Wireless Networks

Wireless networks allow users access to many of the benefits of network connectivity, with the added freedom of portability. The most popular standard for wireless networking is WiFi (or Wireless Fidelity).

What short-range protocol can also be used to set up a wireless network?

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Bluetooth has a much shorter range, so is used to set up personal wireless networks for mobile & wearable devices.
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WiFi is actually a protocol, which sets out the rules of transfering data between devices wirelessly.

Because the range of WiFi is up to 100m, it is ideal for setting up home or office networks.

WiFi is convenient and easy to set up for large numbers of users, however there are a number of disadvantages to a wireless network:

  • Wired networks are faster than wireless
  • Wired networks are more secure then wireless
  • You can’t control where the network is available in a wireless network

How WiFi Works

A mobile device initials connects to the WAP by identifying the name of the network which is called the SSID (Service Set Identifier) either by scanning for available networks or typing in the SSID. A secured network will also require a password, known as the WEP key. WEP, or Wired Equiivalent Privacy was the original form of security for a wireless network. This was later replaced by WPA, or Wired Protected Access.*

wireless networks - Computer science online tutorOnce connected, data can be transferred using radio waves. Much like a radio, data travels through the air using a specific frequency, so both devices must be tuned into the same frequency to communicate. Just like clock speed, these frequencies are measured in Hertz (usually Megahertz), with each frequency called a channel.

In order to connect to a channel, the network interface card (NIC) inside the mobile device must be capable of connecting to the same or higher frequency as the WAP. It is for this reason that certain devices will not discover some networks. Because of this, some wireless routers will broadcast two separate WiFi networks: one 2G (slower – run at 2.4GHz) and one 5G (faster – run at 5GHz). It is important not to confuse these with mobile broadband where the G stands for generation.

There is quite a significant difference between the two frequencies. The reason for such a difference is to avoid an issue known as crosstalk between the networks, this is also known as bleed. Within a network, crosstalk is where the data transmission from one signal interferes with another causing data corruption. The best way to prevent this is to use standards keeping each frequency sufficiently separate. This is an issue that is more often seen in wired parallel data transmission.


* You will not be asked to discuss the differences between WEP & WPA in the GCSE Computer Science exam. However you are required to be aware of the ability to set a password on a wireless network.

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