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Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) is a category of LAN that uses high frequency radio waves rather than wires to transmit data or communicate between nodes. A WLAN enables users to move around the coverage area, generally a house, computer laboratory, school or an office while maintaining a network connection. They have become popular due to their ease of installation and use. A WLAN is also sometimes referred to as a local area wireless network (LAWN).
WLAN connects components which are called stations and belong to two categories: access points and clients. Access points receive and transmit radio frequency signals along with devices able to receive transmitted signals. They ideally work as routers. Clients may include different devices such as laptop computers, desktop computers, IP phones, workstations and other mobile phones and they communicate with the access points using a wireless network adapter in the same way like a traditional Ethernet adapter works. The stations which are able to communicate with each other are called Basic Service Sets (BSSs). These BSSs are of two types: infrastructure and independent. Infrastructure BSS may communicate with stations in other BSS. These BSSs must use the access points for communication. In Independent BSSs (IBSS) communication can happen even without using access points and they cannot connect to any other BSS in any other station. These WLANs are also called an ad-hoc or a peer-to-peer WLAN.
Network security is an important issue for WLANs. Unknown wireless clients must generally be prohibited from joining the WLAN. Technologies like Wireless Equivalent Privacy raise the bar of security on wireless networks to compete with the traditional wired networks. WLANs are implemented according to range covered which may be as large as a campus-size used in trains and airplanes.
One can also access the internet from WLAN hotspots in hotels, restaurants with portable devices which connect to 3G/4G networks. An example could be a mobile phone connecting to the internet (LAN) via a wireless connection. Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) is a WLAN technology, providing short-range wireless data connections between mobile devices (e.g. laptops, phones) and nearby Wi-Fi access points.