Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) Explained
A wireless LAN or WLAN is a wireless local area network, which is the linking of two or more computers without using wires. WLAN utilises spread-spectrum technology based on radio waves to enable communication between devices in a limited area, also known as the basic service set. This gives users the mobility to move around within a broad coverage area and still be connected to the network.
In 1971, researchers at the University of Hawaii developed the world’s first WLAN, or wireless local area network, it was named ALOHAnet. 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.
Originally WLAN hardware was so expensive that it was only used as an alternative to cabled LAN in places where cabling was difficult or impossible. Early development included industry-specific solutions and proprietary protocols, but at the end of the 1990s these were replaced by standards, primarily the various versions of IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi). An alternative ATM-like 5 GHz standardized technology, HIPERLAN, has so far not succeeded in the market, and with the release of the faster 54 Mbit/s 802.11a (5 GHz) and 802.11g (2.4 GHz) standards, almost certainly never will.
The Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) claims to have first developed wireless networking, and as of 2006 they are engaged in a controversial battle with software and hardware giants looking for royalties on the alleged patents held by CSIRO regarding these technologies.[
Wireless LANs offer users an array of benefits ranging from cost efficiency to seamless integration with other networks.
The benefits Wireless LANs include:
Wireless LANs, despite the above mentioned advantages are still unpopular or an unconsidered option in many environments, this is due mostly to the inherent disadvantages of the technology including:
All components that can connect into a wireless medium in a network are referred to as stations. All stations are equipped with wireless network interface cards (WNICs). Stations fall into one of two categories: Wireless Clients and Access Points
Access Points (AP’s)
Access Points are base stations for the wireless network. They transmit and receive radio frequencies for wireless enabled devices to communicate with.
Wireless clients can be mobile devices such as laptops, personal digital assistants (PDAs), IP phones or fixed devices such as desktops and workstations that are equipped with a wireless network interface card.
Basic Service Set
The Basic Service Set (BSS) is a set of all stations that can communicate with each other. There are two types of BSS: Independent BSS and Infrastructure BSS. Every BSS has an id called the BSSID, it is the MAC address of the access point servicing the BSS.
Independent Basic Service Set
Independent BSS are an ad-hoc network that contain no Access Points. Since they do not use Access Points they can not connect to any other basic service set
Infrastructure Basic Service Set
An Infrastructure BSS can communicate with other stations not in the same basic service set by communicating to each other through Access Points.
Extended Service Set
An Extended Service Set (ESS) is a set of connected BSS. Access Points in an extended service set are connected by a distribution system. Each ESS has an ID called the SSID which is a 32 byte (maximum) character string. Example: linksys (the default SSID for Linksys routers).
A distribution system connects Access Points in an extended service set. A distribution system is usually a wired LAN but can be a wireless LAN.
Types Of WLAN
Peer-to-peer or ad-hoc
This type of network allows wireless devices to directly communicate with each other. Wireless devices within range of each other can discover and communicate directly without involving central access points. This method is typically used by two computers so that they can connect to each other to form a network.
If a signal strength meter is used in this situation, it may not read the strength accurately and can be misleading, because it registers the strength of the strongest signal, which may be the closest computer.
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