Understanding the Basics of the Wireless Router in the Home Network

The wireless router is the cornerstone of your home’s wireless network. Its key function is to provide a wireless and sometimes a wired Internet connection to all your laptops, computers, tablets, gaming consoles, and other smart devices like an Internet-enabled television, thermostat, or security system.

Here’s how it works. A wireless router essentially takes the Internet connection that comes into your home, and breaks it up into millions of tiny pieces called packets. It then manages what packets (i.e. information) are sent to which device. So, when you’re streaming a video to your iPad, checking email on a computer, and using a smart home control device, it’s the router that makes sure that the right packets and web pages go to the right device, and vice versa.

What do Wireless Routers Do?

  • Provide wireless network connectivity to wireless-enabled devices such as computers, tablets, gaming consoles, smartphones, and other devices
  • Can be used for Voice over IP (VoIP) calls
  • Can be used to support IPTV/digital TV services

What Standards should my Wireless Router Support?

When selecting a wireless router, you first want to check which Wi-Fi wireless standards it supports: 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac. The first generation wireless routers supported 802.11b, followed by g, n, and soon ac. These standards determine how fast and how far your wireless signal will go. At this point, you should look for a wireless router that supports 802.11n (with backward compatibility for 802.11b/g, so your older devices can still connect). If you’re still using an 802.11b router, this might be a good time to upgrade your equipment to take advantage of the faster speeds.

What is a Dual Band Wireless Router?

A dual band wireless router is able to transmit on the 5 GHz band for 802.11a and 802.11n, as well as the 2.4 GHz band for 802.11b/g/n. To accomplish this, dual-band routers contain two different wireless radios. Some wireless routers allow simultaneous dual band communication with both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz devices, providing separate network bandwidth for both links. In this way, some 802.11b/g devices can run on the 2.4 GHz band, without impacting the performance of 802.11n devices that use the 5 GHz band.

Wireless Router Security

Most wireless routers today support standard WEP securities, as well as the more secure WPA and WPA2. Click here to learn more about wireless security and protecting your home network.

What’s a Wireless Modem Router?

Many newer DSL, fiber optic, and cable modems come equipped with integrated wireless networking capabilities; these are called wireless modem routers. If the modem router you receive from your Internet Service Provider (i.e. your DSL or cable company) has an integrated wireless router, then you don’t need to purchase your own wireless router. Essentially, a modem router performs the job of two devices: the broadband modem and a wireless router.

Wired Connectivity

Many wireless routers also include Ethernet ports so you can create a hard wire connection to certain devices that are permanently located and can take advantage of the faster performance of wired Ethernet (or Gigabit Ethernet) over a Wi-Fi connection. This can prove useful for high bandwidth applications like multimedia/video and Voice over IP.

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