With the evolution to cloud-based controllers, today the WiFi Access Point (AP) is the main, and often, sole component to building a WiFi network.
A WiFi Access Point’s primary function is to provide wireless connectivity over the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. It provides connectivity by authenticating new users and scheduling when each user should send their data. In a home or small office environment with only one WiFi AP, it may also be a router, tasked with handing out IP addresses and deciding when to send data to the internet. In most larger networks however routing and switching tasks are best handled by a dedicated router, with the WiFi APs solely looking after sending and receiving data packets over the wireless medium.
Modern WiFi networks tend to use cloud-based controllers where practical. This deployment methodology eliminates the need for an expensive hardware on-premises wireless controller (WLC), suitable for those locations with a reliable internet connection.
The latest WiFi access points are WiFi-6 802.11ax which is often characterised by software-selectable multi-radio chipsets, 2D/3D beamforming, MU-MIMO antenna technology beyond 4T4R, and multi-gigabit data rates as fast as 10 Gbps.