For those of you that may be unfamiliar with wireless networking terminology, a Wireless Access Point is, as the name suggests, a device that functions as a sort of entry way for wireless devices into existing networks. The Wireless Access Point (WAP) is connected to a system on the network via a standard RJ45 network connection, and can then provide access to that network to any wireless devices in range. For example, suppose I had a small network in my office consisting of a few clients, connected perhaps to a small server providing internet access. Connecting a WAP to any of these clients, or to the server itself, would allow compatible wireless devices such as laptops or Pocket PCs access to the entire network, including internet access through the server. Essentially, it provides the same access as any other client machine on the network would receive, only through the air, not through copper.
But most Wireless Access Points, including Compex’s WP11A+ can also serve several other similar functions. These functions can be understood by considering the following operational modes in which the devices can function:
Gateway Mode – This is the most common operational mode, and would be the one used in the example above. As stated, the device essentially serves as a gateway or hub allowing wireless devices access to a wired network.
Bridge Mode – Configured in Bridge Mode, the WAP will only communicate with another wireless device configured in Bridge mode. Wireless clients, such as laptops or Pocket PCs, are not able to connect wirelessly. The most common application of Bridge mode is to serve as a sort of ‘jumper’ between two physical networks.
Client Mode – The device functions essentially as any other wireless client. That is, it could be connected to a PC or laptop, and function essentially as a wireless PCI or PCMCIA card. For obvious cost and complexity reasons, Client mode is not widely used, but is supported for flexibility nonetheless.
Repeater Mode – In Repeater mode, the WAP picks up on signals from another access point as a client would do, but the rebroadcasts those signals out to other clients. In essence, it serves to extend the range of the wireless network by repeating the signals as such. Only a handful of WAPs on the market currently support this mode, which can be useful in particularly in small office environments. Compex’s WP11A+ is, unfortunately, not one such supporting product.
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