An Access Point typically gets confused for a router, and in most instances, many individuals don’t understand what it is and how it works, let alone if it has an IP address. Let’s take a look.
Access Points do indeed have and use IP addresses as well as MAC addresses. An Access Point will have one or both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses depending on the network and configuration. Furthermore, they will typically be set up with a static IP address outside the DHCP address range.
In order to understand if and why an Access Point (AP) should have an IP address, we will need to understand what an IP address is, how it functions, and then relate that to what an Access point is and how it functions. This will help us understand and determine if an AP indeed does have an IP address.
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What is an IP address?
An IP address is a numerical label assigned to any device connected to a network. This could be your home network or on the public-facing internet (world wide web).
We can try to understand what an IP address is and why you need one by comparing it to the address of your house. If you take a letter and mail it to somebody, you would put the address of their house on the envelope. That is to ensure that the letter makes its way to the correct address. This is the same for an IP address.
The IP address makes sure that the correct data is being sent to your device from the internet or local network. If IP addresses did not exist, there is no way we would be able to receive the data we need. As with an envelope, if it did not have the correct address or it had the incorrect address, that information within the letter would never end up where it is supposed to go.
IP addresses are the unique identifiers that we need in order to make sure that the correct data gets sent to our device.
What is an Access Point?
An access point (also known as a Wireless Acces Point) is a piece of hardware that is a networking device. This device allows Wi-Fi enabled devices to connect to a network (this is different from a router which we will explain). An AP can be a standalone piece of equipment and may be connected to a router via a wired connection, or it can be built into the router itself as an integrated component.
Access points are typically used to extend the range of the main network so more devices can be connected to it without the need for hard-wired connections. A router can have multiple wireless access points connected to it to provide greater wireless coverage and increase the number of devices that can connect to the network wirelessly.
What is the difference between an AP and a router?
You may be thinking, well, why are APs and routers not the same thing? A router is an edge network device that your devices connect to, and it is responsible for managing and handling your network traffic by routing data to where it is intended to go. A wireless access point is, as we stated, a device that can further connect other devices to it, and it, in turn, connects to your router, essentially connecting those wireless devices to the network.
Do access points have IP addresses?
We now understand what an IP address is and what it is used for, and we know what an AP is, so does an AP have an IP address? Indeed it does.
An access point is just like any other device that connects to a network and thus will have an IP address. Its function may be different from other devices connected to a network (its only job is to connect more devices to a network), such as your phone, tablet, PC, or gaming console, but it will and must always have an IP address. Furthermore, it will also have a MAC address because it is connected to a network hub (your router).
Why do access points need an IP address?
As we said, every device connected to a network needs a unique identifying address so that the correct information that needs to be sent to the device will arrive at that device and nowhere else. This is also true for an AP. The AP address will help data that is being sent to arrive at the devices that are connected to it.
Think about a coffee shop where you connect to the free Wi-Fi. You will typically be connecting to an access point and not the router itself. The AP acts as a medium between you, the router, and the internet, and in order for all the data to be sent to your phone, it needs a path to follow, and one of the paths it will follow is through the IP address of the AP.
What type of IP address will an AP have?
There are two types of IP addresses that an AP point can have: an IPV4 address and an IPv6 address. Both IP addresses function in the same way. They give a unique identifier to the device so the correct data can be transferred to the device and then any other subsequent devices connected to it.
What is the difference between an IPv4 address and an IPv6 address that an AP can have?
IPv4 uses 32 binary bits to create a single unique address on the network, and it is shown as four numbers separated by a dot. Each individual number is the representation of an eight-digit binary number, also known as an octet.
A typical IPv4 address will look something like this;
An IPv6 address uses 128 binary bits to create its own single unique address on the network. As you can see, it is four times greater than 32 bits, and because of this, it offers greater security and long-term use. IT comprises of eight groups of hexadecimal numbers, which are separated by colons. An IPv6 address will typically look something like this;
However, anything that is regarded as zero will typically be left out, and you will sometimes have the above abbreviated as such;
Will an AP have a dynamic or static IP address?
An AP should be set up to have a static IP address that will be inside the subnet of the main router, but it will be outside the range of its DHCP. Detailing this is beyond the scope of this article, but we will clarify what a static and dynamic IP is and why your AP should have a static IP.
A static IP is when you set up the IP (address) of your device yourself. If you do not have an understanding of TCP/IP, then there is a lot of room for error, and thus, you will never use a static IP for devices that connect to the internet. They will obtain these automatically from your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or your router.
These automatic IP addresses are known as dynamic IP addresses and are on “lease” to you. This is because your devices are not always connected to the network. When your computer turns off or you disconnect from the internet, they are removed and replaced with a new one once you connect again.
In the case of an AP, it is better to configure a static IP so that you can remotely manage the access point without having to search for its IP address manually. If it had a dynamic IP, every time it connected to the network, the IP address would change, and you would have to log in to your router and navigate the list of IP addresses assigned by its DHCP to find the AP.
How to find your access points address
If you own an AP, all you would need to do is look on the back of the actual device, and the IP address along with the MAC address should be printed on a label.
Suppose you are already connected to a network and want to find the AP address. In that case, you can log into the router and do so from there (the method will vary slightly depending on the router configuration and headings).
Windows method of obtaining your access point’s IP address
If you do not have access to the router, you can do so from the network settings in windows if you are using a PC.
- Go to “network and internet settings.”
- Then click on the option that says “change adapter options.”
- Right-click on the network you are connected to and select the “status” option.
- Click on the “details” option
- The option that shows the IPv4 or the IPv6 address will then be your AP’s IP address
MAC method of obtaining your access point’s IP address
We will again, like the Windows method, assume you have connected to the network already.
- Click on the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar
- Select the “open network preferences” option
- Select the network you are connected to
- Click on the “advanced” option
- Click on the TCP/IP tab
- Your AP IP address should be listed next to the option “Router.”
We discovered that an AP (Access Point) indeed does have an IP address. This is because any device that is connected to a network needs a uniques address (IP address) so that the correct data being transmitted is received at the correct location. Similar to that of sending mail and having the address stamped on the envelope.
An AP is a device that connects multiple wireless devices to a network, and this needs to have an IP address; otherwise, the information trying to be sent to a device connected to the access point will not know where to go.
We also found out that an AP can have two types of IP addresses, namely IPv4 and IPv6 addresses and that when it is set up correctly, the access point should have a static IP. This is for ease of use.