Modern-day technology is incredibly seamless and effortlessly connected, and we often take it for granted. Think about how we can use our smartphones or laptops to host video conferences at work and then use the same devices to stream media at home without the need for connecting any wires.
We take modern wireless technology for granted. However, just a few decades ago, it was an elusive technology. Today, it is made possible through the use of wireless equipment. You have probably heard about routers and wireless access points (APs) connecting you to your network or the internet.
You most likely use a router a home, whereas your workplace has a variety of APs to help you stay connected throughout the office. Most often, people confuse one for the other or refer to these wireless devices interchangeably.
This is because, ultimately, they both keep you connected to the desired network. However, they are completely different devices.
Today, we will discuss the differences between a wireless router and access point to help you distinguish between the two and understand what is going behind the seamless wireless connectivity we are so used to.
Of course, you should always consult expert professionals like Communications Solutions Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida, for the most comprehensive guidance and solutions for networks and network equipment for your home or business.
That being said, let’s begin our comparison.
Difference Between a Wireless Router and Access Point
As with any comparison, let’s start by first explaining what both these devices are.
What Is a Wireless Router?
A wireless router, or router for short, is a network device capable of transmitting data both wirelessly and through wired connectivity. It is a smart device with a capable chipset programmed to manage and direct incoming and outgoing network traffic efficiently.
Originally, a router (wireless) was used to connect local area network (LAN) devices with each other via Ethernet cables, creating a wired network. Today, however, wireless routers have become the norm due to their easy installation, “wireless” connectivity convenience, and user-friendly experience.
Nearly everywhere you go, you will most likely find wireless routers enabling wireless networks in homes, buildings, offices, businesses, and other places. The connectivity of a wireless router allows you to connect wired devices via Ethernet cables and Wi-Fi-enabled devices wirelessly.
You can connect wired computers, printers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Most larger offices or businesses tend to opt for enterprise routers that support IPTV/digital TV services and can also be used for VoIP phone calls.
Modern wireless routers also come with built-in firewalls and password protection to keep your network protected against the potential cyber threats from outside your LAN.
What Is a Wireless Access Point (AP)?
A wireless access point, wireless AP, or WAP, is also a network device that allows you to add Wi-Fi capability to your existing wired network. It does this by bridging the network traffic from wireless stations into wired LAN.
A wireless access point can be used as a stand-alone device or connected to a router as an additional component. Typically, WAP allows wired devices without Wi-Fi connectivity to gain access and connect to a wireless network.
You can connect an Ethernet cable from the wired device to the WAP and gain access to a local wireless network. Similarly, you can also use a WAP to extend the range of coverage of an existing wired or wireless network.
Typically, businesses use wireless access points to increase their network coverage while expanding their office area and/or several devices.
By now, you are probably wondering…
How Are They Different from Each Other?
Wireless routers and wireless access points support Wi-Fi and wired connectivity and generally perform similar roles. However, as mentioned earlier, these network devices are not the same. Let’s look at some key aspects that differentiate both these network devices.
Modern wireless routers have more functionality than WAPs. They combine the functionality of an Ethernet router and a wireless AP, while also including features like a small Ethernet switch and a basic firewall.
On the other hand, wireless access points do not have this much functionality. They are typically sold as a component of routers or a wireless network extender. Wireless routers are capable of functioning as access points, but not all access points are capable of functioning as routers.
You can think of a wireless router as your wired and wireless Ethernet hub that allows you to deploy a secure local area network by connecting all devices and managing the network traffic. On the other hand, an access point is a supplementary network device within the existing network that enables access to the wireless router or its network.
As the network admin, you can use your wireless router to control and make changes to your network and its setting, but you cannot typically use a WAP to do the same. The wireless AP does not provide a basic firewall or control over the network settings.
● Connectivity and Coverage
The connectivity of a wireless router and access point is also different. Typically, the router can emit Wi-Fi signals for enabled devices or connect to a Power over Ethernet (PoE) switch. The PoE allows the router to add WAPs to the network to extend the coverage, and it also allows it to connect to other IP devices.
Conversely, wireless APs without routing functionality in homes and offices cannot be connected to a modem directly. They require the use of a Wi-Fi router as an intermediary to connect to the modem.
Wi-Fi signals can often become weak in dead spots or areas where the wireless router signal cannot reach. This is where a wireless access point can be used as an addition to the router network to improve its coverage in dead spots or extend the coverage to out-of-reach areas.
Wireless routers are typically used to establish networks in homes, offices, and small organizations. They enable effortless connectivity to meet the limited demands of these environments. Naturally, you cannot scale this type of router to accommodate the future growing network needs of a thriving business or those of an existing large enterprise.
On the other hand, wireless access points are typically used in medium to large businesses or offices, where multiple WAPs are required to support growing demand and multiple users. These enterprises can also add additional access points to cover a larger physical area as their network demand grows.
By now, you should have a comprehensive understanding of the differences between a wireless router and an access point. When it comes to your own use case, it will depend on your individual needs. For homes, it is recommended to use a capable wireless router.
Businesses that require larger coverage and greater connectivity should deploy multiple access points along with their wireless router. Things like the size of the coverage area, the number of connected devices, the number of users, and future demands all play a vital role.
It is always best to let professionals like Communications Solutions Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida, assess your network requirements and deploy network equipment accordingly.
If you want to learn more about the differences between a wireless router and access point, or if you want to deploy these wireless technologies for your home or business, Contact Us Today.