Wireless communication uses radio frequencies (RF) or infrared (IR) waves to transmit data between devices on a LAN. For wireless LANs, a key component is the wireless hub, or access point, used for signal distribution (see Figure 8-8).
Figure 8-8 Wireless Network
To receive the signals from the access point, a PC or laptop must install a wireless adapter card (wireless NIC). Wireless signals are electromagnetic waves that can travel through the vacuum of outer space and through a medium such as air. Therefore, no physical medium is necessary for wireless signals, making them a very versatile way to build a network. Wireless signals use portions of the RF spectrum to transmit voice, video, and data. Wireless frequencies range from 3 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 gigahertz (GHz). The data-transmission rates range from 9 kilobits per second (kbps) to as high as 54 Mbps.
The primary difference between electromagnetic waves is their frequency. Low-frequency electromagnetic waves have a long wavelength (the distance from one peak to the next on the sine wave), while high-frequency electromagnetic waves have a short wavelength.
Some common applications of wireless data communication include the following:
Accessing the Internet using a cellular phone
Establishing a home or business Internet connection over satellite
Beaming data between two hand-held computing devices
Using a wireless keyboard and mouse for the PC
Another common application of wireless data communication is the wireless LAN (WLAN), which is built in accordance with Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11 standards. WLANs typically use radio waves (for example, 902 megahertz [MHz]), microwaves (for example, 2.4 GHz), and IR waves (for example, 820 nanometers [nm]) for communication. Wireless technologies are a crucial part of the today's networking. See Chapter 28, "Wireless LANs," for a more detailed discuss on wireless networking.