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Choosing the best wireless modem gateway requires establishing a budget and then weighing it against what features you require. Like any purchase, you’ll get more features if you spend more money. There’s no point, however, in paying for something you don’t need, which is why you should only choose a wireless gateway modem that fits your specific needs.
The first and most important consideration is the wireless standard. As of 2010, there were three primary wireless standards in use—802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n. They provide a maximum wireless throughput of 11Mbps, 54Mbps, and 300Mbps, respectively. They’re typically sold in groups, such as 802.11b/g, which supports both 802.11b and 802.11g standards, and 802.11b/g/n, which supports all three standards.
When deciding what type of wireless gateway modem to purchase, you must consider what standards your computers support, and whether or not you intend to upgrade them in the near future. If your home or office computers only support the 802.11b standard, then there would be no point in purchasing an 802.11n gateway. If you intend to upgrade to the 802.11g or to the 802.11n standard in the next few later, however, then your best option would be to choose an 802.11b/g/n gateway.
Another factor to consider is network functionality. Many devices are a form of a wireless modem gateway, such as a cable or digital subscriber line (DSL) modem, network router, or voice over IP (VoIP) adapter. They each offer different functionalities, however, based on their classification as well as their general quality. Suffice it to say, some network gateways are better than others.
Core functionalities to consider include whether or not the wireless modem gateway relies on the dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP), which automates connectivity; the gateway's switching and bridging capabilities for connecting multiple network segments; and the quality of the integrated firewall. DHCP is typically included, but it’s still wise to ensure the gateway you purchase supports it. Otherwise, you’ll have to manually connect every computer on your network.
Other less important but still useful features to keep an eye out for when purchasing a wireless modem gateway include Power over Ethernet (PoE), automatic channel selection, and upgradeable antennas. PoE technology allows the gateway to derive energy from its local area network (LAN) interface, which is useful in situations wherein the gateway is installed in a remote location. Automatic channel selection will be mandatory if you intend to install more than one wireless access point. Upgradeable antennas are the most important, as they allow you to upgrade your antennas in case you ever need to improve the range of your wireless modem gateway.
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