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FAQ 279

What kind of wireless adapter should I buy?

The campus wireless network is built to be compatible with a, b and g wireless network adapters. Any kind of 802.11a, 802.11b or 802.11g (or any combination of the three) network adapter will work. If you own a laptop, chances are it already has a wireless adapter installed, but if not, you have the option of buying a PCI card or a USB adapter. IT Services highly suggests for both ease of use and cost efficiency that you purchase a USB adapter as purchasing a PCI card would involve paying a certified hardware technician to open your computer and installing it. The USB adapter is much easier to install and will offer you similar performance.

IT Services highly recommends that you choose the ZyXEL 802.11a/g Wireless USB adapter (Product #AG220). Some reasons for this recommendation are that it offers:
    • This is the only adapter tested to be fully compatible with Windows Vista, XP and 2000
    • Since the card works on a, b and g network, you'll experience significantly optimized performance in crowded Uwindsor hotspots with the 'a' band, as well as full support for home networks on the 'b' and 'g' bands.
    • 24/7 call support
    • Great prices in comparison to other tri-mode wireless USB Ethernet adapters

Please note that this adapter is not compliant with Windows 95/98/ME/NT or Macintosh operating systems.

The 108AG adapter is available for purchase at the University Bookstore. The D-Link G122 wireless adapter for Windows 95/98/ME is also available at the bookstore, but since it isn't compatible with the A band, it will not perform as well.

For more information on D-Link products, you can consult their Website.

Here is some more technical information on how the wireless network works, and why you will experience significantly greater service with a "trimode" wireless adapter from the UWin Wireless Network:

The UWin Wireless Network communicates with your wireless adapter using the IEEE 802.11 standard. From that standard there are a variety of sub-standards, all of which have their own advantages and disadvantages. Our network is able to communicate through the 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g standards, which is why any A, B or G card will work.

The B and G standards both communicate on the 2.4Ghz frequency, which is good in the sense that it has a longer signal range, but it’s bad in the sense that many common products (2.4Ghz cordless phones and Microwaves, for example) can cause interference that reduce your signal strength. On top of this possible interference, the 2.4Ghz frequency only has 11 channels, only 3 of which are non-overlapping (they don’t interfere with each other). The A standard, on the other hand, works at the 5Ghz frequency. This frequency has less range, but it has 52 possible channels, 12 of which are non-overlapping. So the advantage you would experience with the A-band over the B/G-bands would not only be a better signal in crowded, high-traffic areas (ie: residence), but you would also avoid the disruption caused by 2.4Ghz cordless phones, microwaves, or other commonly used products that operate in that frequency.

So then why not buy a cheaper wireless adapter that is only compatible with A and not B/G? Although an adapter that only works on the A-band would work on the university networks, support for A on other networks (such as most affordable home/office wireless solutions) is not that common. Most wireless network solutions offer support for B/G-bands only, which means your A-band wireless adapter may serve no use to you when you are no longer using it on campus.

This FAQ belongs to the following categories:

Internet Access - All, Internet Access - Wireless


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This document was last updated on Oct 27, 2015 by Noelle Pavlovic