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Wireless Networking Protocols Explained

Wireless networks are computer networks that use electromagnetic waves instead of wires to transport signals across the network. Wireless networks that run on top of other wireless networks frequently rely on lower layer networks for security and encryption. Stand-alone wireless networks either provide their own security and encryption or rely on VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to do so. Multiple layers of security and encryption may be desirable in many cases.

Protocols for Wireless Networking

TCP/IP is a collection of protocols, each with its own set of functions or purposes. These protocols were developed by international standards bodies and are now used in almost all platforms around the world to ensure that all internet devices can communicate successfully. The 802.11 wireless networking protocols have gone through several iterations, with each one outperforming the previous one in terms of capability and speed.

Because not all equipment is compatible with every protocol version, it is critical to understand which protocol version your equipment employs. In general, newer equipment supports the most recent protocol versions, whereas older equipment may not. In most cases, equipment can support multiple protocols. For example, 802.11ac/n/g equipment is compatible with three protocols.

Protocol 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6)

The most recent release of the 802.11 protocols is 802.11ax, also called Wi-Fi 6. It accommodates a growing number of devices and applications by increasing network efficiency to meet mobile and IoT devices.

Wi-Fi 6 features orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) and is equipped for multiuser multiple-input, multiuser multiple-output (MU-MIMO), which allows more devices to connect simultaneously.

802.11ax delivers greater efficiency and security than previous versions of the protocol. Its theoretical maximum transfer speed is about 10 Gbps—30 percent faster than Wi-Fi 5. 802.11ax is backward compatible with the other protocol versions.

Protocol 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5)

802.11ac, also known as Wi-Fi 5, now includes Dual Band support in its toolbox. It can use both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands at the same time. 802.11ac is roughly three times as fast as 802.11n. This protocol supports eight streams, compared to four in 802.11n. Only the 5 GHz band is used by 802.11ac.

Protocol 802.11n (Wi-Fi 4)

802.11n employs multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO) technology and a wider radio frequency channel than previous generations. It increases the speed and reliability of a wireless local area network (WLAN). Operating at 600 Mbps, it offers 10 times the speed of 802.11g and uses both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

Protocol 802.11g

The 802.11g standard improves on the 802.11b standard. It operates on the same crowded 2.4 GHz band as other common household wireless devices, but 802.11g is faster and can transmit data at speeds of up to 54 Mbps. 802.11g equipment can still communicate with 802.11b equipment. However, combining the two standards is not usually advised.

Protocol 802.11a

The frequency range used by the 802.11a standard is different. 802.11a devices face less competition and interference from household devices because they only broadcast at 5 GHz. 802.11a, like the 802.11g standard, can support transmission speeds of up to 54 Mbps.

Protocol 802.11b

The 802.11b wireless standard was the first to be widely adopted in homes and businesses. Its introduction is attributed to the increased popularity of hotspots and staying connected while travelling. 802.11b equipment was relatively inexpensive and was built into many laptops.

The unregulated 2.4 GHz frequency range is used by the 802.11b wireless communication standard. Unfortunately, many other devices, such as cordless phones and baby monitors, can cause wireless network traffic to be disrupted.

The maximum speed for 802.11b communications is 11 Mbps, which has been far exceeded in newer versions of the protocol.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wireless Network.

What is a wireless LAN?

A WLAN is a type of Local Area Network (LAN) that communicates and transmits data via high-frequency radio waves rather than wires. It is a versatile data communication system that can be used as an extension or replacement for a wired LAN.

What is IEEE 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11a?

IEEE 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11a, 802.11n, 802.11ac wave 1 and 802.11ac wave 2 are industry standard specifications issued by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). These specifications define the proper operation of Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs).

What data rates are available with a WLAN network connection?

802.11b WLANs operate at speeds up to 11 Mbps. 802.11a and 802.11g WLANs operate at speeds up to 54Mbps. 802.11n WLANs can operate up to 600Mbps. 802.11ac WLANs can operate up to 6.77 Gbps.

Will the wired network provide better speed?

Yes, whenever you can you should use the wired network to do your work.

How fast is a wireless connection to the campus network?

The 802.11b standard will no longer be supported by CCRI. With the current 802.11ac wave1 standard installed and configured, the maximum bandwidth any one device can achieve is 600Mbps at most (i.e. if you’re right next to the access point and the only user). However, you almost never reach your top speed. This is due to a variety of factors. Some of these factors include: the type of device you are using, the number of users connected to the AP you are connected to, the signal strength you are currently using, and the number of streams your device can handle with your current AP. Because all users within range of an access point share that bandwidth, you’ll only get the fastest speed if you’re the only one in range. Furthermore, as you move away from the access point and the signal weakens, the system will automatically slow down to provide more dependable data transfer (sort of like speaking slower so people will understand you better).

Will WLANs receive interference from other wireless devices or other WLANs?

Because radio-based wireless LANs are unlicensed, other products (for example, 2.4 GHz cordless phones, microwave ovens, garage door openers, and Bluetooth devices) that transmit energy in the same frequency spectrum as a WLAN system can potentially interfere with it. Although older microwave ovens pose a risk, most WLAN manufacturers design their products to accommodate microwave interference. When two WLANs are in close proximity to each other, RF interference can occur. This problem is usually solved by assigning each WLAN to a different RF channel within the allowed frequency range.

What is a MAC address?

The Wireless Ethernet Adapter’s Media Access Control (MAC) address is a unique serial number assigned to the device by the manufacturer. Every network device, whether wired or wireless, has a unique MAC address.

Will I need an account to connect?

Yes, faculty, staff, and students can connect to the wireless network by using their MyCCRI username and password. The Public can connect to the CCRI_Guest wireless network and use the self-service sign in process to get connected for the day.

Is a Router or Switch required to set up a wireless LAN that does not connect to the internet but instead uses an Access Point?

Access Points are classified into two types. Both have the same goal: to convert wireless frames, known as 802.11 frames, that travel over the air as wireless packets into Ethernet 802.3 frames and send them on their way over the wired network.

What else the device can do distinguishes an Enterprise-Class access point from a SoHo-Class access point. The Access Point in an Enterprise AP always drops packets directly onto the wired network, and other devices on the wired network move the packets around the network, including to the Internet.

They have added functionality to a SoHo Access Point. So these types of home office devices also convert from 802.11 to 802.3, but they also have other networking features, such as a small internal switch with 4-5 additional Ethernet ports. They may also include an internal Router for routing packets from a local area network or the Internet. Other services, such as DHCP to assign IP addresses and DNS to help devices find things on the network, are usually available.

Because they have more features, you might expect ‘all-in-one’ devices to be more expensive. However, the opposite is true. Home devices are very cheap and can do a lot of things… but only for a few client devices. They are designed for a limited number of users. Enterprise access points, on the other hand, are designed to do one thing for hundreds of client devices. Other features of enterprise access points include manageability, the ability to collaborate with other Access Points to improve the RF environment, and so on. These are 4-10 times the price of SoHo APs.


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