How Does a Wireless Network Work

Wireless networks are revolutionizing the way we communicate and have truly ‘unplugged’ the world! How do these networks work? Let us try to find an answer to this question. Information of all kinds and huge sizes can be transmitted without big tangles of wiring.

Introduction to Wireless networking

The ease with which you can do things in a wireless network is phenomenal. What makes a wireless network work is an integration of our good old radio technology, advances in networking like Wi-Fi and today’s cutting edge data transfer techniques. Nowadays every airport, most of the super stores and many cafes have wireless networks by default, which provides access to Internet. Let us understand what makes this wireless wonder possible! The first of such networks were set up in the 1980s by many wireless radio enthusiasts who developed the first wireless modems. Since then, the technology has developed enormously making the modern WLANs (Wireless Local Area Networks) possible.

Working of a Wireless Network

The way a wireless network works is quite simple and straightforward. Getting connected to such a network is possible because your computer has an inbuilt transreceiver like a walky-talky. That transreceiver is called a wireless adapter.

The wireless adapter does a number of jobs. Firstly, it detects whether there is any wireless network in your computer’s vicinity. It does this through radio linking and tuning its receiver to detect for any incoming signal. Once it’s detected and you are connected through a sign in and user authentication, it starts the main part of its job. Whatever data you send from your personal computer or laptop is converted by the wireless adapter, from digital form (0s and 1s) into a radio signal (analog form).

This conversion of the signal from digital data to analog form is called ‘Modulation’. The digital data signal is superimposed on an analog radio wave. Now there are different techniques or tricks of doing this, such that more chunks of digital data can be carried by an analog radio wave. The technique used for modulation determines the data transfer rate.

Next the transmitted radio signal which usually has a frequency in excess of 2.4 Giga Hertz is received by a wireless router or another wireless adapter. A wireless router is the receiving station of the wireless network. It reconverts the radio signal data into digital form by ‘demodulating’ the signal and sends it through a wired Ethernet connection on the information super highway, which is the Internet.

The reverse process happens when you are receiving information on your computer from a wireless network. This time the router receives the digital data from the internet and modulates it into analog form. Then the wireless adapter antenna receives the modulated analog signal and demodulates it back into digital form. Then it’s subsequently transferred to your computer.

Thus the technology that makes all these possible is Wi-Fi networking. The crucial links are the routers and the wireless adapters. Nowadays, most laptops or personal computers come with pre-installed network installation software and wireless adapter hardware. Wi-Fi hot spots are areas in the vicinity of a wireless router which have high signal strength. Naturally data transfer is faster here. These networks not only make Internet access possible, but also enable mobile telephony. Thanks to these networks, you can even access Internet through a mobile phone now.

By Omkar Phatak

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