What Is a Wireless Access Point?

Access points create wireless local area networks

Wireless access points (APs or WAPs) are networking devices that allow Wi-Fi devices to connect to a wired network. They form wireless local-area networks (WLANs). An access point acts as a central transmitter and receiver of wireless radio signals.

Mainstream wireless APs support Wi-Fi and are most commonly used in residential buildings, to support public internet hotspots, and in business networks, to accommodate the proliferation of wireless mobile devices now in use. The access point can be incorporated into the wired router or stand alone.

If you or a co-worker use a tablet or laptop to get online, you are going through an access point, either hardware or built in, to access the internet without connecting to it using a cable.

What Is a WAP Used For?

Stand-alone access points are small physical devices closely resembling home broadband routers. Wireless routers used for residential networking have access points built into the hardware, and they can work with stand-alone AP units.

Several mainstream vendors of consumer Wi-Fi products manufacture access points, which allow businesses to supply wireless connectivity anywhere they can run an Ethernet cable from the access point to a wired router. AP hardware consists of radio transceivers, antennas, and device firmware.

Wi-Fi hotspots commonly deploy one or more wireless APs to support a Wi-Fi coverage area. Business networks also typically install APs throughout their office areas. While most homes require only one wireless router with an access point built in to cover the physical space, businesses often use many. Determining the optimal locations for access point installations can be a challenging task even for network professionals because of the need to cover spaces evenly with a reliable signal.

Using Wi-Fi Access Points

If the existing router doesn’t accommodate wireless devices, which is rare, a homeowner can choose to expand the networks by adding a wireless AP device to the network instead of adding a second router, while businesses can install a set of APs to cover an office building. Access points enable Wi-Fi infrastructure mode networking.

Although Wi-Fi connections technically do not require the use of APs, they enable Wi-Fi networks to scale to larger distances and numbers of clients. Modern access points support up to 255 clients, while old ones supported only about 20. APs also provide the bridging capability that enables a local Wi-Fi network to connect to other wired networks. A certified technician will know where and how to place the AP’s for optimal effectiveness.

History of Access Points

While called “WAP devices” in earlier years, the industry gradually began using the term “AP” instead of “WAP” to refer to them (in part, to avoid confusion with Wireless Application Protocol), although some APs are wired devices.

In recent years, smart home virtual assistants have come into wide use. These include such products as Google Home and Amazon Alexa, which fit into a wireless network much like computers, mobile devices, printers, and other peripherals: via a wireless connection to an access point. They enable voice-activated interaction with the internet and can control an ever-growing list of home-related devices including lighting, thermostats, electrical appliances, televisions, and more, all through the Wi-Fi network that the access point enables.

Americom is a leader in AP technology for commercial buildings. Call today for a free assessment from one of our certified technicians and find out more about improving your building technology infrastructure.

Content credit – Bradley Mitchell