Want to get a laptop so you can surf the Web from your lawn chair this summer? Of perhaps you just want to be able to share your Internet connection between your computer and your wife's computer?
In either case, a wireless network is essential, but sometimes interference makes wireless problematic. Let me shed some light on the subject.
The main component of a wireless network is a wireless router ( or a wired router and wireless access point). I talked about routers in my previous A Router Can Protect your Computer article, so I won’t go into the details and routers except to say that a wireless router is simply a router that works on radio wave frequencies to connect computer and other equipment without hard-wiring. A wireless access point works in the same manner.
If you are technically inclined, you might want to try to set the router up yourself. The setup is not too difficult, but adding the necessary security can be problematic for a technophobe. So if you are in that category, hire someone to set up the wireless network for you. If you try it yourself and can’t get the security in place you will also want to consider hiring someone to secure your network. An unsecured wireless network leaves your computer vulnerable to infiltration by others and can cause numerous problems including identity theft. Once you add the security to your router, you are safe from having others jump on your network. The software for the security is included with your router.
For the most part, wireless networks work very well, but I have seen many cases where interference can cause problems. The most popular wireless networks right now are 802.11b and 802.11g. Both of these popular wireless connections work on the 2.4 GHz frequency that is already crowded with wireless telephones, microwave ovens, garage door openers, wireless mice, remote controls, and baby monitors.
So if you are thrown off your wireless network when your garage door opens or the wireless telephone rings, you will want to assume that you have two or more gadgets interfering with each other. When trouble-shooting wireless interference problems remember that the proximity of the items makes a big difference. If your wireless telephones work on the 2.4 GHz frequency and cause interference with your “b” or “g” router, you can, of course, go out and purchase phones that work on a different frequency to eliminate the interference. But you may not have to do that. Simply moving your telephone away from the router may do the trick.
While the 2.4GHz frequency is quite crowded, it does have 11 different channels to choose from. So look in the documentation that came with the phones and/or the documentation that came with the router to learn how to change the channel. Once you know how to do that you simply need to make sure that the router and the other piece of equipment are on different frequencies so they don’t interfere with each other. Choose channel 1, 6, or 11 for your router to give it the best chance at a frequency that does not overlap with any other frequencies.
If you still have interference problems, you can consider purchasing an 802.11 n router. These are the newest wireless routers. They work on the much less crowded 5.8 GHz frequency. The “n” routers have greater speed and range than the “b” or “g” routers. I put one in my home where other routers had trouble transmitting the signal far enough and it works like a charm. I can even put my 5.8 GHz wireless phone right by the router without any interference. There is currently one caveat in choosing an “n” router. The “n specification has not yet been completely finalized. That means that there could be some minor changes in the technology before it is completely standardized. So you will be purchasing a router that is what they call draft or interim model.
To the average user, this means that if the final standard is changed drastically it could possibly be incompatible with the “interim” “n” router you have purchased. That possibility is remote, and even if it happens, your system will still work. You might, however, not be compatible with other “n” systems. That is not likely to happen and, if the standard is changed when it is finalized, most router manufacturers will be able to send you a firmware update to make your router compatible.
I love my wireless “n” router, and while others have chided me for being on the “bleeding edge”, I don’t think I am taking much of a chance, and it provided a solution to my problem.
As more and more computer are being purchased for the home, wireless networking is becoming more and more popular. While we haven’t yet actually freed ourselves from our piles of wires, sitting on the patio, in the kitchen, or in the bedroom surfing the Internet without any tethers can be a very freeing experience.