Published Date
01 - Dec - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Dec - 2006
With broadband connections becoming ubiquitous in the home, the next step is to set up a wireless home network to ensure your PC, laptop, gaming device et al can access the Net simultaneously. The key to a great wireless network is the wireless router, which connects to your broadband. The router has the capacity to handle multiple devices simultaneously. Having a wireless network also allows you to transfer files between devices almost as easily as switching channels on a TV.

For example, many digital cameras now come with Wi-Fi chipsets. This means you do not need to connect the camera and PC to download the pictures: just zap them across your wireless home network to your PC, and if you have the connection, to your TV. Music can also be streamed from a Wi-Fi-enabled audio device from one room to another.

To enable wireless networking you will need a router, and all your computing devices to be Wi-Fi enabled.

Questions To Ask
What do I need?
You will need a cable / DSL broadband router. This connects your devices to the Internet. You will also need wireless adapters that connect your computers and other devices to the router. Most notebooks these days are Wi-Fi enabled. But if yours is an older model, of if you want to Wi-Fi-enable your Desktop, the best idea would be Wi-Fi dongles. These are USB devices that connect your device to the router, and come in both USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 versions.

What are the different types of routers available?
Routers differ by make and by specification type. Most routers will carry the 802.11b or g specifications. There are a number of router manufacturers. As long as they carry the 802.11x specification, they should be compatible and work easily with other wireless devices like adapters and dongles.

Which specification should I buy?
802.11g supports a maximum bandwidth of 54 Mbps, compared to 11 Mbps for 802.11b. To achieve backwards-compatibility, 802.11g uses the same communication frequency range-2.4 GHz-as 802.11b. As with the other 802.11 standards, g supports Ethernet networking.

Should I wait for the new 802.11n standard before buying?
802.11n will theoretically push data speeds up to 540 Mbps. It adds MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output), which uses multiple transmitter and receiver antennas to allow for increased data throughput. However, 802.11n is not due for final approval until July 2007.  Also, given the fact that all the new standards are backwards-compatible, you will only need to change your router. At 54 Mbps, the current 802.11g routers are more than capable of tackling normal data transfer requirements. The n standard opens up new possibilities like streaming videos in real-time from the camcorder to the TV in a wireless network area, but for that to happen, you would need most devices to come inbuilt with the new standard. This will take at least 12 to 18 months from the launch of the standard-so go ahead and set up your network with 802.11g.

Should I be worried about security?
Yes, absolutely. If your network is not secured, anyone with a Wi-Fi enabled notebook can access your network, as well as all the devices on it. Most routers come with inbuilt security, but these need to be activated. It is critical to immediately activate and lock your network.

Remember, this is a wireless network and radio waves travel in concentric circles. That means the area of influence of your network is surely going to be beyond the limits of your home, especially if it is an apartment. Using the inbuilt security lock is an absolute must. Many vendors recommend other security devices like a firewall as well.

What To Look For

· Verify the inbuilt network security system-a router offering a more robust security system is a better long-term solution.

· If your home is very large or across multiple floors, you might want to check the signal quality. Walls impact signal quality, and you might have to go for a wireless booster.

· Buy both access point and card from the same manufacturer. This will ensure full compatibility.

· Check the build quality of the antenna. Since it can be rotated, and in most models, replaced, good build quality is important. Also opt for a PCI card that has an optional antenna connected with the cable. This allows the flexibility of placing the antenna at a convenient location for best signal reception.

· Software that let you set the IP and other related settings need to be simple and intuitive.

· The security option should include both WEP and WPA. WPA is an improvement over WEP, and is therefore more secure.

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