By Wayne Connors
With the advent, and now proliferation of wireless RF links you’re almost never in a location where you’re unable to connect to the internet. There are three main types of wireless RF links, not including radio stations and television networks. These are divided into the types of equipment able to connect to them and include cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Transmission methods can include tower-mounted antennas, microwave dishes, and small, desktop transceivers.
Wireless RF Link Types
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular are the three main types of wireless radio frequency based link systems. Cellular systems are obviously for cell phones and adapters that are cellular-based. Wi-Fi, whether part of a Local, Metropolitan, or Wireless Area Network supports Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as laptop computers, some Personal Digital Assistants and higher-end cell phones. RF links based on Bluetooth technology allow Bluetooth-enabled devices such as cell phones, PDA’s and notebooks to connect to an intranet or the Internet. Many cities provide internet access using a Wi-Fi-based Metropolitan Area Network for anybody that is in a location where the Wi-Fi signal can be received with sufficient strength.
Wireless RF links are based on international standards that govern various aspects of the link structure. For example, most devices that are Wi-Fi-enabled, utilize equipment designed to work with the 802.11 G or N standards. This standard governs such specifications as the frequency used for transmission and reception, communications protocols, security and transmitter signal strength. Most cellular systems are either Third or Fourth Generation-based networks, operating on the Global System for Mobile Communications standard. With the right antennas, these two types of systems can operate over quite large distances. Bluetooth is a short-range technology that is excellent for keeping portable devices syncn’d with home or office computers.
Types of Antennas Used in Wireless RF Links
Basically, almost anything that conducts electricity can be used as an antenna. However, actual antennas are optimized to give better transmission and reception results. Cellular systems operating over larger distances normally use specially-constructed honeycomb style antenna mounted on tall towers to achieve the greatest range. However, there are also cellular repeater antennas designed to be used inside buildings that mount on the ceiling and are not much bigger than a computer mouse. Wi-Fi antennas used on access points and routers inside buildings are made of rubber with a wire inside and are between 6 and 8 inches long and about a third of an inch in diameter. Wi-Fi antennas used outside are either tall masts that are tower-mounted for wide signal distribution, or microwave antennas for line-of-sight signal transmission and reception. These are usually used to allow the networks in two buildings to communicate with each other without interference and semi-securely. USB Bluetooth adapters are normally no bigger than a thumbnail.
Keeping RF Wireless Links Secure
If your company utilizes RF links in its network, data security should be an important consideration. Each of the types of systems used has security built into it. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth utilize security protocols such as Wireless Access Protocol, Wireless Encryption Protocol and passcode authentication. With WAP- and WEP-based security, users need to know the name of the wireless network they are connecting to as well as a passcode or encryption key. The network name must be known before the end-user can attempt to connect to it. The passcode or encryption key is sent during the handshake and authentication process. With Bluetooth, once two devices “discover” each other, the device initiating the connection must submit the proper passcode (usually a four digit number) to the device being connected to..
A properly configured and utilized wireless RF link can provide seamless integration for corporate networks, providing connections between portable and desktop devices.
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