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The heart of a wireless network is the gateway. The wireless gateway is a device that allows a computer and other Internet-enabled devices to access the Internet connection. It brings together the functions of a wireless access point and a router, and sometimes provides firewall functionality as well. The firewall isolates a PC from incoming connections by unauthorized computers on the Internet while still allowing access the Internet. A router is a hardware device or software program that allows communication between computers on the personal network and the Internet.
The reason most people want a wireless gateway in their home is to share their Internet connection with multiple PCs they have around the house. A wireless network setup is needed if the user wants to go anywhere in the network range and get a connection without the use of cables. With a wireless access point (WAP), which provides heightened wireless security, users are able to add devices that access the network with few or no cables.
Wireless gateways usually include features like network address translation (NAT) and dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) functionality. NAT translates a public IP into the private IP address on a network while built-in DHCP automatically hands out network design information to each PC. Additional features, such as a print server, multi-port switch, and content filtering, may be provided by more advanced gateways.
A wireless gateway is usually easy to install. The installation procedure is different from product to product, so the installer should be sure to read the manual and follow the instructions carefully. In most cases, however, a wireless gateway will use some standard cables and networking devices.
When setting up a home network, an installer will most likely need several CAT5 Ethernet cables, which are the most commonly used cable. Depending on the type of Internet services being accessed, a length of coaxial cable may be required as well. Any computer or other device that will access the Internet via the wireless gateway will need to have an adapter in order to receive signals from the gateway.
Wireless protocol choices include 802.11b and the newer 802.11g, which is about five times faster than 802.11b. Two types of encryption are available to protect the data on a wireless network. Wireless Encryption Protocol (WEP) is an older system that is supported by nearly all wireless equipment, while a new system called Wireless Protected Access (WPA) is more robust, and comes with the more recently released hardware.
I had a lot of trouble setting up a wireless gateway at our home. I am not very technologically savvy and found myself staring blankly at the instructions. Luckily, our internet provider offered a free service that would have them come in and setup the wireless gateway for us.
As long as your paying for your internet service, and you get at least one piece of equipment from your internet provider, for example the modem, you can get it your wireless gateway up and running for free.
I know some providers charge, but the price is usually pretty low, $20-$30. I figure that is worth it to not have a headache induced by trying to struggle with something you don't understand.
Having a wireless gateway in your house is a great thing for convenience. I would suggest though, that everyone makes sure you have it password protected. We didn't know when we installed ours that the default access was to have it unsecured.
This can be a huge problem, especially if you have limits on your data usage. Basically, if you do not have it set up with something like a WEP password, then anyone in your neighbourhood can use it. Our signal was surprisingly strong.
If you want to avoid your neighbours getting free internet off you and downloading movies and so on, head into your settings panel and set up your password.