Wireless Router Technology

A Wireless Router is a computer networking device that combines a wireless access point (base station), a wired LAN switch and a router with connections to a cable or DSL service. When the router connects to the internet, the wireless access point or base station that is connected to this router buffers and forwards data packets across an internetwork towards their destinations. These destinantions vary from a small number of wired and any number of wireless computers.

The Wireless acess points acts as the hub or central transit point for all the data flowing between the wireless network and wired network. There are as many types of wireless network as there are wireless standards: draft 802.11n, 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g, and Bluetooth. New standards are using MIMO technology nowadays, which allows them to achieve higher performance.[1,2,3]

  1. What is a Router?
  2. What is a Wireless Router?
  3. History
  4. Types of Wireless Networking Standards
  5. Wireless N Router
  6. MIMO
  7. References
  8. See Also
  9. External Links

What is a Router?

Routers are physical devices that join multiple wired or wireless networks together. Technically, a wired or wireless router is a Layer 3 gateway, Routers act as the gateway between your broadband connection (DSL or cable modem) and your home network and the router operates at the network layer of the OSI model.

Networking technicians often use an Internet Protocol (IP) wired or wireless router, IP being the most common OSI network layer protocol. An IP router such as a DSL or cable modem broadband router joins the home's local area network (LAN) to the wide-area network (WAN) of the Internet Service Provider.[1,2]

What is a Wireless Router?

Wireless router is a small electronic device that allows us to build a home and business network in a simple way. The wireless router serves as the core or "centerpiece" of the network to which computers, printers and other devices can be connected. Such Wireless Networking with a router helps to achieve: [1,2]

* File Sharing between computers
* Internet connection sharing between computers
* Printer Sharing
* Connecting the game console or other home entertainment equipment to the Internet
*Convenience of easier maintenance as your network grows.


Wireless technology represents a progression in technology and perhaps a new era in telecommunications. This technology has been used for a century and has been synonymous with radio. The history of wireless technology takes us to the beginning of 19th century. Around that time the "Father of Radio" Guglielmo Marconi, began experementing with radio waves across long distances. In 1896 Marconi was able to get patent for radio signals and was able to transmit signals across the Atlantic.

Wireless technology eventually progressed to an extent to become an invaluable tool used by the U.S. Military. The Military configured wireless signals to transmit data over a medium that had complex encryption, which makes unauthorized access to network traffic almost impossible. This type of technology was first introduced during World War II when the Army began sending battle plans over enemy lines and when Navy ships instructed their fleets from shore to shore.

Wireless is also proving to be a valuable and secure communications medium for many businesses and schools. They can expand their computing arena by expanding their wired local area networks (LAN) using wireless LANs. The first wireless LAN came together in 1971 when networking technologies met radio communications at the University of Hawaii as a research project called ALOHNET. The bi-directional star topology of the system included seven computers deployed over four islands to communicate with the central computer on the Oahu Island without using phone lines. And so, wireless technology, as we know it, began its journey into every house, classroom, and business around the world.

Wireless Networking Standards(802.11)

What are wireless networking standards, and how do they differ?[4]

From the International Organization for Standardization (ISO):

"Standards are documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines, or definitions of characteristics, to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose."

Several different standards for wireless communication are in use, including HomeRF, Bluetooth and the IEEE 802.11 specifications. Both HomeRF and Bluetooth are geared toward home networking, while the IEEE 802.11 specifications work well for both business and home networks. IEEE 802.11b is the most commonly used standard for wireless networking today.

[1] 802.11

In 1997, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) created the first WLAN standard. They called it 802.11 after the name of the group formed to oversee its development. Unfortunately, 802.11 only supported a maximum bandwidth of 2 Mbps - too slow for most applications. For this reason, ordinary 802.11 wireless products are no longer being manufactured.

