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How Does a Wireless Network Work

How Does a Wireless Network Work

Wireless networks abound everywhere today. Their working, is the subject of discussion in this article.
Omkar Phatak
Wireless networks are revolutionizing the way we communicate and have truly 'unplugged' the world. How do these networks work? Let us try to find an answer to this question.


The ease with which you can do things in a wireless network is phenomenal. What makes such a network work is an integration of our good old radio technology, advances in networking like Wi-Fi, and today's cutting edge data transfer techniques.

Nowadays, every airport, most of the super stores, and many cafes have them by default. The first of such networks was set up in the 1980s, by radio enthusiasts who developed the first wireless modems. Since then, the technology has developed enormously, making the modern WLANs (Wireless Local Area Networks) possible.


The way a wireless network works is quite simple and straightforward. Getting connected to such a network is possible because your computer has an inbuilt transreceiver, like a walky-talky. That transreceiver is called a wireless adapter.

The adapter does a number of jobs. Firstly, it detects whether there is any wireless network in your computer's vicinity. It does this through radio linking and tuning its receiver to detect any incoming signal. Once it's detected and you are connected through user authentication, it starts the main part of its job. Whatever data you send from your personal computer or laptop is converted by the wireless adapter, from digital form (0s and 1s) into a radio signal (analog form).

This conversion of the signal from digital data to analog form is called 'Modulation'. The digital data signal is superimposed on an analog radio wave. Now, there are different techniques or tricks of doing this, such that more chunks of digital data can be carried by an analog radio wave. The technique used for modulation, determines the data transfer rate.

Next, the transmitted radio signal, which usually has a frequency in excess of 2.4 Giga Hertz, is received by a wireless router or another adapter. The router is the receiving station of the wireless network. It reconverts the radio signal data into digital form by 'demodulating' the signal and sends it through a wired Ethernet connection on the information superhighway, which is the Internet.

The reverse process happens when you are receiving information on your computer, from a wireless network. This time, the router receives the digital data from the Internet and modulates it into analog form. Then, the wireless adapter antenna receives the modulated analog signal and demodulates it back into digital form. Then, it's subsequently transferred to your computer.

Thus, the technology that makes all this possible is Wi-Fi networking. The crucial links are the routers and the wireless adapters. Nowadays, most laptops or personal computers come with pre-installed network installation software and wireless adapter hardware. Wi-Fi hot spots are areas in the vicinity of a wireless router, which have a high signal strength. Naturally data transfer is faster here. These networks not only make Internet access possible, but also enable mobile telephony. Thanks to these networks, you can even access the Internet through a mobile phone now.