Join Julio Appling for an in-depth discussion in this video Reviewing the role of the ISP, modem, and router, part of Up and Running with Wireless Networking.
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- Before looking at a wireless network it's important to understand the most common components of a basic home network. While there many be some variation, typical home networks often include similar components and follow a consistent setup model. We're going to examine a basic home internet setup and break down the specific components. This foundation can be helpful later if you need to troubleshoot and diagnose a connection problem. Your connection to the internet comes from your internet service provider, or ISP.
The ISP operates a Wide Area Network, or WAN, providing internet service to many homes over a large geographic area. Today, most ISPs provide high speed internet service in the form of either Digital Subscriber Lines, DSL, which are received via phone line, or Cable Internet which is received via a coaxial cable. The choice between Cable or DSL depends on a number of factors, including availability, desired internet speed, and the packages offered by your ISP.
Whether you are receiving your internet signal via DSL or Cable, the data coming into your home travels directly as a analog signal to be received by your modem. The modem converts the signal into digital data that can be interpreted by a computer, game console, or other device. If you only wish to connect one nearby device to the internet, the device could hardwire directly to the modem via the Ethernet port. Which looks similar to the phone jack, but it's slightly wider. Connecting via Ethernet cable provides a dedicated connection to the modem and is typically the fastest way to connect to the internet from your modem.
But what if multiple computers wish to connect to the internet and there's only one modem with one Ethernet connection? To enable access by multiple devices data may be sent from the modem, via an Ethernet cable, to a router, which allows multiple devices to connect to the internet. Creating a Local Area Network, or LAN in your home. The modem connects to the WAN port on the router via Ethernet cable, allowing the internet signal to be delivered to multiple devices through the Ethernet ports on the router.
The router manages the data traffic from these devices, allowing multiple devices to efficiently use the same network connection without excessive drops in speed. For devices without Ethernet ports, which include tablet devices, mobile devices, and some modern laptops, a wireless router provides an access point for creating Wireless Local Area Network, or WLAN. The wireless router converts digital data from the modem into analog radio waves, which can be sent to wireless enabled devices, while also receiving wireless data to be sent back through the modem.
Converting the digital data back into an analog signal and back to the internet. Many routers today include the ability to transmit a wireless signal, while also including multiple ports for nearby devices to connect via Ethernet. And in some cases, the modem and wireless router can be bundled as the same device.