What is a wireless router?

Most of the electronic gadgets we use today are wireless. When they have to connect to the Internet, they do so through a device called a router, which may be a wired or a wireless one. Although wired routers were very common a few years back, wireless routers have overtaken them.

Routers, as their name suggests, direct a stream of data from one point to another or to multiple points. Usually, the source of data is the transmitting tower belonging to the broadband dealer. The connection from the tower to the router may be through a cable, a wire, or wireless. To redirect the traffic, the router may have a network of multiple Ethernet ports to which users may connect their PCs, or, as in the latest versions, it may transmit the data wirelessly. The only wire a truly wireless router will probably have is a cable to charge its internal battery.

Technically speaking, the wireless router is actually a two-way radio, receiving the signals from the tower and retransmitting them for other devices to receive. A SIM card inside the router identifies the device to the broadband company, helping it to keep track of the routers statistics. Modern wireless routers follow international wireless communication standards—the 802.11n being the latest, although there are several of the type 802.11b/g/n, meaning they conform to the earlier standards as well. Another differentiation between various routers is their operating speed, and the band on which they operate.

The international wireless communication standards define the speed at which routers operate. For instance, wireless routers of the type 802.11b are the slowest, with speeds reaching up to 11 Mbps. While those with the g suffix can deliver a maximum speed of 54 Mbps, those based on the 802.11n standard are the fastest, reaching up to 300 Mbps. However, a router can deliver data only as fast as the Internet connection allows. Therefore, even if it has a rating of n or 300 Mbps, it will perform at speeds of 100 Mbps at the most. Nonetheless, a fast wireless router can increase the speed of your network, and this allows PCs to interact faster, making them more productive.

International standards allow wireless communication on two bands—2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz. Most wireless routers based on the 802.11b, g, and n standards use the 2.4 GHz band. These are the single band routers. However, the 802.11n standard allows wireless devices to operate on the 2.4 GHz or the 5.0 GHz band also. These are the dual-band routers, which can transmit in either of the two bands via a selection switch, or in some devices, they can operate in both frequencies at the same time.

A newer standard, 802.11a, allows wireless networking on the 5.0 GHz band, while also transmitting on the 2.4 GHz band used by the 802.11b, g, and n standards. These are also dual band wireless routers with two different types of radios that support connections on both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands. The 5.0 GHz band offers better performance, lower interference, and more coverage.