Wireless Access Point vs Router

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Wireless Access Point vs Router – What’s the Difference

You’ll notice a few key differences when you compare a wireless AP to a router.

While both devices can connect devices to a WiFi network, their primary functions differ significantly; a router directs traffic between networks, while an AP extends wireless connectivity within a single network.

For a fresh WiFi setup, the decision between a wireless AP and a router is influenced by several aspects, including the network’s physical size, the organization’s demands, and the overall number of WiFi users.

Multiple APs, in general, can better suit the needs of large businesses and organizations better.

On the other hand, residential homes and small businesses benefit from wireless routers since they combine the capabilities of two wireless gadgets, an Ethernet WiFi router, and a standalone AP, in a single appliance.

It’s more accurate to say that a router often includes an AP function to provide wireless connectivity. Still, a standalone AP lacks the routing capabilities to manage network traffic between networks or the internet.

Continue reading to learn more about the differences between a wireless AP and a router and how to choose based on your specific wireless coverage needs.

What is a Wireless AP

Wireless Access Point Vs Router

Wireless Access Point Vs Router – What is A Wireless AP

An independent wireless AP (access point) is a physical device that offers WiFi functionality to an established wired network by bridging traffic from several wireless workstations onto an adjacent wired LAN.

An AP connects wireless devices to a wired network using WiFi, unlike a LAN hub that passively forwards data between connected Ethernet devices. Instead, APs actively manage wireless connections and communicate between WiFi devices and the wired network.

The vast majority of companies and organizations require multiple access points. Several APs deployed throughout a network allow WiFi to keep up with demand across vast physical space and many end-user-connected devices. 

Each extra AP expands the network’s availability and coverage by providing another place for consumers to connect.

Wireless networks can be boosted by strategically placing APs across a workplace to service dead spots or regions with poor WiFi signals.

What is a WiFi Router?

What Is a WiFi Router

A wireless router is a dual-purpose device. It combines the features of a wireless access point (AP), which connects a group of wireless stations to a nearby wired network, with a router, which transmits IP packets between the wireless subnet and any other subnet.

In other words, it can connect end-user clients to the LAN and serve as a LAN-to-internet gateway.

As a result, in a network with many isolated APs, a separate router is required to operate as a gateway between the LAN and the internet.

Wireless Access Point Vs. Router: Differences


Wireless Access Point Vs Router

Wireless routers are typically used in domestic residences, small businesses, and SOHO workplaces. Fortunately, they can easily handle fixed and moderate connectivity demands.

Wireless APs are most commonly seen in medium to large businesses and organizations, where several APs are deployed to serve numerous users.

In contrast to the previous instance, network pros may install more APs as demand grows, allowing them to cover a larger physical space.

Connection and Coverage

Wireless Access Point Vs Router

Connection and Coverage

In contrast to the previous instance, network pros may install more APs as demand grows, allowing them to cover a larger physical space.

The connectivity mechanisms of routers and wireless APs are different.

Typically, a wireless router can provide direct WiFi signals to devices or link to a PoE switch that can integrate wireless APs to expand WiFi coverage.

While wireless APs extend an existing network’s wireless coverage and cannot directly connect to the internet, they do not necessarily require a WiFi router as an intermediary if connected to a network with an existing router or gateway capable of performing routing functions.

If the wireless router can’t cover the desired area, it could be that the WiFi signals are weak or hit some dead spots. 

Instead, a wireless AP can be installed in regions with poor network conditions to eliminate dead spots and extend the WiFI network.

To enhance the wireless signal coverage in SMB networks, enterprise wireless APs must be linked to a PoE switch and then to the gateway.


Wireless Access Point vs Router

Wireless Access Point vs Router – Function

A wireless router acts more as a network switch than an ‘Ethernet hub,’ intelligently directing data between devices on the network and managing connections to the internet, not just passively relaying data like a hub.

On the other hand, an access point is a local area network sub-device that only allows access to the router’s established network.

As a result, if you’re a network administrator, you can tweak the network’s settings with a wireless router but not with a wireless AP.

Final Thought

So, should you go for a wireless AP or a router? Well, it all depends on your needs.

If you want WiFi at home to cover your family’s needs, a router is more than enough. However, if you want to build a network to cover many users, you need several wireless APs.

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