WiFi access point how it works
After years of honored service, your beloved modem has decided to say goodbye. From one day to the next it stopped working and so you had to buy a new one. Too bad that in trying to cope with your needs as soon as possible you have not had time to choose a model that really suits your needs. So, now you find yourself a device whose WiFi range is not exactly exciting or, even worse, that can not generate a wireless network. Now the die is drawn, as a “said”, but fortunately you can still easily remedy the thing using a nice access point.
How do you say? You do not know what I’m talking about and would you like to receive more info? No sooner said than done. If you allow me a few minutes of your precious time, I can not only explain what a WiFi access point is but also and above all how it works . Nothing overly complicated or in any case out of reach, I can assure you this right away.
In very small terms, an access point is nothing more than a “gadget” capable of transforming a wired network into a wireless network, thus offering a wireless access point to all the devices that need it. Obviously, in order to be used, a device of this kind must first be configured correctly, an operation that in turn does not require particular technicalities. To find out more, keep reading, find everything explained in detail below. Enjoy the reading!
What is a WiFi access point?
Before explaining how a WiFi access point works, it seems to me right to put you in a position to understand, exactly, what we are talking about.
It is true, I have anticipated you at the beginning of the guide, but here you will find a much more detailed explanation with attached main technical characteristics. In short, in the end you should have a rather complete picture about it.
As I said, a WiFi access point is a device that allows you to transform a wired network into a wireless network, allowing the surrounding devices to connect to the Internet without cables.
An access point, therefore, allows the Internet connection to be propagated in the ether, to say it in a poetic way, but, unlike a modem/router equipped with “standard” support for the WiFi connection, it is not able to connect directly to the line ( ADSL or Fiber that is). Therefore, it needs to be connected in turn to a modem/router that dialogues with the central telephone operator of reference.
The signal is transmitted using high-frequency radio waves (2.4 GHz and the newest even 5 GHz), which are the same frequencies that use the very common modem/wireless router and other wireless devices.
In addition to functioning as described above, that is what is defined in technical jargon with the term Root , a WiFi access point is able to operate in Bridge mode (when a point-to-point connection is created between two access points to connect two wired networks between them), in Repeater mode (which allows you to increase the coverage of a wireless network without having to use other cables or modem/router) and in Client mode (which allows you to connect devices without a card to the wireless network of wireless network by connecting the latter to the access point by cable).
Other less common but still available operating modes are the Universal Repeater (when the access point connects to other access points and clients without the need for special configurations) and the WDS (when an access point can connect to other devices in the category wirelessly without the need for keys).
To avoid misunderstandings, it is good to underline the difference between the turned on WiFi points and the repeaters , otherwise defined range extender , which are often confused with each other. The latter, unlike the first of which I spoke to you a few minutes ago and on which I will give you more details in the next lines, capture the WiFi signal of a modem/router with wireless connectivity and repeat it in another area of the environment. Some range extenders are however equipped with an access point function but in the case of devices, so to speak, the functions are the same as above.
Now that you have finally understood, exactly, what is an access point, I would say that we can review what are the main technical characteristics of this type of device, which I invite you to take into account on the basis of what are your actual needs and preferences. Find them below.
- WiFi classes and data transfer speed– Access points can support different WiFi classes and ensure different data transfer rates: class b (802.11b) up to 11 Mbps, class g (802.11g) up to 54 Mbps , class n (802.11n) that reaches up to 300 or 450 Mbps and ac (802.11ac) that reaches up to 1.3Gbps.
- Antennas and ports– WiFi access points can have antennas and network ports of various types and in variable numbers. The antennas can be internal or external, fixed or removable and the relative power level that is measured dB, while the ports are used to connect the devices to the network via cable and can be Fast Ethernet, with a data transfer rate of up to 100 Mbps , or Gigabit Ethernet, with a data transfer rate of up to 1,000 Mbps.
- Contemporary clients– Each WiFi access point can suppurate a number of simultaneous devices. In the domestic field, this is not particularly important because generally this limit is very high and it is difficult to overcome it, while in a business environment it is necessary to keep this data in mind, considering the large quantity of device to be connected.
- PoE (Power Over Ethernet)– Access points with PoE support can use an Ethernet cable to simultaneously receive data and electricity. It can therefore be positioned far from the main modem / router without having to use very long extension cables for the power outlet.
- Encryption– WPA / WPA2 encryption is currently the most secure of wireless networks and the most widespread. A self-respecting access point should therefore support this system as well as any other solutions.
- Multi-SSID– This is a function that allows you to create multiple virtual access points with different names and passwords.
- WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup)– WiFi access points with WPS support allow devices that will be part of the network to connect to the network at the touch of a button, without having to type in the password.
- Beamforming– This is a technology that allows the access point to address the signal in a priority way in the direction of the device that required the connection.
Straight for correct positioning
Starting from the fundamental premise that WiFi access points can be placed either on a floor , for example on a shelf or on the desk, or installed on the ceiling or wall (everything depends on their shape) and that some of them are suitable for be placed not only indoors but also outside (depending on the construction materials), to be able to use the best possible way from the wireless network generated by the device you must position it correctly.
But what does that mean exactly? Well, first try to place the WiFi access point as close to the devices to be reached with the wireless network, as far as possible, taking into account the connection to be maintained with the mode / router, of course.
Then, to ensure that the transmission of the wireless network generated by the access point can take place without problems and that you can exploit it to the maximum of its power, I suggest you place the device as much as possible away from obstacles , such as to be too thick walls and mirrors, and to reduce to the bone all the interferences deriving from the presence of other equipment that in turn exploiting the radio waves, for example cordless telephones and microwaves.
At this point I would say that you can feel more than satisfied: you finally managed to understand how an access point works. But I guess now you’re wondering: how should you configure a device of this type to be exploited? Let’s find out right away, together, clearly.
What you usually need to do to start using the access point is to connect the latter to the modem / router via Ethernet cable , putting the two devices in communication with each other through the WAN pota on the first and one of the ethernet ports on the second.
Then you must connect the access point to the current through the affixed power supply , press the power button of the same and wait for the lights present on the device to light up indicating the fact that it has actually come into operation.
Then you have to identify by computer (or through the smartphone or tablet) the wireless network that the access point has started to generate and you must connect to it. It then activates the device configuration panel by entering the address 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1 or the one indicated in the instruction manual.
Also consider that to access the access point configuration panel you may be asked to enter a username and password. Generally, the combination to use is admin / admin or admin / password but there are circumstances where you need to use other settings. If this is your case, you can take a closer look at the router user manual to find out the right combination.
Go now in the section where the settings of the Internet connection and/or the wireless network in general are present and customize (if you want) the name of the wireless network (SSID) generated and the password associated with it and then save the changes.
If then there is a server that automatically provides the addresses, enable DHCP also for the WiFi access point. If this is not the case, you can set the static mode and configure an IP by entering the correct values in the fields displayed in the management panel.
As an alternative to what you saw together, you can configure the access point by inserting the device installation disk into the computer and then following the wizard that is proposed to you.
Unfortunately, I cannot be more specific about the operations to be undertaken with regard to the procedure to configure them because depending on the brand and the model of an access point in your possession the items attached to the device setting panel and how to connect to it differ. If so, then you must be good at identifying the correct sections to access to adjust the parameters above.
As you have seen yourself, the configuration is not difficult. It takes a little ‘commitment and a minimum of attention, this is, but it is nothing complex. However, if you think you need more information on what to do and if you want to know how to configure the access point in other ways (the ones I mentioned at the beginning of the article), you can refer to my tutorial on how to configure access point through which I proceeded to talk about it in a rather thorough way.