to network expansion, it also helps intensify the signal strength in long-range applications, so you can assign tasks from one part of the network to the other effortlessly.
3) Wireless bridges reduce network traffic and collisions by network subdivision.
In network bridging, the communication between two APs is mostly point-to-point, so you can create an exclusive wireless channel between two endpoints that only authorized devices can access to reduce the traffic passing through the bridges. In the meantime, the wireless network bridges won’t be easily interfered with by other wavelengths so crosstalk will be highly reduced. Additionally, network collisions can be greatly minimized by segmentation. When we bridge a connection and divide our network into two segments, bandwidth waste can be efficiently reduced and more bandwidth will be forwarded to the edge devices as fewer nodes are connected on the same LAN.
Routers VS. WiFi APs VS. Wireless Bridge: Any Differences?
A WiFi router that runs on 2.4Ghz can reach up to 45 meters indoors (obstructions like walls will block the signals) and 90 meters outdoors (in a clear line of sight), while a router that operates on 5Ghz usually has a shorter effective range (the higher the data rate, the shorter distance covered). The newer 802.3ac router that supports both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz can reach a greater distance of up to 180 meters. But if you want whole-home coverage, the router is definitely not your first choice. Even though you can set up multiple routers in different rooms, you have to install new network sockets and new wires since most routers receive WiFi connectivity through a wired Ethernet connection, which will genuinely cost more. And considering different structural layouts, the transmission range can also be reduced if there are multiple walls or other physical obstructions between the router and the attached devices. The wireless access point, however, can provide a greater range of WiFi coverage of up to 100-300 square meters and make sure all network clients on your environment will receive a strong wireless signal. But if you are 40 meters away from the access point, you’ll never experience an outstanding WiFi experience since the network speed will slow down over distances. Moreover, the distance maximum between 2 wireless APs should be no more than 20 meters, or you’ll also experience severe signal attenuation over time. For long-distance deployments, it’s highly recommended to use a pair of wireless bridges. Most wireless bridges offer a range of 2 miles, 3 miles and even 5 miles for extended WiFi coverage.
Connection and Power Options
Though three of these devices can broadcast the signals wirelessly to the attached devices, most WiFi routers need a wired Ethernet connection. It needs to be connected to a network modem or socket via an Ethernet cable to get Internet access, but it can offer WiFi signals for devices directly. Normally, the WiFi router only accepts AC/DC currents, so you’ll need to install it in places where there’s a power source available. On the other hand, the wireless access point cannot be connected to a modem directly, and it must use the router as an intermediary device for Internet connection, but the data communication among the APs are basically wireless (you can also connect them together with cables for ‘Ethernet backhaul’). Similarly, the wireless AP can be powered by AC/DC, but for models that only come with a PoE interface, you can also choose to power it with a PoE injector. Additionally, it be can also be connected to a PoE switch where power and data will be transmitted simultaneously to the connected PD via the same network cable. In wireless bridging, you can need to provide data and power to the Master AP, while the Slave AP only needs the power. You can power the former with AC/DC power and the latter with PoE.
The WiFi router can work as a network hub, an Ethernet switch to create a local network and control all the devices and their communication with the router and manage the data packets that are forwarded, while the wireless access point only provides access to an established network. Some wireless routers can function as an access point to expand the WiFi coverage across a larger area and allow more users to get joined in the network via a built-in access point. It establishes a wireless point of connection, distributes and dispatches data to multiple locations in a 360-degree pattern and communicates with a wider network area. You can easily configure the WiFi settings and connection properties of your router on a laptop to create a guest network, set up parental controls, manage attached devices and improve its security levels via a basic protective firewall. However, the wireless AP is not necessarily built with such functionalities. The main function of the wireless network bridge is to bridge the gap between two physically-isolated networks within the same domain, while the router works in more than a single broadcast domain. Bridge traffic is non-routable, and the connection between two units are basically point-to-point, meaning data can only be forwarded inside the joined network. And the main difference between a bridge and an AP is that it congregates the network segments together while the wireless AP connects users to a network by creating a wireless signal they can use.
WiFi routers, wireless access points and wireless bridges are made for specific purposes and applications. The WiFi router normally serves for residential purposes to cover a medium-sized house or property, while the AP is more suitable for enterprise uses. It can be applied in multi-level architectures, SMBs and organizations, added in locations that have bad network conditions to eliminate dead spots, extend the coverage, and support the increasing demands as your business grows. The wireless bridge, however, is ideal for long-distance deployments, particularly in the surveillance systems where the IP cameras have to be installed miles away from the control room. It can be used to bridge the networks between two buildings, nearby districts, etc.