Wireless networking is in the process of fully transforming how individuals and institutions across various sectors communicate—and how they receive and exchange information. This paper examines the historical evolution of various wireless networking technologies. It compares and contrasts the different wireless networking standards that are in use today. The paper also examines why wireless networking is becoming increasingly popular for applications in households and work places in the United States and in countries around the world.
Wireless networks are rapidly rendering a wide range of personalized communications services as portable as cellular phones. Many of today’s most promising new wireless technologies involve wireless local area networks (WLANs), which enable a wide range of communications devices to stay connected to more conventional wired networks without requiring users to be physically connected through wires or cables. Through widely spaced access points, WLANs receive and transmit radio signals to and from Network Interface Cards (NIC) that contain small radio receivers and transmitters attached to users’ computers or other communications apparatuses. As such, the WLANs allow users to move from one point to another without having to disconnect a network wire or cable from one jack and reconnect it to another jack. It is important to realize, however, that wireless networks do not exist independently of more conventional wired technologies: access points are themselves hard-wired to the local area network (LAN), which is in turn wired to the Internet.