In computer networking, a wireless access point (WAP), or more generally just access point (AP), is a networking hardware device that allows other Wi-Fi devices to connect to a wired network.
The AP usually connects to a router (via a wired network) as a standalone device, but it can also be an integral component of the router itself. An AP is differentiated from a hotspot, which is the physical location where Wi-Fi access to a WLAN is available.
An AP connects directly to a wired local area network, typically Ethernet, and the AP then provides wireless connections using wireless LAN technology, typically Wi-Fi, for other devices to use that wired connection. APs support the connection of multiple wireless devices through their one wired connection.
It is generally recommended that one IEEE 802.11 AP should have, at a maximum, 10-25 clients. However, the actual maximum number of clients that can be supported can vary significantly depending on several factors, such as type of APs in use, density of client environment, desired client throughput, etc.
The range of communication can also vary significantly, depending on such variables as indoor or outdoor placement, height above ground, nearby obstructions, other electronic devices that might actively interfere with the signal by broadcasting on the same frequency, type of antenna, the current weather, operating radio frequency, and the power output of devices.
Network designers can extend the range of APs through the use of repeaters, which amplify a radio signal, and reflectors, which only bounce it. In experimental conditions, wireless networking has operated over distances of several hundred kilometers.