Millions of British homes are now equipped with wireless broadband, allowing mobiles, laptops and tablets to connect without the need for a cable
If you're one of the many people who have considered setting up a wireless broadband connection, but think that you can't get wireless or that you'll need to pay your ISP to pipe in a new connection, then read on because anyone with a broadband connection can go wireless - you just need the right kit, and our guide.
There are two ways that you can go about switching to a wireless connection:
1. Get a complete package
Essentially, this means that your service provider will send you their own router which should be pre-configured so that you can plug in and be wirelessly connected within around 20 minutes.
A few providers might still send separate modems and wireless routers, but the largest providers will give you an all-in-one device, which contains both modem and wireless router. This makes setup incredibly easy - it almost does it all for you.
The major advantage of this is that retailers Virgin Media (www.VirginMedia.com), BT (www.BT.com) and Orange (www.Orange.co.uk) will pre-configure your hardware, making sure that all the settings are correct and that security is sorted.
These days, wireless broadband is considered standard by broadband providers, and they'll usually give you the necessary equipment for free when you sign up with them. Even so, you can if you desire set up a Wi-Fi network with your own wireless router.
2. Buy your own router
You can get a wireless router from any local retailer and set it up yourself. But bear in mind that wireless routers are not all generic. As well as having a variety of features to look out for, you need to make sure that you buy the right one for your broadband connection.
If you get your broadband through a phone line, from a company like BT, Toucan or Sky, then you need to get an ADSL router. If you have a cable connection from Virgin Media, then you need a cable/DSL router. If you buy the wrong one, it won't work.
Other features to consider when buying your router include:
- A built-in firewall for added security.
- Different types of encryption keys - WEP is a simple 64 or
128Bit encryption key but offers limited security and is relatively
easy to break. There is also WPA Personal (WPA-PSK) encryption,
which offers better security and is backwards compatible with older
routers and USB keys, and WPA2-AES which offers the best security
and better wireless performance but which is not compatible with
all older hardware.
- The number of ports - The more ports your router has, the more PCs and printers you will be able to plug in. While plugging your PC in to your router does defeat the object of wireless, if you experience any problems with your connection, it helps o have ports that you can plug all your household computers into so that you don't lose your internet connection completely.
If you do decide to buy your own router you will also need to configure it. This should be a relatively simple procedure but it helps if you're comfortable with computers to begin with.
Most routers will have their own wizard to help with the set up procedure, but there are two important steps that you need to take in order to protect your router and your PC. You will need to set up a WEP or WPA-PSK key for security and you will need to change the password on your router. For more information on how to do this, read our article on wireless security.
While you might be tempted to go for the cheapest option when buying your router, what you need to consider is value rather than cost. Think about the side effects of poor quality hardware such as interruptions in your connection and what kind of customer support you will get if you do need help.
Unless you're an advanced user, we recommend sticking with the equipment you broadband provider gives you. All-in-one routers, like the BT Home Hub 3 for example, are easy to set up, compact and have decent range.
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