A Wi-Fi access point is a device built to accommodate wireless access to an existing wireless or wired network or create a new network. Wireless communication utilizes Wi-Fi technology.
The access point is like a cell tower but with a smaller range of approximately 200-250 meters, provided that there are no obstacles at this distance, such as metal structures or concrete floors, affecting a radio signal transmission.
To better understand the Wi-Fi access point, you must first learn what a router is. This is a network device that allows you to organize Internet-connected devices. The router distributes IP addresses and the Internet for devices, combines them into a local network, connects to an Internet provider, and manages all this.
How It Differs From a Router
First of all, the access point is a separate device. A router and an access point are not the same. Yet, they are similar in many ways. We can say that the access point is a simpler version of the router designed to connect devices to a created network via an Ethernet cable. It is simply meant to organize a connection to the Internet via Wi-Fi. Also, it can work in different modes: client, bridge, flexconnect, repeater, etc. It all depends on the specific model.
However, the Wi-Fi access point doesn’t distribute IP, connect to the provider, and has no built-in firewall. It simply gets the Internet from a router or modem and scatters it via Wi-Fi. Some wireless access points that are commercially available can distribute IP, arrange a separate network, and even connect to an Internet provider. But it’s only possible via Static IP or DHCP. Typically, you need a router or modem. Another thing to consider is the access point has only one network connector. Therefore, it can’t distribute the Internet via cable.
For example, the access point is perfect for spreading the Internet via Wi-Fi from an ADSL router or extending an existing Wi-Fi network. That’s what they are meant for. As mentioned earlier, many models can work in a client or repeater mode. Most modern routers can also work in all these modes.
In the access point mode, it gets connected to a router or modem via a network cable and gets access to the Internet via Wi-Fi. If you want to connect a wireless access point “over the air,” you can configure the bridge mode (WDS) or repeater mode. You need to look at what works best for your situation.
The Router Can Act As A Wi-Fi Access Point
The router also acts as an access point; it allows you to connect to a Wi-Fi network. Besides, most routers can run in AP mode. For some manufacturers, such as ASUS and ZyXEL, this mode is enabled in the router settings.
When using the access point mode, the distribution of IP addresses (DHСP), the firewall, and IP address translation (NAT) must be disabled on the router. It just deactivates a few features and turns the router into an access point.
Some routers don’t have AP mode. In such scenarios, you must manually disable the DHCP server and other settings.
Scope of Application
Wireless networks using Wi-Fi access points and routers are common in business environments. Our team at Expert Tech company has experience preparing and implementing network infrastructures for homes and businesses.
Wireless networks from multiple access points are installed in large offices, buildings, and other facilities to create one wireless local area network (WLAN). Up to 60 client computers can be connected to each access point. However, in most cases, connecting more than 10 computers to a single access point isn’t recommended because the data transmission rate for each user is distributed in equal proportions, and the more “clients” one access point has, the lower the speed for each of them.
When designing geographically distributed networks or networks in big facilities, access points are merged into a single network through Wi-Fi or local area network (wired, an Ethernet cable). This allows users to roam freely through rooms with their mobile devices within the range of this network.
In a home network, wireless access points can connect all home computers and smart devices into a single wireless network or “extend” an existing network built on a wired router, for example. After connecting the access point to the router, clients can connect to the home network without reconfiguring the local connection.
If you don’t know what device you need, a router, or an access point, ask Expert Tech professionals or choose a regular router. Buy hardware only if you know it suits you.
Virtually any router can operate in a Wi-Fi access point mode. And the access point cannot run as a router. It lacks many of the features a regular router has.
By the way, an ordinary laptop or a computer with a Wi-Fi adapter can work as a wireless access point.