For businesses that need reliable, dedicated and secure data transmission between multiple and often remote sites, point-to-point (P2P or PTP) wireless networks have a unique advantage: They don’t require a cabled infrastructure. For this reason, they’re far more flexible, scalable and affordable than traditional cabled wide-area networks.
We’ll explain P2P wireless networks, how they work and connect and how they benefit companies with multiple sites.
What is point-to-point wireless?
A point-to-point wireless network offers numerous benefits for business internet needs. It’s among the simplest network types available in telecommunications. By bridging two access points, a P2P wireless network can securely transmit data between two devices.
Thanks to its reliability, a P2P wireless internet connection can create a secure online network across multiple worksites several miles apart.
Bluetooth shares many similarities with P2P. With Bluetooth, you can transfer data between devices in proximity with no need to physically connect the devices. P2P wireless is similar but on a larger, more sophisticated scale.
Instead of two connecting two phones, a P2P wireless connection creates a bridge between two secure access points with a clear line of sight. Once a P2P connection is established, you can connect multiple systems to create a secure network for your entire business.
Advances in P2P wireless technology have led to cost-effective, highly secure networks that offer the speed and flexibility a network needs to grow with your business.
Some P2P systems use microwave technology instead of radio waves. The advantage is that they can transmit at higher data rates. However, the alignment between separate points must be incredibly precise to work reliably. Microwave transmissions deliver very reliable connections for businesses with minimal latency.
How does point-to-point internet work?
A P2P wireless connection operates through a dedicated device in a network called a “point” to send data to an endpoint over the air through radio waves.
Other types of equipment can also allow a point-to-multipoint wireless connection, where data is transmitted to multiple endpoints simultaneously. Other types of P2P connection technology use laser instead of radio. However a system is configured, the utility is the same. Here are the basics:
- P2P internet requires a clear line of sight: The different points on a P2P wireless network require a clear line of sight between each other to work, whether you’re using repeater hub antennas, microwave relays or parabolic dishes.
- P2P internet uses radio waves: P2P wireless access points send data in 3D radio waves, similar to radio stations. But instead of the garbled audio, you get with a bad radio signal, you get a slower network with the potential to lose data.
- P2P point ranges can differ: The range between two links or points on a P2P wireless or network connection can be anywhere from 100 feet to 30 miles, depending on the device.
- Different frequencies affect P2P internet: Different frequencies give you different ranges and speeds to work with. For example, a P2P bridge running at a 2.4GHz frequency can deliver internet transfer speeds of 170 Mbps with up to 9 miles between the two locations. Meanwhile, a P2P laser connection can provide blazing speeds, topping out at 10 Gbps, but has a range of only 350 meters.
- Your network directly impacts P2P connections: Data flows in both directions on P2P connections, so your network speed, reach and configuration will impact performance directly. For example, if you have a complex surveillance system taking up all your bandwidth on a low-speed connection, the network will become unstable and slow for the rest of your team. You must consider these kinds of “bandwidth bandits” before you build your network and decide on the internet speed you want.
- P2P access points work with common Wi-Fi protocols: Most of today’s P2P access points work well with common Wi-Fi protocols, such as 802.11ac, 802.11 and the emerging 802.11ax. This means your business can expect a similar performance level to a standard Wi-Fi network but not to the standard of an Ethernet connection.
- P2P access point devices are secure: P2P access point devices come with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) wireless security as an extra precaution to keep prying eyes out and your data safe.
Weather can affect a P2P connection’s strength and quality. Lower frequencies can handle fog and rain better than higher frequencies, but you’ll still notice a drop in performance during adverse conditions.
What is bridging in Wi-Fi?
A wireless bridge is a way to connect two networks or network segments so devices on either side of the bridge can communicate with each other.
It’s also another way to avoid installation headaches associated with setting up a business Wi-Fi network because it gives specific devices remote access to your computer network that can’t connect to internal cabled infrastructure.
Similar to your home’s Wi-Fi router, a Wi-Fi bridge connects an access point to a network, giving internet access to a client device. Because a bridge doesn’t always need a direct line of sight, the device’s location doesn’t matter as long as it’s in range of the signal.
There are several types of wireless bridging, each with strengths and drawbacks. They include the following:
- Wi-Fi-to-Ethernet bridge: You can connect clients to an Ethernet network wirelessly, but it’s mainly meant for older devices without Wi-Fi, so we don’t see this type of bridge too often anymore.
- Wi-Fi-to-Wi-Fi bridge: This bridge is one of the more common types of wireless connections; it’s used to increase the range of a wireless hotspot.
- Bluetooth-to-Wi-Fi bridge: This bridge offers a way to connect Bluetooth-enabled devices, like cell phones, to a wireless network.
- Point-to-Point (PtP) bridge: These bridges connect two networks or buildings using a direct wireless link and are most often used over longer distances.
- Point-to-Multipoint (PtMP) bridge: This bridge is one central wireless point that connects to multiple remote points; it’s often used on large campuses or in rural areas.
Wireless bridges allow client devices within signal range to connect to the internet. There does not need to be a direct cable connection between the device and the router.
The benefits of P2P wireless networks
A point-to-point wireless network can offer your business a reliable, high-speed, low-latency connection without crushing your budget, as setting up a hardwire connection can be prohibitively costly and a logistical headache.
The benefits of P2P wireless networks include the following”
- P2P wireless networks connect multiple worksites: For a company with multiple business locations, a P2P wireless network can keep every site connected 24/7, providing a stable, secure signal.
- P2P wireless networks can save you money: P2P wireless networks also eliminate the construction and costs necessary to create a physical network, so you can redirect resources to the locations where you need them most.
- P2P wireless networks can eliminate the need for a virtual private network (VPN): As a bonus, a P2P wireless network setup can create a secure local area network (LAN) from the beginning. With this secure remote access, you won’t need VPN software for added protection.
- P2P wireless networks provide adequate transfer speeds: Even though bandwidth is shared across an entire network, most high-speed P2P networks provide plenty of transfer speed to deliver a solid connection for each work site.
- P2P wireless networks are easy to set up and maintain: Most importantly, the beauty of building a P2P wireless network lies in its simplicity. Because the infrastructure requires so little to set up, it’s easy to maintain, so you can always have the latest features and updates that create a stable, safe network.
When investing in a P2P network to connect your organization’s various locations, choose equipment with robust, built-in cybersecurity measures.
The best wireless internet providers
If setting up your own P2P wireless network is not an option and you must ensure reliable internet connections when on the move or in a rural area, the best business internet service providers can help. Some top-notch services include the following:
- AT&T: AT&T is an excellent option for businesses seeking consistently fast internet access. Its speeds range from 5 Mbps to 100 MBps, with pricing plans from $70 to $100 monthly for specialist wireless networks. Read our in-depth AT&T Business Internet review for more details.
- Comcast: Comcast is a business internet service provider with the most extensive gig-speed network in the United States. It offers several business internet plans that can meet the needs of even larger enterprises. Our Comcast Business Internet review goes into greater detail on available speeds and other specifications.
- Spectrum: Spectrum’s business internet offerings stand out for their affordability and flexible month-to-month payments. You can add secure Wi-Fi to your business internet package to connect employee devices for an additional per-device cost. Learn more via our complete Spectrum Business Internet review.
- Verizon: Verizon’s impressive 5G business internet service is fast and reliable, with additional business-focused connectivity tools and various customization options. Our Verizon High-Speed Business Internet review goes into detail on pricing and features.
Eduardo Vasconcellos contributed to this article.