How Does Wireless Internet Work

How does wireless Internet work? Are there some strange signals flowing from your computer? Does that router have a mind of its own? It's actually quite simple. A wireless Internet connection works just like a radio or cell phone, transmitting the data using radio waves.

Wireless Internet Services? Not Really
The name "wireless Internet" is a slight misnomer, as some wires are still required. There's no such thing as a wireless Internet provider, although the technology used in cell phones comes close.

For your home computer, or that free WiFi at the coffee shop, the Internet signal must still be brought to a router through a wire. Once the signal is at the router, it can be sent out wirelessly.

The router is in charge of translating the Internet data from a binary form, which is the language of computers and the iInternet, to radio waves. A small transmitter in the router broadcasts those radio waves to nearby devices. The router generally has a range of 75-150 feet; some can go further under optimum conditions.

How Does Wireless Internet Work: Wireless Reception
The radio signal that's sent out needs to be converted back to binary information before a device can use it. For your computer or laptop, this is where a wireless Internet card goes to work. A tiny antenna in the card locates the wireless signal and translates it back to digital data. Some devices, such as newer video game consoles, have built-in wireless receivers.

That same wireless Internet card or built-in receiver can translate binary information into radio waves and send it to the router, where it gets converted back to binary and sent to the Internet.

While wireless Internet cards work in the same way as radios and cell phones, there are a few differences. The frequencies that wireless Internet cards broadcast on is generally a higher frequency than cell phones or radios. Typically, the cards work at 2.4 to 5 gigahertz. Wireless cards also broadcast through up to three different channels. This allows a larger amount of data to be sent out faster and enables the card to move from channel to channel to avoid interference.

Although newer wireless routers and wireless cards operate on dedicated frequencies, interference can be a problem. Strong radio waves from broadcast towers can scramble the signal, as can microwaves, power lines and other radio devices, such as garage-door openers. The construction of your home can also have an impact on performance, since radio waves don't travel well through concrete or brick.

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