While wireless access points and routers may perform similar functions, they are more like cousins than twins when it comes to supporting wireless network connectivity.

Choosing between a wireless AP and router is influenced by several essential factors, including the size of the network, the needs of the organization, and the total number of users. In general, enterprises and large organizations can benefit from having multiple access points.

A wireless router offers the functionality of two wireless devices - a standalone AP and an Ethernet wired router - in one physical appliance. Thus, wireless routers are more attractive to small businesses and residential households.

It's critical to note that a wireless router can be considered an access point, but an access point cannot be a router.

What Is a Wireless Access Point?

WAP (wireless access point) is a networking hardware appliance that enables wireless connectivity into existing wired networks by bridging wireless traffic into the wired LAN. The AP can be either a standalone device or part of a router.

Devices with no inbuilt Wi-Fi connection can use a wireless AP with an Ethernet cable to access a wireless network.

An access point converts wired signals into wireless ones. Additionally, a WAP can also be used for increasing the coverage of an existing network if access requirements increase in the future.

What Is a Wireless Router?

Essentially, a router is a device that transfers data over the network, either wired or wirelessly.  As a network device that incorporates intelligence, it efficiently directs traffic on the network.

Wired networking typically involved connecting routers to other devices on a LAN (local area network). But wireless routers provide a user-friendly installation without cabling, making them increasingly popular with home and small office users.

The wireless router enables wireless connections between Wi-Fi-enabled devices, such as laptops and mobile phones.

They can also be used for VoIP (Voice over IP) calls and IPTV/digital TV services. Moreover, they protect against potential threats outside of the LAN with firewalls and password protection.

Wireless Access Point vs. Router: The Differences

In terms of Wi-Fi network connectivity, wireless access points and wireless routers fulfill similar functions. That causes confusion among consumers.

As it turns out, these two network devices are more like cousins than twins. Following is a brief description of the differences between them.

1. Function

 Generally, wireless routers have the functions of a wireless access point, an Ethernet router, a basic firewall, and a small Ethernet switch. A wireless access point is often a part of devices, such as routers or Wi-Fi extenders.

Essentially, a wireless router acts as an Ethernet hub, linking and managing all the devices it connects to, resulting in the creation of a local area network.

On the other hand, an access point provides access only to an established local network from the router.

As a result, if you are a network admin, you can use a wireless router to change the settings of the network, but an access point does not have this functionality.

2. Connection & Coverage

Wireless routers and access points operate in different ways. Generally, a wireless router offers Wi-Fi signals directly to devices or works with a PoE switch to add additional wireless APs to extend its coverage.

Occasionally, Wi-Fi signals will be weak, and there will be dead spots if the wireless router can't reach the expected range.

It is better to add wireless access points in locations with bad network conditions, reducing dead spots and extending the wireless network. In order to increase the coverage of enterprise wireless APs, SMB networks must connect them with a PoE switch and then the gateway.

3. Application

Wireless routers serve primarily residential homes, small office environments, and small business environments, meeting their needs for fixed access and moderate access. It's evident that this type of router cannot scale to meet the increasing network needs in the foreseeable future.

Wireless Access Points are mainly used in medium to large enterprises and organizations, supporting several users with multiple wireless APs.

In contrast to the previous situation, network managers can add additional access points as their needs increase, covering a larger geographic area.

So, which is a better option: A wireless router or a wireless access point?

Choosing between a wireless router and a wireless access point comes down to your needs.  If you want to set up a wireless network at home to cover your family members' needs, you can get by with a wireless router.

However, if you want to build a wireless network that is more reliable and benefits many users, a wireless access point would be more suitable.

When planning a future Wi-Fi architecture, it is crucial to consider the following factors:

  • The physical size of the venue
  • The coverage of the network
  • The number of Wi-Fi users currently present, and
  • The expected access demands

A wireless router is almost an essential device for every household or small business due to its easy use and reliability. But with the advent of wireless access points, large enterprises tend to adopt them to cover larger areas or support more users in larger local area networks.

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