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Wireless Network Terms

Setting up a wireless network for the first time.

If you haven’t set up a wireless network at home yet, you should give it some thought. With the advances of technology over the past several years, it has gotten pretty easy to set one up. But more than that, because so many people these days (families and students) have laptops and smartphones, having a wireless network is almost required at home.

With a wireless network, everyone in the house, no matter what room they’re in, could be on the Internet, as long as their devise has wireless capability. All they would need is the password (permission) to log on the network. Once they’ve logged on at least once, the network will likely recognize their computer.

Getting Ready to Shop

When you get to the electronics store, you’ll find plenty of equipment/hardware choices to set up a wireless network. If you’re computer and modem are not too old, you’re probably just a few hours away from having a wireless network.

This article covers the key terms that are important to know, because they’re at the heart of wireless technology. With a little background on the subject going in, you’ll not feel overwhelmed, and the conversation with the sales person can go a little quicker. These terms are sure to come up in conversation or show up on the boxes of equipment you look at.


    • Rhymes with Hi-Fi, but does not stand for wireless fidelity. It simply means wireless network and it’s a trademarked name owned by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Router: That’s the piece of hardware you need to set up your wireless network to. It works with your modem and computer and connects your cable company. You can buy one or get one from your Internet Service Provider.

IEEE: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. An organization that sets the hardware standards for computer networks.

802.11: The wireless standard set by the IEEE that’s the basis for Wi-Fi technology. There have been several generations of the standard: 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g, and 802.11n. (On boxes you’ll see the designation as G or N.) Wireless N has been the most recent standard at the start of 2014. (Don’t worry about the number; it’s the letter that’s important.)

LAN: Local Area Network. That’s what your wireless network is: a LAN (rhymes with “man”).

Broadband: If you have a cable modem or DSL line you have a broadband connection. That’s just another name for high-speed Internet.

Firewall. A router actually provides an added layer of Internet security, called a Firewall that is very important for home networks. In fact, even if you have just one computer it’s a good idea to add a router to your modem.

Ethernet cable: A wireless router has wires… who knew? In addition to a power chord/plug, you need a special cable (RJ-45 Ethernet cable) to connect the router to a computer to set up the network. The cable looks like a telephone jack, but larger.

WPA, WPA/2, WEP*: One thing you MUST do is secure you’re wireless network so outsiders (hackers) can’t hack into it. This isn’t granting access; it’s picking a security setting when you set up your network. WPA/2 is best, WEP is the least effective.

2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz. Wireless Internet actually uses radio signals. Those signals come in both 2.4 GHz range and 5.0 GHz range. (GHz stands for gigahertz.) Many people say 2.4 GHz is all you need.

Dual-band: Wireless routers that provide offer both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz ranges are called a dual-band.

Modem-router combo: As long as you’re making a change, you can upgrade your modem too, and simplify life and desk, by getting a router that doubles as a modem. Check into it.

Some of the leading names in routers, which the heart of you wireless network, are Linksys, Netgear, Motorola and Belkin… and there are more.

Do your research, talk to a few friends who have a wireless network at home and start shopping. Remember, you’re always safe online with a router and modem than a modem alone. Plus, as you buy wireless devices—iPad/tables, smartphones, another laptop—you’ll be glad you have a network set up.

* WPA: Wi-Fi Protected Access; WPA2: Wi-Fi Protected Access version 2; WEP: Wired Equivalency Privacy.

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