Wireless Networking Introduction, Page 2: WiFi Functions and Devices

When you go shopping for WiFi equipment, you'll need to know more than just the names and advantages of the popular 802.11b, g, and n protocols. You'll encounter several important new terms related to WiFi functions and features. In particular, you'll find it very helpful to know what is meant by these six functions:

  1. Internet Service Provider or "ISP"
  2. Broadband Modem
  3. Router
  4. Ethernet Switch
  5. Wireless Access Point
  6. Wireless Network Adapter

Each of those functional terms is described in the first video clip below, so you'll know exactly what is meant when you are confronted by salespeople, technical documentation, or promotional propoganda in which each is found. Back in the "early" days of wireless networking, it was commonplace for manufacturers to produce and sell simple, single-function devices implementing each of those functions, which made it necessary for consumers to purchase and interconnect several distinct WiFi-related boxes in their homes or small offices before they could access the Internet. It's useful to think about those simple, single-function devices at the beginning of our introductory studies, so the second brief clip below shows what they look like and how they might be interconnected.

Nowadays, it's commonplace to combine 2, 3, or 4 of those functions into a single box. That's convenient, because it becomes unnecessary to purchase and wire so many distinct electronic devices. However, it's possible to end up with redundant, overlapping, or conflicting functional combinations unless you understand the various options as they are described in the third clip below.

If you're already familiar with the way your broadband modem interacts with your router, ethernet switch, and wireless access point, you can just skip ahead to the next section by pressing the "NEXT" button at the bottom of this page. Otherwise, watch these brief clips in order (left to right):


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