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How Does WiFi Work? Techniques And Basics

To understand how WiFi works, there are a few things to keep in mind when using this technique. First of all, the basic structure of wireless networks is essential for the technology and the functioning of WLAN. There are various ways of setting up and structuring wireless networks: You have different advantages and disadvantages depending on what you do. One possibility, for example, is the peer-to-peer model. There is no access point here, but the radio network consists only of members who organize themselves and communicate with each other. 

In contrast, there is always at least one access point in the so-called infrastructure mode through which communication and organization run. In addition to these two main groups, there are other options and technical refinements. In any case, WLAN is to be regarded as such a radio network as mentioned above and thus offers an efficient radio technology for the transmission of computer data and the like. The standard used for WLAN is the IEEE 802.11 standard and its successor because the criteria have been changed and improved repeatedly since WLAN was created.

So WLAN is a computer network that, in practical terms, replaces the Ethernet cable with a wireless connection. However, working with the computer does not mean any difference from a relationship with an Ethernet cable. For an operating system such as Windows and the programs, it appears with a WLAN connection as if the computer were connected via an Ethernet cable. Since there are now many different technologies in WLAN and because the use of other standards also has an impact, it isn’t easy to make general statements about WLAN. 

One can only emphasize a few similarities and differences between wired networks, which connect all WLAN technologies. This is the following: with WLAN, there is no connection of the network card with a copper cable or similar; the transmission takes place through the air. This results in bandwidth problems with most WLANs because all available stations fight over the available bandwidth. The other problem that arises from the airborne transmission is the problem of security since access is difficult to configure. 

Last but not least, it should be mentioned that, of course, it matters whether the radio waves only go through the air or whether they have to penetrate obstacles. The technical differences between the various WLAN technologies are usually evident to laypersons when they look at the required hardware from different manufacturers. The radio cards for WLAN are the first to be mentioned here. Even if there are now countless manufacturers of such wireless cards, they differ only slightly from a technical point of view. Ultimately, the radio card can even be reduced to almost two chipsets.

The one manufacturer of these chipsets is still Lucent, the pioneer in chipsets for WLAN. Lucent sells the network cards completely as OEM products, which all have a similar shape, even if different companies sell them. These are network types named Lucent, Agere, Artem, Enterasys (Cabletron), Lancom (ELSA), and others. Of course, the names of the cards also change over time, so take this information with a pinch of salt. Anyone who buys an Apple computer with airport cards also uses chip cards from Lucent, but these are not PCMCIA cards. 

The cards cannot be operated outside of an Apple laptop. Also, these cards don’t have internal antennas but instead work with the antennas built into the laptops, improving reception. The second chipset manufacturer is Intersil, a company that also goes back to a WLAN pioneer, Harris Semiconductors. However, Intersil does not manufacture any OEM products. It only supplies the chipsets to a wide variety of companies. That’s why you can’t recognize the cards from Intersil right away, since every company gives its network card its look. 

However, since Intersil and Lucent share the market almost exclusively, it can be said that everything that does not come from Lucent almost certainly comes from Intersil. Well-known examples are Cisco, Siemens and a few others. If you are now wondering which network card you should give preference to, it should be said that the two chipsets differ only slightly in quality. The Lucent cards have low power consumption, while the cards with Intersil chipsets are said to have better reception properties. 

In principle, however, the cards are equivalent and can be used in a compatible manner. The so-called WiFi seal, intended to prove this compatibility, should guarantee this. However, due to increasing manufacturers in the network card sector, the seal is becoming less important, so the seal can only be used to a limited extent. In their interest, however, the manufacturers adhere to specific compatibility rules. Problems can only arise when fine-tuning with drivers, so when in doubt, you should go for the classics that have been on the market for a while. However, these products are often a bit more expensive.


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