Wireless broadband – how does it work?

Wireless broadband – how does it work?

So youve got broadband. Great! After a while, though, many people find that theyve got so used to having broadband on one computer that they want to be able to use it from any other ones they own, too – including their laptop, and computers that are nowhere near the broadband line. Traditionally, the solution to this has been to run expensive network cables through your house, making holes in your walls and restricting the movement of your computers. Recently, however, another option has become available: wireless broadband.

Wireless broadband works by using short-range radio waves to create a small area where your computers can be networked without wires – most wireless networks are no bigger than a house, although larger ones are possible.

This is how it works. First, the broadband Internet connection is plugged into a wireless router – basically, a small, cheap computer that does nothing except acting as the hub of your network. You then fit wireless cards into each one of your computers, either by opening them up and putting it inside or by plugging it in using a cable (such as USB) or a port (like laptops PCMCIA).

When you fit these cards and turn your computer (and the router) on, Windows should pop up a box asking you which wireless network you want to connect to. Your router should create a network automatically, generally naming it after its manufacturer (netgear or linksys, for example). All you need to do is choose this network, and youre on the Internet.

Wireless broadband access is usually no slower than plugging the modem in directly, unless you have very cheap wireless equipment and a very fast Internet connection. It also gives you the added advantage that your computers will be networked together wirelessly, too – so you can easily make your folders shared and access them from any computer in your house using My Network Places.

John Gibb is the owner of