Wireless Ethernet Networking with 802.11b, an overview
In 2000, 802.11b became the standard wireless ethernet
networking technology for both business and home.
The WiFI organization
was created to ensure interoperability between 802.11b products.
With a realistic
throughput of 2.5-4Mbps, it is fast enough for most network applications
and tolerable for file transfers.
Do I need an access point?
An 802.11b wireless network adapter can operate in two modes,
Ad-Hoc and Infrastructure. In infrastructure mode
, all your
traffic passes through a wireless ‘access point’. In Ad-hoc mode
your computers talk
directly to each other and do not need an access point at all.
6/18/2002: D-Link 22Mbps wireless access point and PCCard (read)
5/17/2002: D-Link DCW-1000W wireless web camera (read)
5/2/2002: Belkin Wireless Access Point (read)
1/27/2002: Compex NetPassage NP16 VLAN wireless router (read)
1/16/2002: Belkin's wireless cable/dsl router (read)
1/7/2002: ZoomAir 4165 Wireless Router (read)
12/3/2001: 2Wire 100W HomePortal Residential Gateway (read)
12/2/2001: Actiontec Wireless-Ready broadband router (read)
9/22/2001: DCF-650W - Compact Flash 802.11b adapter (read)
8/8/2001: MultiTech RouteFinder with Wireless 802.11b (read)
8/2/2001: D-Link DI-714 router + access point + switch (read)
7/23/2001: ZyXELPrestige Cable/DSL Router with Wireless AP (read)
7/21/2001: ZyAIR 100 802.11b PCCard (read)
6/22/2001: NetBlaster II 802.11b hub (read)
6/22/2001: NetBlaster II 802.11b PCI adapter (read)
6/20/2001: SMC 2632W Wireless Ethernet PCCard (read)
5/25/2001: SMC 7004WBR Wireless Router (read)
5/1/2001: D-Link DWL-1000AP access point (read)
5/1/2001: D-Link DWL-120 USB to 802.11b adapter (read)
5/1/2001: D-Link DWL-920 USB Wireless Netwoking Kit (read)
2/26/2001: Ugate-3300 Broadband Router (read)
Access point varieties
Access points come in three varieties -- bridge, NAT
router and NAT router+bridge. A bridge type connects a
wireless network to a wired network transparently. Communication is
possible between both networks in both directions. A NAT router
type routes traffic from your wireless network to an Ethernet
wired network, but it will not route traffic back. This type can be used
to share an Internet connection. Lastly, there are hybrid NAT
router + Bridge devices that
bridge your wired and wireless networks, then route them both to the
internet using a single IP address. This is good for sharing an Internet
connection when you have both wired and wireless computers in your home.
These are often called
Cable/dsl routers with wireless
Any network adapter coming within range of another
802.11b network adapter or access point can instantly connect and join the
network unless WEP – wireless encryption protocol – is enabled. WEP is
secure enough for most homes and business’ but don’t think it can’t be
hacked. There are several flaws
making it unusable for high security applications. At this
point, it takes some serious hacking abilities to bust into a WEP enabled
network so home users should not worry.
WEP and Speed
WEP ‘WILL’ slow down your wireless network. Expect a
20-50% reduction in speed depending on the products you are using. The
speed issue is often the result of an access point without enough
Encryption comes in 64bit and 128bit key varieties.
All your nodes must be at the same encryption level with the same key to
operate. 40bit and 64bit encryption is the same thing, it’s just a matter
of how the manufacturer decided to label the product. Often 128bit cards
can often be placed in 40/64bit mode. (FAQ info on keys)
NIC Form Factors
802.11b adapters come in two major form factors.
PCCards for laptops and USB for desktops. In addition, there are PCI
adapters that let you plug a PCCard into a PCI Slot. PCI slot adapters are
often finicky about working correctly in anything but Windows 98/SE/ME. I
would opt for the USB version to play it safe if you have Windows XP or
2000 on a desktop machine.
How fast is it (real world)?
A full strength 802.11b signal will get you about
3.5-4.5 Mbps without WEP enabled. With WEP enabled, expect 2.5-3.5 Mbps.
As you put walls and distance between your wireless adapter and your
access point, your speed will drop. Don’t expect to put more than a few
walls between you and your access point. (click here for network speeds
802.11b is a half duplex protocol – it can send OR
revive, but not both at the same time. In addition it uses the same 2.4
GHz range as many cordless phones so plenty of opportunity exists for
interference. Use 900Mhz cordless phones if using 802.11b in the same