[2] 802.11b

IEEE expanded on the original 802.11 standard in July 1999, creating the 802.11b specification. 802.11b supports bandwidth up to 11 Mbps, comparable to traditional Ethernet. 802.11b uses the same radio signaling frequency - 2.4 GHz - as the original 802.11 standard. Being an unregulated frequency, 802.11b gear can incur interference from microwave ovens, cordless phones, and other appliances using the same 2.4 GHz range. However, by installing 802.11b gear a reasonable distance from other appliances, interference can easily be avoided. Vendors often prefer using unregulated frequencies to lower their production costs.
Pros of 802.11b - lowest cost; signal range is best and is not easily obstructed Cons of 802.11b - slowest maximum speed; supports fewer simultaneous users; appliances may interfere on the unregulated frequency band

[3] 802.11a

When 802.11b was developed, IEEE created a second extension to the original 802.11 standard called 802.11a. Because 802.11b gained in popularity much faster than did 802.11a, some folks believe that 802.11a was created after 802.11b. In fact, 802.11a was created at the same time. Due to its higher cost, 802.11a is usually found on business networks whereas 802.11b better serves the home market. 802.11a supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and signals in a regulated frequency spectrum around 5 GHz. This higher frequency compared to 802.11b limits the range of 802.11a networks. The higher frequency also means 802.11a signals have more difficulty penetrating walls and other obstructions. Because 802.11a and 802.11b utilize different frequencies, the two technologies are incompatible with each other. Some vendors offer hybrid 802.11a/b network gear, but these products simply implement the two standards side by side (each connected devices must use one or the other).
Pros of 802.11a - fastest maximum speed; supports more simulatenous users; regulated frequencies prevent signal interference from other devices
Cons of 802.11a - highest cost; shorter range signal that is more easily obstructed

[4] 802.11g

In 2002 and 2003, WLAN products supporting a newer standard called 802.11g began to appear on the scene. 802.11g attempts to combine the best of both 802.11a and 802.11b. 802.11g supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps, and it uses the 2.4 Ghz frequency for greater range. 802.11g is backwards compatible with 802.11b, meaning that 802.11g access points will work with 802.11b wireless network adapters and vice versa. Pros of 802.11g - fastest maximum speed; supports more simulatenous users; signal range is best and is not easily obstructed Cons of 802.11g - costs more than 802.11b; appliances may interfere on the unregulated signal frequency


(Multiple Input Multiple Output) Pronounced "my-mo," is the method of utilizing multiple antennas (transmitters and recievers) on wireless devices for improved performance. The basic principles behind MIMO is to use multiple recivers to increase data rate.When two transmitters and two or more receivers are used, two simultaneous data streams can be sent, which double the data rate. Multiple receivers alone allow greater distances between devices. MIMO technology appears in some WiFi routers, greatly enhancing their capability over single-antenna routers. The protocols and signal ranges for MIMO WiFi routers are same as the ones used by non-MIMO routers. Standards which use MIMo technology tend to achieve higher performance by more aggressively transmitting and receiving data over WiFi channels. The advantages of using MIMO signaling technology are that it can increase network bandwidth, range and reliability, Althought it achieves all those benchmarks at the potential cost of interfering with other wirless equipment.[6]
The fast and upcoming IEEE 802.11n wireless standard uses MIMO at a minimum 108Mbps which is double the 54 Mbps speed of commonly used 802.11a and 802.11g.

Wireless N Router(802.11n)

802.11n is the third-generation WiFi standard for wireless home networking. 802.11n supports speeds comparable with Fast Ethernet. 802.11n equipment additionally offers increased wireless range over 802.11g and earlier 802.11b gear.

This enhancement to the IEEE 802.11 wireless network standard that increases transmission speeds to 108 Mbps and beyond. Expected in the 2007 time frame, there are two competing technologies, although both of them are MIMO based, which uses multiple transmitters and receivers.[6]


[1] http://compnetworking.about.com/od/homenetworking/a/routernetworks.htm
[2] http://compnetworking.about.com/cs/routers/g/bldef_router.htm
[3] http://compnetworking.about.com/od/wirelessrouters/tp/80211nprenhome.htm
[4] http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t=80211&i=37204,00.asp
[5] http://www.jhsph.edu/wireless/history.html
[5] http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t=80211n&i=37213,00.asp

See Also

Wireless Security
WiFi Security
Wireless Ad-hoc Network Intrusion Detection System
Speed of WiMax

External Links

Author: Tarun Bagga
Last Revised: April 5, 2007