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What is a WLAN Port?

M. McGee
M. McGee

A wireless local access network (WLAN) is a limited local wireless network. A WLAN port is a device that allows computers to connect to the WLAN. In essence, a WLAN port is a type of router. The difference between these devices and a standard router is usually in the wired ports. Most routers have at least two wired ports for standard network connections, while a WLAN port generally has none. The only way to connect to one of these devices is via a wireless connection.

In order to understand what a WLAN port is and what it isn’t, it is necessary to know a few networking terms. A local access network (LAN) is the network that exists within a home or business to which all of the computing devices connect. A wide area network (WAN) is the network outside the LAN, often simply the Internet as a whole. A router allows the user’s computing devices to connect to the network; it is basically the center of the system. Lastly, a wireless router contains both ports to physically connect devices, like computers and gaming consoles, and wireless systems, like laptops and some cellphones.

A wireless router.
A wireless router.

In most cases, a wireless or wired router will have at least two wired ports, but can have many more. As computing devices move more towards wireless connections, these ports are being used less. Some router companies have begun making routers that have no wired ports at all; they only allow the connection of wireless systems. These devices go by several names, one of which is WLAN port.

In general, a WLAN port is exactly the same as a standard router except for the wired connections. It will perform all the routing functions and provide a basic firewall, just as a user would expect a standard router to do. The biggest difference is in the initial connection. Many standard routers require a wired connection to perform the initial setup processes; since this isn’t possible in this case, that isn’t required.

There is a small amount of confusion regarding these devices, mostly because of the similarity between WLAN and WAN. All routers, regardless of type, have a WAN port. In many cases, it is labeled 'WAN,' but occasionally it will go by a less technical name like 'Internet port' or 'uplink port.' Regardless of the name, it is a WAN port. The WAN port connects the router to the greater network, usually via the modem supplied by an Internet service provider.

The confusion comes from people mixing up the two names. A WLAN port, also known as a wireless router, has a WAN port, a connection to the Internet. A wired router also has a WAN port, whether it is wireless or not.

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    • A wireless router.
      A wireless router.