Hello everyone, we’re gonna talk about the difference between a wireless access point and a Wi-Fi router. Now a lot of people think that these two devices are the same thing. But even though they do look similar and they do similar things, they are in fact different.
What is Wi-Fi router ?
So let’s first talk about a Wi-Fi router. Now almost everyone who has an internet connection in their home would have a Wi-Fi router, whether that Wi-Fi router is a separate device or if it’s built into their modem. A Wi-Fi router is what allows multiple wired and wireless devices to join together in a local area network. It’ll broadcast a Wi-Fi signal so that wireless devices can connect to it and it’ll also have a built-in switch with several network ports so that wired devices can connect to it using Ethernet cables.
And then that Wi-Fi router will directly connect to a modem to give those devices internet access. Wi-Fi routers are mainly used in homes and small offices. So here we have a typical home where a couple of desktops are connected to the Wi-Fi router’s built-in switch using cables. And we also have laptops and tablets that are connected wirelessly to the router.
Wireless access point
So now let’s talk about a wireless access point. A wireless AP relays data between a wired network and wireless devices. It’s basically a wireless hub that’s used by wireless devices to connect to an existing wired network. A wireless AP connects directly to an organization’s router where the router is then connected directly to a modem. Which gives the wireless devices access to the internet.
Now wireless access points are primarily used by medium to large organizations and typically an organization will have multiple access points to make sure it covers the entire building. So for example here we have a medium sized office. And this office has desktop computers, laptops, and tablets. So the desktop computers will connect to the organization’s router using Ethernet cables.
But in order for the wireless laptops and tablets to connect to the network, this office is going to use wireless access points. So the access points are going to be placed in strategic places and each of them will connect to the router using an Ethernet cable. Then once that is done they will all broadcast a Wi-Fi signal so that the laptops and tablets can connect wirelessly and join this network so now all the desktop computers and wireless devices are joined together in one network.
And that one network is managed by one single router and because wireless access points are managed by a single router, that is one of the main reasons why larger organizations use wireless access points instead of Wi-Fi routers.
Now in reality this office here can use Wi-Fi routers instead of wireless APs and it would work just fine. But the problem with using Wi-Fi routers instead of wireless APs is manageability. If the network administrator wanted to manage this network and make certain changes, he would have to log into each Wi-Fi router to make that change. And that could be a hassle and time-consuming especially if there were a lot of Wi-Fi routers.
But if this office was using wireless access points instead, then all the management and all the changes in the configuration would be done by this single router. Which makes managing a network a lot easier. So all the wireless devices can be treated as a single subnet instead of being treated as multiple subnets if Wi-Fi routers were used. Another difference between these is how devices are able to connect to them.
Difference betweena wireless access point and a Wi-Fi router
Wireless access points are strictly for wireless devices to connect to, where as Wi-Fi routers are able to accept connections from both wireless devices and wired devices. Because in addition to having a Wi-Fi antenna Wi-Fi routers will also have a built in switch to accept Ethernet cable connections. Another difference is a firewall. Wireless access points don’t have a firewall, while Wi-Fi routers will have a firewall. Wi-Fi routers will also have a built-in DHCP service.
A DHCP service is what automatically assigns IP addresses to devices that are connected to it. So when devices connect to a Wi-Fi router, its built-in DHCP service will directly assign those devices an IP address. But since Wireless APs don’t have a DHCP service, the devices that are connected to it will get its IP address from the organization’s router. So once a device connects to the wireless AP, the router will send the IP through the wireless access point and then to the device.
And another difference is that Wi-Fi routers will have a WAN port or internet port. A WAN or internet port is where you would plug in a network cable coming in from your modem. And this is what gives your Wi-Fi router an internet connection so it can pass it on to other devices, whereas a wireless access point doesn’t have a WAN or internet port. So it cannot directly connect to a modem. It has to connect directly to a router instead and then the router is what connects to a modem .
And on a final note wireless access points are often used to further extend a network’s existing wireless signal. So for example if this home needed to extend its Wi-Fi signal further into this home, you can attach a wireless access point using a network cable to the Wi-Fi router so that distant devices can connect to the Wi-Fi signal.