Home Topic 3 Last Next


Describe the hardware and software components of a wireless network.


Teaching Note:


Sample Question:


JSR Notes:

JSR note: In order to pear down things a bit, all of the "wired" parts, detailed below, are dark-greyed out. Because, technically, they are not the "wireless" parts of a network. Still, in a whole topic on Networks, it seems to me that some place, all of the regular, wired, necessary hardware pieces should be covered. Furthermore, knowledge of them helps with the understanding of many other parts of Topic 3. So they are secondary, here, but still you should be aware of them.


The first thing we can do is recognize the server/provider side:

On a wireless network, the data has to come from somewhere in the first place. For Internet accessible networks, it is the ISP (Internet Service Provider), that "pumps out" the Internet through ISDN or DSL or cable, or even fiber-optic cables right to the house/office. From there, we plug in our modem, etc. as described below.


Wired & Wireless Network Hardware

"Pre-Wireless" Wired Parts

For this, it depends on the context, and there are two with which you are most familiar: home and school/office.

This is not necessarily a part of this assessment statement, but at some point you should get straight the various wired networking devices - in this case we can call them the "pre"-wireless parts. So these are the hardware pieces required to get the signal to the Wireless Access Point in the first place:

School/Office LAN Wired Parts Example

Wired Parts Example

The big difference between the infrastructure of a big organization like a school, and your home, is that what are separate, specialized, robust, and expensive devices in the big organization, are bundled together and simpler for a home solution.


The Wireless Hardware


Here's a video of setting up this kind of home wireless network.

Plus, refer to the diagram below.

Wireless Network Software:

A. Wireless Drivers

Drivers are small software programs used by the operating systems of IT devices to tell them how to work with specific hardware - so, put another way, drivers are the interface between operating systems and hardware devices. There are printer drivers, and hard drive drivers, and sound card drivers, and so on. There are also wireless device drivers.

Wireless router devices will have drivers specific for wireless transmission, and they will work within the guidelines of a certain wireless protocol, such as IEEE 802.11. WiFi technology, and its associated drivers, for example, adhere to IEEE 802.11 protocols.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of it: "IEEE 802.11 is a set of media access control (MAC) and physical layer (PHY) specifications for implementing wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication in the 2.4, 3.6, 5 and 60 GHz frequency bands.
There have been incrementally faster versions of this released, for example 802.11b, and 802.11g."

The receiving devices will have drivers specific to the same wireless standard (for example 802.11g).


B. Operating System Networking Capabilities, Including Network Utilities

Assuming the existence of the necessary hardware and software drivers, operating systems enable the device to connect wirelessly, using:
- a variety of wireless technologies (i.e. Bluetooth, WiFi, WiMax, 3G, 4G)
- and the networking/wireless protocols which dictate network transmission, both generally & wirelessly (i.e. TCP/IP, IEEE 802-11)

iOS on iPhone etc. supports the following wireless technologies: WiFi, and 2G, 3G, 4G, (5G) and Bluetooth (hands-free head set, for example).

Mac OS supports only Bluetooth, Wi-Fi wireless technologies (it used to support infra-red, but no longer).


And operating systems for servers on LANS etc. will have to have all the more networking abilities.

Network Utilities of the Operating System

All servers and receiving computers that are set up to use wireless communication will have parts of their operating system, at the low levels, and also at the user levels, which allow various networking tasks.

Some of these tools are more low level, reserved for network specialists, but other utilities are at a higher level, aimed at users. On a Mac, these include he Network System Preference, the Network Assistant Utility, and the Bluetooth File Exchange utility. Try playing around with them.


Diagram of Hardware Set-up of Networks

Both diagrams include all the main wired parts, as well as the wireless parts.


Wireless Hardware Summary:

Office: Gateway/Firewall -----> LAN (via server/switch/Ethernet cables) -----> Wireless router (with wireless access point) ----> antenna ----> receiving device (with wireless network card)

Home (Modem/Gateway/Firewall) ----> Wireless router (with wireless access point) ----> antenna ----> receiving device (with wireless network card)


Jaime: Path finding algorithms associated with switch technology: Dijkstra Path Finding Algorithm, and The brachistochrone curve which is always the fastest path...