Types of wireless network devices

Meaning of Access Point, Router, Hotspot and what are wireless repeaters, adapters and other network devices

Reti wireless Not all users are familiar with the difference between various network devices or network computing terms used in the home. For many, in fact, routers or modems are the same thing, while it is not known what exactly access point, Wi-Fi Mesh or ad hoc network means. Knowing these terms is very important in the IT world, as we will often find them in the guides dedicated to networks on this site or on any other technology site.

To unravel any doubts we have created one complete guide to the types of devices of wireless networkstaking into consideration only the terminologies and devices that are easy to find inside the home or in a small office.

READ ALSO -> Create a computer LAN at home or in the office

1) Modem o Router?

Let’s start immediately with the biggest dilemma of home IT infrastructures: am I connected to a modem or a router? Does it still make sense to distinguish between the two types of devices?

The modem is a device meant for convert the electrical signal from the telephone socket (or the light signal of the FTTH fiber optic) into a digital signal composed of 1 and 0. Obviously the reverse process also applies, since a modem sends and receives signals. In the past there was only the modem and, to surf the Internetthe PC was connected to the only free socket behind it (usually Ethernet, but also USB sockets on very old ADSL modems).

READ ALSO: Differences between Modem and Router and different types

The router is a network device that distributes IP addresses to all devices connected to it and, in the most recent versions, also provides access via the Wi-Fi network. Inside we also find other typical functions of routers such as NAT (which manages the sending of packets to specific devices), the firewall and the DNS server (for web page requests), all essential for the connection. The router therefore allows you to multiply the devices that we normally connect to the modem (which basically supports only one device), so as to be able to connect all devices equipped with an Ethernet socket or Wi-Fi module.

This distinction has become very subtle in recent years until it disappears: all modems provided by telephony operators have the functionality of a router, making it completely unnecessary to connect a router to the modem as was done at the beginning of the Internet age. It therefore makes sense to speak only of modems or at most router modem (term little used), since now we find both devices in one.

The only case where we can still talk about a router distinguishing it from the modem is in the case of cascade connections: in this case one device will necessarily work as a modem, while the other will function as a router.

To learn more we can also read our guides on how to connect any modem to FTTH fiber and on best router for fiber.

2) Access Point

An Access Point or Access Point is a device connected to a network that allows other devices to use it wirelessly. Access points can be both private and public. For example, you may have a private access point in your home that is password protected, allowing only users who know it to access the network. In a café, on the other hand, there may be a public access point that allows everyone to use their network through what is called Hotspot wireless.

Do not confuse the meaning of Access Point with the wireless modem. There is some overlap between these two objects, but conceptually speaking, they are different things: a wireless modem is always an Access Point but an Access Point does not necessarily have to be represented by a modem or a router.

3) Reti Ad Hoc

An ad hoc wireless network is a type of network that does not rely on an existing network. That Latin term “ad hoc” means something that is created for a specific purpose, so the meaning of ad hoc network can be that of a wireless connection between computers created for a temporary purpose, such as file transfer.

The access point in an ad hoc network is the port through which all devices must connect to the network. On Windows the ad hoc network is the shared network where in practice the computer connected to the internet share the connection via the Wi-Fi module and make sure that other computers can connect to the internet via the ad hoc network.

On the same topic we can read our guides creare un hotspot WiFi su PC Windows e Connect 2 PCs in wifi to share internet or files.

4) Wireless repeater

And wireless repeater it is also known as a range extender or Wi-Fi Extender and is a device that takes boosts to the coverage of an existing Wi-Fi network. In practice it works as an “extension”, to extend the radio signal so that it reaches points further away from the modem or router we use for the Wi-Fi connection. Today, wireless repeaters are cheap, they are self-configuring by connecting to a power outlet and make sure that in a large house or office you can connect from any point.

Wi-Fi repeaters are useful for situations where the network signal is weak in certain areas of the house and allows you to increase the signal strength, allowing for a stronger connection. Likewise, a repeater can come in handy in cases where there is a lot of interference from walls, metal, or other radio signals. Most modern wireless routers also offer “repeater” mode to transform the router into a repeater; this is a great way to use old, unused routers.

To learn more, we can also read our guide on how amplify home Wi-Fi and extend wireless reception.

5) Bridge Wireless

If the access point is a device that connects to a wired network and allows other devices to connect wirelessly to that network, the wireless bridge works in a similar but opposite way. A Wireless Bridge is a bridging device that first connects wirelessly to a network and then allows other devices to connect to it using cables. Basically, a bridge allows wired devices to join a wireless network.

Most modern routers have “bridge” mode that you can use to extend the wireless network at home using devices that don’t have a Wi-Fi network card and need cables. The use of the network bridge has fallen into disuse today.

6) Wireless network adapter

A wireless network adapter allows a PC to access a Wi-Fi network. The adapter in question can be one internal network card to be added inside the PC case or present as a USB pen to be connected to a free USB port on the computer. Network cards tend to offer stronger connections and higher speeds than USB dongles, but they are more comfortable to use and set up.

To learn more we can read our guide on how to add wifi to a desktop PC.

7) Wi-Fi Mesh

The newest term we can run into is Wi-Fi Mesh, a Wi-Fi technology designed to offer high Wi-Fi coverage for larger homes or offices spread over multiple floors. This technology is composed of two or more Mesh Wi-Fi routers, to be placed in strategic points of the environment to be covered; after placing the satellites we connect the main Wi-Fi router (core) to the Ethernet cable modem, so as to spread the network coverage on all the other routers placed.

In fact, the Wi-Fi Mesh combines the advantages of Access points, the advantages of wireless repeaters and (in some cases) even of routers.offering a much stronger Wi-Fi signal than similar devices previously seen.

To find out more about this innovative technology, we invite you to read our guides on how the Wifi Mesh network works e Wi-Fi Extender vs WiFi Mesh: what are the differences.


The descriptions and terminologies seen above are sufficient to fully understand wireless networks and know which device to buy or use if necessary to solve connection problems or poor coverage. If we have money to spend, let’s go straight to Wi-Fi Mesh, the best wireless technology at the moment; if we want to save money we can either use Wi-Fi repeaters or recycle old modems or routers as network amplifiers.

Of course, there are plenty of other networking related terms, acronyms, and meanings that have been listed in another lead article with the computer dictionary for Internet and Networks with the meaning of the main terms.


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