A wireless router is a device in a wireless local area network (WLAN) that determines the next network point to which a packet should be forwarded toward its destination. A wireless router works in the same way as the router in a hard-wired home or business local area network (LAN), but allows greater mobility for notebook or portable computers. The individual computers are equipped with small wireless transceivers that can be plugged into either a Universal Serial Bus (USB) port or a PC card slot.
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For home and business computer users who have high-speed Internet connections, a wireless router can also act as a hardware firewall. This is true even if the home or business has only one computer. Many engineers believe that the use of a router provides superior protection against hacking because individual computer IP addresses are not directly exposed to the Internet. A wireless router also does not consume computer resources as a firewall program does.
Wireless router technology has improved in recent years, providing more bandwidth and allowing for the connection of more computers to a WLAN. The newer wireless routers use the 802.11g specification, a standard that offers transmission over short distances at up to 54 megabits per second (Mbps), compared with the 11 Mbps theoretical maximum with the earlier 802.11b standard.