What is Access Point

An access point (AP; or also "WAP" for "wireless access point") is a node responsible for the formation of a wireless network through connection between wireless communication devices. It acts as a central transmitter and receiver of wireless radio signals, and is configured through an internet protocol (IP) address.

Older models of access points could only support a maximum of 10 to 20 clients, while more recent models are able to support up to 255 clients. An access point can communicate within a radius of 100m under normal conditions, although the range can be extended by using repeaters and reflectors, which can bounce or amplify radio signals that would otherwise experience signal degradation.

The access point is able to relay data between wireless devices and wired devices, and is also able to connect to a wired local area network (LAN). A larger network capable of roaming may be formed if several access points link together. WLANs in "infrastructure mode" rely on access points for support, although smaller WLANs known as "ad hoc networks" may exist independent of access points.

Several wireless networks base security on physical access control, meaning the users on the local network are trusted; however, this makes it possible for anyone to connect to the network, regardless of whether or not they are authorized to do so. A solution for this is wireless traffic encryption, provided by technologies such as Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and WPA2.

In the early 2000s, Wi-Fi WAPs experienced a boost in popularity, since they were both cost-effective and easy to install, in comparison to the cumbersome installation of category 5 cable throughout the home, business or school. Using WAP-enabled devices also offered more mobility than using computers cabled to the wall.

WAP does have its disadvantages as well. It may be subject to interference, since many devices, such as wireless phones and microwave ovens, operate at a 2.4 GHz frequency. This interference can hamper the signal strength in a wireless network. Also, WAP is inferior to wired networking in terms of increasing bandwidth and throughput, reaching a maximum throughput of 54Mbps on either IEEE 802.11a or IEEE 802.11g, while wired could reach a maximum throughput of 1000 Mbps. However, part of WAP’s lag in throughput may be attributed to Wi-Fi’s use of a shared communications medium, so a typical 54 Mbps wireless connection actually carries data at about 20 to 25 Mbps.

 The problem of needing a wired network for large throughput and high bandwidth may be solved with the introduction of IEEE 802.11n. It is a new standard for wireless technology that began development in 2006 and is currently awaiting ratification. It operates at up to 540 Mbps and has a range of about 50 m.

Editorial Team at Geekinterview is a team of HR and Career Advice members led by Chandra Vennapoosa.

Editorial Team – who has written posts on Online Learning.

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