Before explaining how a WiFi access point works, it seems only right to put you in a position to understand exactly what we are talking about.
It is true, I anticipated it at the beginning of the guide, but below you will find a much more detailed explanation with related main technical characteristics. In short, by the end you should have a pretty complete picture about it.
As I told you, a WiFi access point is a device that allows you to transform a wired network into a wireless network thus allowing surrounding devices to connect to the Internet without cables.
An access point therefore allows you to propagate in the air, to put it poetic, the connection to the Internet but, unlike a modem / router equipped "as standard" with WiFi connection support, 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 communicates with the central telephone operator of reference.
Signal transmission takes place via high frequency radio waves (2,4 GHz and the newer also 5 GHz), which are the same frequencies used by the very common wireless modem / router and other wireless devices.
In addition to functioning as described above, that is what is defined in technical jargon with the term of Root, a WiFi access point is able to operate in Bridge (when a point-to-point connection is created between two access points to connect two wired networks together), in mode Repeater (which allows you to increase the coverage of a wireless network without having to use other cables or modem / router) and and in mode service (which allows devices without a wireless network card to be connected to the wireless network by connecting them to the access point via cable).
Other less common but still available operating modes are Universal Repeater (when the access point connects to other access points and clients without the need for special configurations) and that WDS (when an access point can connect to other devices of the category wirelessly without the need for keys).
For the avoidance of doubt, it is also good to underline the difference between the switched on WiFi points and i repeaters, otherwise defined range extender, which are often confused with each other. The second ones, unlike the first ones I told you about a moment ago and about which I will give you further details in the following lines, capture the WiFi signal of a modem / router with wireless connectivity and repeat it in another area. of the circumstance. Some range extenders are however equipped with an access point function but in the case of devices, so to speak, the functions are pure as mentioned above.
Now that you have finally understood, precisely, what an access point is, I would say that we can review which are the main technical characteristics of this type of device, of which I invite you to take them into account based on what they are. your actual needs and preferences. You will find them indicated below.
- WiFi classes and data transfer speeds - The access points can support different WiFi classes and ensure different data transfer rates: class b (802.11b) which goes up to 11 Mbps, class g (802.11g) which goes up to 54 Mbps, class n (802.11n) which it reaches up to 300 or 450 Mbps and ac (802.11ac) that goes up to 1.3Gbps.
- Antennas and ports - WiFi access points can have antennas and network ports of various types and in varying numbers. The antennas can be internal or external, fixed or removable and the relative power level is measured in dB, while the ports are used to connect devices to the network via cable and can be Fast Ethernet, with a data transfer rate up to 100 Mbps. , or Gigabit Ethernet, with a data transfer rate of up to 1.000 Mbps.
- Concurrent clients - Each WiFi access point is able to suppurate a certain number of devices connected simultaneously. In the domestic environment this is not particularly important because generally this limit is very high and it is difficult to overcome it, while in the business environment it is necessary to keep this data in mind, considering the large amount of device to be connected.
- PoE (Power Over Ethernet) - Access points with PoE support can use an Ethernet cable to simultaneously receive data and power. They can therefore be positioned in points far from the main modem / router without having to use very long extensions for the power outlet.
- Cryptography - WPA / WPA2 encryption is currently the most secure in terms 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 push of a button, without having to type the password.
- Beamforming - This is a technology that allows the access point to route the signal as a priority in the direction of the device that requested the connection.
Starting from the fundamental assumption that WiFi access points can be placed either on a piano, for example on a shelf or desk, which you install ceiling or wall (it all depends on their shape) and that some of them are themselves suitable to be placed not only in internal ambients but also outside (depends on the construction materials), in order to make the best possible use of the wireless network generated by the device you must position it correctly.
But what exactly does it mean? Well, first try to place the WiFi access point as much as possible close to the devices to be reached with the wireless network, as far as this is possible, taking into account the connection to be maintained with the mode / router, obviously.
Then, to ensure that the transmission of the wireless network generated by the access point can take place without problems and that you can make the most of its power, I recommend that you place the device as far as possible away from obstacles, such as can be too thick walls and mirrors, and to reduce to the bone all interference resulting from the presence of other equipment which in turn exploiting radio waves, such as cordless phones and microwave ovens.
At this point I would say that you can feel more than satisfied: you have finally managed to understand how an access point works. But I imagine that now you are wondering: how should a device of this type be configured in order to be exploited? Let's find out now, together, clearly.
What generally needs to be done to start using the access point is to connect it to the modem / router means ethernet cable, putting the two devices in communication with each other through the pota WAN on the first and one of the ethernet port on the second.
Then you have to connect the access point to the power by means of the appropriate power pack, press on power button of the same and wait for the lights present on the device light up indicating that it has actually entered into operation.
Then you have to locate the wireless network that the access point has started generating and you have to connect to it. Therefore, log in to the configuration panel of the device by typing the address 192.168.1.1 o 192.168.0.1 or the one indicated in instruction manual.
Also note 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 o admin / password but there are circumstances where other settings need to be used. If this is your case, you can take a further look at the router's user manual to find out the right combination.
Now go to the section where there are the settings of the Internet connection and / or the wireless network in general and customize (if you want) the name generated wireless network (SSID) and the Password associated with it and then saves the changes made.
If there is a server that automatically supplies the addresses, activate the DHCP also for the WiFi access point. If this is not the case, the mode can be set static and configure an IP by typing the correct values in the fields displayed on the management panel.
As an alternative to what we have seen together above, you can configure the access point by entering the installation disk of the device in the computer and then following the guided procedure that is proposed to you.
Unfortunately, I cannot be more specific about the operations to be undertaken as regards the configuration procedure because depending on the brand and model of access point in your possession, the items attached to the device setting panel and the methods of connection to it could differ. If so, you must therefore be good at identifying the correct sections to access to adjust the above parameters.
As you have seen for yourself, the configuration is not difficult. It takes a bit of effort and a minimum of attention, yes, but it is nothing complex. In any case, if you think you need more information on what to do and if you are interested in understanding how to configure the access point in other ways (the ones I told you about at the beginning of the article), you can refer to my tutorial on how to configure access points through which I proceeded to talk to you about it in a rather in-depth manner.WiFi access point: how it works