How WLAN works

The first example of the WLAN wireless local area network was used by Norman Abrahamson during his professorship at the University of Hawaii. He used ham-radio signals to connect four computers on four of the islands using only the radio waves. Wireless Internet is achieved by using the unlicensed portions of radio waves set aside for Scientific and Medical purposes that are located between 902 and 928, 2400 and 2483.5, and 5725 and 5850 MHz’s. Although these signals are unlicensed they are also the same waves that microwaves and telephones utilize.

Accessing the Internet with WLAN

While cell phones use towers to receive their signals, a computer needs a base or router to act as an access point—receives the Internet signal from a server. The first of these bases needed external antennae to counter the effects of other signal interference but with advancements, it has been possible for the wireless user to pick up signals in public locations such as office buildings, hotels, and even hospitals. Desktops use routers that have a MAC (Media Access Control) code —found on the bottom of the router along with the serial number and the WEP Wired Equivalent Privacy number—that is typed into the computer’s connection information to allow for wireless connection. WEP is a portion of the security used by the router to protect the user’s privacy.

Security Flaws

As with many other systems used initially on computers, WEP was easily broken and most systems now use WPA or WPA2 (WiFi Protected Access) or some other security system to ensure privacy for wireless users.

IEEE 802.11

The IEEE that is seen on most computers in association with the wireless system stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and 802.11 (with either a b or another letter of the alphabet) are the eleven channels on which wireless Internet is able to transmit and communicate. Most new computers are equipped with wireless cards when purchased; however, there are wireless setups that can connect through the USB port on a computer. These are easily installed and can be ready in just a few minutes.