A wireless access point (or WAP) is a network device which connects wireless communication equipment together to form a network that can connect cell phones or wireless network cards.
Access points, also called APs or wireless access points, are hardware devices configured in Wi-Fi networks and act as an intermediary between the computer and the external network (local or Internet). The access point acts as a central transmitter and receiver of radio signals in a wireless network.
What are they? What are they used for?
Access points used at home or in offices are generally small in size, consisting of a network adapter, an antenna and a radio transmitter.
There are small wireless networks that can operate without access points, called "ad-hoc" or peer-to-peer networks, which only use network cards to communicate.
The most common networks we will see are in structured mode, i.e. the access points will act as an intermediary or bridge between the wireless equipment and a wired Ethernet network.
They will also have the function of scaling to more users as needed and may provide some security features.
For office or home connections
Access points are usually physically connected via a pair cable to another network element, in the case of an office, or directly to the telephone line if it is a home connection.
In the latter case, the AP will also be acting as a router. These are the so-called Wireless Routers which support the 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g standards.
Types of access points
When a network of access points is created, the range of this equipment for users who want to connect to it is called a "cell".
Usually a study is made so that these cells are as close as possible, even overlapping a little. In this way, a user with a laptop could move from one AP to another without losing his network connection.
If we connect many access points together, we can create a huge network with thousands of connected users, with hardly any cabling and moving freely from one place to another with total comfort.
Such connections are possible thanks to access points such as the wireless TP-LINK TL-WA801ND, which allows multiple Ethernet devices such as game consoles, media players, printers or cloud storage devices to be connected to a wireless network.
But there are other connection devices such as coverage extenders and we could also add them to the category of access points. That is the case of the Xiaomi Mi Wifi Extender Pro, which provides Wi-Fi in areas of your home that the standard router is unable to reach.
At the home level and as mentioned, wireless access points will allow us to connect multiple Ethernet or Fast Ethernet connections, and in turn connect multiple wireless clients.
Wifi networks with MAC filtering
However, we must be cautious. Anyone with a wireless network card and a laptop can connect to our Wifi network and take advantage of our bandwidth for free.
To avoid this, the AP can filter by MAC or physical address, not allowing the connection of unknown clients. Many of these devices already have their own Firewall installed to protect the network.
To ensure that the integrity of our data is not compromised, we have the option of using encryption methods such as WEP or the more modern WPA.