Wireless Access Point (WAP) Explained.

Wireless Access Points (WAPs) are network devices that enable Wi-Fi gadgets to access a wired  (cabled) network. WAPs create wireless local area networks or WLANs. An access point serves as a principal receiver and transmitter of wireless broadcasting signals. Conventional wireless access points accommodate Wi-Fi, and most are widely used in homes, public area Wi-Fi hotspots and corporate networks to connect wireless mobile gadgets/devices. The wireless access point can be integrated into the stand-alone router or to the wired router.

What are the WAP's Uses?

Stand-alone wireless APs are tiny devices that are very similar to broadband routers used in homes. Wireless routers utilized in personal or home networks have built-in access points into their hardware and function through stand-alone WAPs. When you use a laptop or tablet to connect online, the device goes via an access point, either built-in or hardware, to surf the internet without using a cable.

Most vendors of Wi-Fi-capable consumer products also produce access points. That allows business entities to provide wireless connectivity virtually anywhere possible to lay Ethernet cables from a specific AP to a router. Examples of access point hardware are antennas, device firmware, and radio transceivers.

Wi-Fi public areas typically deploy several wireless access points to provide an extensive wireless coverage area. Corporate networks also usually install access points in all their office spaces. Business entities use many wireless routers having many access points, while homes need only one router with a built-in access point to encompass the smaller physical area.

Planning the optimal layout of access point locations to ensure uniform coverage in a large physical area is a daunting challenge, even for networking professionals.

Extending Network Coverage by Use of Wireless
Access Points

In rare cases wherein an existing router does not support wireless devices, users can expand the network by using a WAP device instead of installing another router to the network. Corporations can install several WAP devices to serve an entire building.

Wireless access points allow the use of an infrastructure mode of Wi-Fi networking, which is a centralized connection of various devices using a wireless network.

Access points are not essential to Wi-Fi networks, but they can expand the Wi-Fi connections to cover vaster distances and areas while accommodating a more significant number of users.

Modern WAPs can support a maximum of 255 users, while older models were only able to accommodate around 20.

Finally, WAPs can also serve as Wi-Fi bridges that enable a local Wi-Fi network to connect to other networks, both wired or wireless.

Brief History of Access Points

The first wireless access points came long before the existence of Wi-Fi. Proxim Corporation (remotely associated with Proxim Wireless) produced similar forerunner devices called RangeLAN2, beginning in 1994. Access points reached full commercial acceptance immediately after the earliest Wi-Fi marketable products appeared in the latter part of the 1990s.

While widely referred to as WAP devices during early times, people progressively began to call them Access Points or AP, to avoid conflict with Wireless Application Protocols (even though some access points are wired equipment).

More recently, smart virtual home assistants have had some extensive use. Examples are products like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, which integrate with wireless networks as flawlessly as mobile devices, printers, computers, and other gadgets. They all connect to an AP through a wireless connection. They allow voice-activated interfaces with the internet. They also control home-based devices, like lights, electrical appliances, thermostats, televisions, and a lot more. And this is all possible through the access point-enabled Wi-Fi system.

The latest technology even allows control of the same functions via remote through the use of a portable device such as mobile phones, laptops, and tablets.

Emil S.

Emil is a Data & Design Specialist with a degree in BS Information System, specializes in Admin Support & Creative Design.

Show all articles by Emil