When subscribing to an ISP, determine what type of equipment is available to select the most appropriate device. An ISP is a company that provides Internet services to individuals and businesses. An ISP usually provides a connection to the Internet, email accounts, and web pages, for a monthly service fee. Some ISPs rent equipment on a month-to-month basis. This could be more attractive than purchasing the equipment because the ISP supports the equipment if there is a failure, change, or upgrade to the technology. Equipment that can be used to connect to an ISP is shown in Figure 1.

Wireless Access Points

Wireless access points, shown in Figure 2, provide network access to wireless devices, such as laptops and tablets. The wireless access point uses radio waves to communicate with the wireless NIC in the devices and other wireless access points. An access point has a limited range of coverage. Large networks require several access points to provide adequate wireless coverage. A wireless access point provides connectivity only to the network, while a wireless router provides additional features, such as assigning IP addresses.


Routers connect networks to each other. Switches use MAC addresses to forward a frame within a single network. Routers use IP addresses to forward packets to other networks. A router can be a computer with special network software installed or a device built by network equipment manufacturers.

On a corporate network, one router port connects to the WAN connection and the other ports connect to the corporate LANs. The router becomes the gateway, or path to the outside, for the LAN.

Multipurpose Devices

Multipurpose devices, shown in Figure 3, are network devices that perform more than one function. It is more convenient to purchase and configure one device that serves all your needs than to purchase a separate device for each function. This is especially true for the home user. In a home network, the router connects the computers and network devices in the home to the Internet. The router serves as a home gateway and a switch. The wireless router serves as a home gateway, wireless access point, and a switch. Multipurpose devices may also include a modem.