Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) is used by just about anyone using a wireless communication device such as a Smartphone, laptop, or tablet computer. The casual consumer refers to “Wi-Fi” or hotspots as places outside of the home where they will be able to use their equipment to access the Internet, check email, or connect to the hundreds of thousands of apps available without having to be hard-wired into an access point. Within the home, these devices are freely used while roaming from room to room without being connected through cables.
Homes and businesses typically use a router, or some other base station device allowing this mobility by accessing radio signals through the airwaves. Being hardwired or connected to the Ethernet using a cable plugged in to the point of entry established by one’s internet provider, the station interprets the data that the air wave radio signal is emitting based on the 802.11 protocol.
The 802.11 is a standard that was developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. There are many amendments to this protocol which is why consumers frequently see a letter following the digits, such as 802.11b or 802.11g. The amendments have allowed adjustments to the 802.11 by allowing faster and larger data transmission capability; security enhancements such as the WEP or WPA data encryption; ability to access international signals; traffic control mechanisms to reduce overlap of frequencies; and methods for devices to discover the 802.11 which is available where it is located.
There are hundreds of amendments to the 802.11 in addition to the ones mentioned. The average consumer does not realize how many amendments to the standard of protocol are being used simultaneously with each method of data access and transmission one initiates. If a wireless phone headset mechanism is used with a laptop that also uses a wireless mouse, several amendments to 802.11 are being employed as one is needed to access the IP provider; another to send signal from the device wireless card to the mouse and headset; and even another to connect a phone call to the cell phone signal proprietary to the users particular carrier.
Updates continually have to be added, adjusted, and sometimes deleted to keep up with the growing need for rapid wireless data transmission in a global sense. For instance, the average consumer is aware of Subscriber Identification Modules or SIM cards. This identifies the device, the country of origin as it is programmed to access the 802.11 protocol of that region, and the customer’s personal and account information. Security amendments are constantly reviewed to prevent identity theft as unlocking these codes is becoming more common.
The 802.11 standard is continually being modified so that cities, college campuses, and larger areas with a specific population of users or members have priority when accessing a local area network. With so many channels running through the air, it is easy for signals to overlap, and thus, cause traffic jams from users over- accessing, heavy data transmission at a point in time, or confusion between wireless devices and the signals they are emitting to grab 802.11.