LAN (Local Area Network) refers to a communications network in which devices are connected through wired technology in a confined area, often operating within a single building. WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network), is a communications network that does not connect using cables, but, instead, uses radio frequency (RF), or on occasion, infrared (IR) transmission. Integrated WLAN is mostly commonly used with routers or access points that provide for a joining of these two, differently connected, systems. Integrated WLAN may also be used to refer to connections between WLAN and other technologies, such as UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) or TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) or WAN networks.
When LANs began to be used, the computers, computer terminals, and other devices in the network had to be connected via some type of wire, either optical fibers, coaxial cables, or telephone lines, as appropriate. While networking was enormously beneficial for sharing data and devices — cutting costs and increasing productivity — the wired nature of the connections are not always easy. Once the Internet came into the picture, a router with a connection pointed outwards became the hub of the system connecting the LAN to the Internet. Originally, before Integrated WLAN, routers simply connected a group of PCs to the Internet using cables.
Integrated WLAN is often set up through a router that can handle both a cabled connection, as well as wireless connections. These connection can be used by WiFi or IP (Internet Protocol) phones, also known as Voice over IP or VoIP phones, as well as by computers and other wired and wireless devices. Computers with a wireless card installed may be used either through the cabled connection or wirelessly, as the owner chooses and as the reach of the wireless network allows. Other devices that can be used on the network include video game consoles, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) and MP3 (MPEG Audio Layer 3) players.
The wireless connections vary, depending on which version or versions of the 802.11 standard are used. The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 802.11 standards describe the interfaces for WLAN, including integrated WLAN. The most commonly found iterations of the standard in the twenty-first century are 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n. There are dual band routers that take advantage of the two frequencies for 802.11n — 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. At 2.4 GHz, a range of about 230 ft (70 m) can be achieved, while the range for 5 GHz is significantly less. Dual band implementations can either be one-at-a-time or simultaneous.