Wireless broadband

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Guide to wireless broadband

Key points

  • Wireless can refer to wireless broadband or wireless networking
  • Most broadband suppliers will provide you with a free wireless router when you choose their package
  • An unsecured wi-fi network could lead to slower broadband and security risks

Wireless broadband, also known as wi-fi, simply means broadband without the wires.

To access it in your home, you'll need a wireless router. Once you've got one of these, you can access the web anywhere within its range from any wi-fi enabled device.

This should hopefully cover your whole house and save you the hassle of installing extra phone lines.

Be aware that some structures can block wi-fi signals, for example fire doors. So if you live in a rental property which has this type of door, you may want to think about wi-fi range.

What does wireless refer to?

Wireless can be used in reference to both wireless broadband and wireless networking. The latter refers to a connected internet network, often for a business, while wireless broadband is the more common term used in relation to personal internet use.

Wi-fi access is increasingly common outside the home, with hotspots in certain outside areas and public buildings, plus service businesses offering the public internet access, sometimes for free.

Image of a man looking at a laptop

Within the home, setting up wireless broadband could allow you to browse the internet in any part of your house, as long as the signal reaches far enough.

No wires means using mobile devices and tablets at home is easy. Online gaming has been boosted by wireless internet, and devices such as printers, DVD drivers, even 'smart' fridges, are often built with wireless capability.

Wireless routers

Many internet service providers (ISPs) offer free wireless routers to new customers, but if you already have a broadband contract it's well worth trying to negotiate a free router from your provider.

If you decide to purchase your own router you'll need to make sure you buy the right one for your broadband connection.

If you have an ADSL broadband connection (ie your connection is via a phone line) you'll need an ADSL router, whereas if you have a cable connection you'll need a cable/DSL router.

If you buy the wrong router for your connection, it won't work.

What about wireless broadband security?

If you opt for wireless broadband, it's important that you take security measures to prevent other users or computers gaining access to your connection.

How to improve your broadband speed

If your wireless network is left unsecured it could slow down your connection. It may allow a neighbour, or even a passer-by, access to your broadband with any wireless-enabled device.

It could also result in the theft of your personal data, such as credit card or online banking details.

But this shouldn't put you off wi-fi. These risks can be easily remedied by encrypting data and setting up a password.

This password comes in the form of a wireless encryption key - a series of numbers, letters and characters that turns data into code and makes hacking more difficult.

There are two types of encryption key - Wired Equipment Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA).

Wired Equipment Privacy (WEP)

WEP encrypts data before it's sent over the internet. If you've set up WEP security on your wireless router, anyone wanting to gain access to your network will be asked to enter a password before they can use the internet.

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)

WPA or WPA2, which has replaced WPA in more modern wi-fi devices, are wireless broadband encryption methods that are far harder to crack than older WEP codes.

Access control

As an alternative to WEP and WPA, access control allows you to create an access list of the computers that are allowed to connect to your network. This takes security to the next level - it may not be necessary for your domestic needs, but consider your circumstances.

Most routers come with instructions on how to secure your wireless connection. Alternatively, speak with your ISP.

5G

You may be seeing even faster internet connections available in the UK in the not so distant future, as it was announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement that the government will be investing heavily in full-fibre broadband and trialling 5G technology, to provide secure and super speedy broadband throughout Britain by 2021.

5G is specifically designed to keep up with the demand of mobile devices on internet connections and make data transfer faster than ever. This should help to maintain fast internet connections for all things wireless - which can include everything from your watch to your fridge, as well as more traditional options like tablets, mobile phones and laptops.

By Emily Bater