The technology of wireless networking has become very popular
recently, and is increasingly being used to connect one's computers
using radio signals to each other and to the internet.
"How" to do this is not much more complicated than with traditional
wired networking. Many companies sell products that adhere to the
"802.11b", "802.11a", or "802.11g" wireless standards. They each have
their advantages and disadvantages in terms of range, cost,
compatibility, and resistance to interference, but for this
discussion, it is simply important to keep in mind that all products
used should comply to the same standard for best results. Other than
that, if one can install a traditional wired network, it is usually
just as easy to install a wireless one.
An average wireless network will need two things. First, you would
need an access point, sometimes called a gateway, wireless gateway,
residential gateway, or wireless router. This is a device that
connects to all your wirelessly enabled computers and connects them to
the internet via cable modem, DSL, dial up modem, or another available
The other thing that is needed is the client wireless card. This
connects to a computer and allows it to connect to the access point.
Laptop wireless client cards are usually the cheapest and come in the
largest variety of brands and model numbers, and connect to a laptop
via its pc card slot. Wireless cards for desktops can come in several
different versions, but the most practical type is those that connect
via a USB port.
Both of these types of devices employ a radio that operates on a
frequency set aside by the FCC to be allowed for general purpose uses
without a license within certain restrictions. 802.11b and 802.11g
operate in the 2.4 GHz frequency band, along with cordless phones,
microwave ovens, and a number of other often interfering devices.
802.11a equipment operates in the less crowded 5 GHz frequency range,
which has less interference and also allows for higher speeds, but is
typically more expensive and has a lesser range.
In a typical configuration, all that is required of the user is to
attach the wireless gateway to both power and an internet connection,
attach the wireless client cards to the computers being used, install
some including software, and usually follow a few installation
configuration steps included with the particular product being used.
At that point, whatever internet connection you have can be shared
throughout the range of the wireless access point. Depending on
conditions and the equipment being used, range typically varies from
100 to 300 feet.
If you were referring to getting internet access itself wirelessly,
there are a number of WISPS (wireless internet service providers) that
have set up similar equipment that has been modified to increase range
and security, and offer internet access to people's homes via these
In addition to traditional wireless ISP's, there are a number of
community wireless organizations that provide wireless network access
and internet access to anyone within range of the access points they
have set up in their homes and places of business. These communities
often link together their access points to form a large metropolitan
area network, some of which can access the internet, and some of which
One major wireless community network organization is Seattle Wireless
(http://www.seattlewireless.net/). Seattle wireless is an open
organization of community members whose goal is to create a wireless
city wide network. In addition to such activities, their website is
contains a plethora of information on wireless technologies, including
links to useful sites
(http://www.seattlewireless.net/index.cgi/UsefulLinks), a fairly
comprehensive and informative hardware comparison chart
other helpful information.
The hardware comparison charts on Seattle wireless in particular are a
good starting point for deciding what equipment one should buy to
connect their computers wirelessly. As for connecting to a wireless
internet service provider, the vast majority of providers supply both
the equipment and installation, and therefore, specific knowledge of
the equipment is unnecessary.
If one is looking to find a wireless internet service provider in
their area, a good place to look is DSL reports search page
(http://www.dslreports.com/search) or power search page
(http://www.dslreports.com/psearch), after entering a zip code, it
comes up with a page showing both regular and wireless internet
service providers in the area.
Wireless service providers forum
Fab-corp, sells wireless network equipment
"Use a Surplus Primestar Dish as an IEEE 802.11 Wireless Networking
Wireless resources on the Web
802.11b Homebrew Antenna Shootout - 2/14/2
"Finding a wisp"
I hope that this satisfactorily answered your question. If I missed
the mark somehow, or you need more information, please request a
clarification, and I will be more than happy to oblige.
Clarification of Answer by
26 May 2003 10:01 PDT
In that case, firstly , there is not an easy off the shelf way to turn
a standard car fm or am radio into an internet connection. The type
that is commonly used is microwaves in the 2.4ghz range using 802.11b
equipment. This equipment uses radio signals like a variety of other
equipment, but is designed to connect computers together at high
speeds wirelessly. It can be used to access the internet in a variety
The most common way to do this is to buy an access point and follow
the instructions that come with it to configure it (many work right
out of the box without configuration). After getting the access point,
each computer would a way to access the access point. For a laptop
this is done via a wireless card. For desktops, this is usually done
via a USB device that serves the same purpose. For someone just
starting out, I would recommend sticking with only hardware with the
"802.11b" specification, which is compatible with the vast majority of
installed hardware and software.
The brand that all my wireless equipment is made by is Avaya (which
also goes by the name orinoco, lucent, wavelan, proxim, and so on).
Their website which has the kinds of equipment it sounds like you are
talking about is located at the following:
Proxim: Wi-Fi for wWAN and wLAN
Though I like this brand of equipment, this is just one example and
there are many other companies selling equipment that serves the same
I hope I'm on the right track here. If you are looking to make a
"homebrew" solution using different kinds of radio products (such as
10ghz microwave), please let me know, as I have come accross that
before and could probably find some good information on that for you