Wi-Fi or WiFi is a technology that allows electronic devices to connect to a wireless LAN (WLAN) network, mainly using the 2.4 gigahertz (12 cm) UHF and 5 gigahertz (6 cm) SHF ISM radio bands. A WLAN is usually password protected, but may be open, which allows any device within its range to access the resources of the WLAN network.
The Wi-Fi Alliance defines Wi-Fi as any "wireless local area network" (WLAN) product based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) 802.11 standards. However, the term "Wi-Fi" is used in general English as a synonym for "WLAN" since most modern WLANs are based on these standards. "Wi-Fi" is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance. The "Wi-Fi Certified" trademark can only be used by Wi-Fi products that successfully complete Wi-Fi Alliance interoperability certification testing.
Devices which can use Wi-Fi technology include personal computers, video-game consoles, smartphones, digital cameras, tablet computers and digital audio players. Wi-Fi compatible devices can connect to the Internet via a WLAN network and a wireless access point. Such an access point (or hotspot) has a range of about 20 meters (66 feet) indoors and a greater range outdoors. Hotspot coverage can be as small as a single room with walls that block radio waves, or as large as many square kilometres achieved by using multiple overlapping access points.
Depiction of a device sending information wirelessly to another device, both connected to the local network, in order to print a document.
Wi-Fi is less secure than wired connections, such as Ethernet, precisely because an intruder does not need a physical connection. Web pages that use TLS are secure, but unencrypted Internet access can easily be detected by intruders. Because of this, Wi-Fi has adopted various encryption technologies. The early encryption WEP proved easy to break. Higher quality protocols (WPA, WPA2) were added later. An optional feature added in 2007, called Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), had a serious flaw that allowed an attacker to recover the router's password. The Wi-Fi Alliance has since updated its test plan and certification program to ensure all newly certified devices resist attacks.
Wi-Fi is the name of a popular wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connections. A common misconception is that the term Wi-Fi is short for "wireless fidelity," however this is not the case. Wi-Fi is simply a trademarked phrase that means IEEE 802.11x.
The Wi-Fi Alliance
The Wi-Fi Alliance, the organization that owns the Wi-Fi registered trademark term specifically defines Wi-Fi as any "wireless local area network (WLAN) products that are based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) 802.11 standards."
Initially, Wi-Fi was used in place of only the 2.4GHz 802.11b standard, however the Wi-Fi Alliance has expanded the generic use of the Wi-Fi term to include any type of network or WLAN product based on any of the 802.11 standards, including 802.11b, 802.11a, dual-band and so on, in an attempt to stop confusion about wireless LAN interoperability.
How Wi-Fi Works
Wi-Fi works with no physical wired connection between sender and receiver by using radio frequency (RF) technology -- a frequency within the electromagnetic spectrum associated with radio wave propagation. When an RF current is supplied to an antenna, an electromagnetic field is created that then is able to propagate through space.
The cornerstone of any wireless network is an access point (AP). The primary job of an access point is to broadcast a wireless signal that computers can detect and "tune" into. In order to connect to an access point and join a wireless network, computers and devices must be equipped with wireless network adapters (See "How Wireless Networks Work" in the "Did You Know..." section of Webopedia).
Wi-Fi Support in Applications and Devices
Wi-Fi is supported by many applications and devices including video game consoles, home networks, PDAs,mobile phones, major operating systems, and other types of consumer electronics. Any products that are tested and approved as "Wi-Fi Certified" (a registered trademark) by the Wi-Fi Alliance are certified as interoperable with each other, even if they are from different manufacturers. For example, a user with a Wi-Fi Certified product can use any brand of access point with any other brand of client hardware that also is also "Wi-Fi Certified". Products that pass this certification are required to carry an identifying seal on their packaging that states "Wi-Fi Certified" and indicates the radio frequency band used (2.5GHz for 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n, and 5GHz for 802.11a).
What is WiFi and How Does it Work?
WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves to provide network connectivity. A WiFi connection is established using a wireless adapter to create hotspots - areas in the vicinity of a wireless router that are connected to the network and allow users to access internet services. Once configured, WiFi provides wireless connectivity to your devices by emitting frequencies between 2.4GHz - 5GHz, based on the amount of data on the network.
This article will introduce you to the basics of WiFi so that you may have a better understanding of the worldwide phenomenon that provides you with your internet access.
What Does WiFi Stand For?
You may be surprised to hear that many people don't actually know that WiFi is an abbreviated term. Even those who do don't always know what WiFi stands for. There are a number of theories about what the term means, but the most widely accepted definition for the term in the tech community is Wireless Fidelity.
An Introduction to WiFi
Wireless technology has widely spread lately and you can get connected almost anywhere; at home, at work, in libraries, schools, airports, hotels and even in some restaurants.
Wireless networking is known as WiFi or 802.11 networking as it covers the IEEE 802.11 technologies. The major advantage of WiFi is that it is compatible with almost every operating system, game device, and advanced printer.
How WiFi Works
Like mobile phones, a WiFi network makes use of radio waves to transmit information across a network. The computer should include a wireless adapter that will translate data sent into a radio signal. This same signal will be transmitted, via an antenna, to a decoder known as the router. Once decoded, the data will be sent to the Internet through a wired Ethernet connection.
As the wireless network works as a two-way traffic, the data received from the internet will also pass through the router to be coded into a radio signal that will be received by the computer's wireless adapter.
A wireless network will transmit at a frequency level of 2.4 GHz or 5GHz to adapt to the amount of data that is being sent by the user. The 802.11 networking standards will somewhat vary depending mostly on the user's needs.
The 802.11a will transmit data at a frequency level of 5GHz. The Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM) used enhances reception by dividing the radio signals into smaller signals before reaching the router. You can transmit a maximum of 54 megabits of data per second.
The 802.11b will transmit data at a frequency level of 2.4GHz, which is a relatively slow speed. You can transmit a maximum of 11 megabits of data per second.
The 802.11g will transmit data at 2.4GHz but can transmit a maximum of 54 megabits of data per second as it also uses an OFDM coding.
The more advanced 802.11n can transmit a maximum of 140 megabits of data per second and uses a frequency level of 5GHz.
What are Hotspots?
The term hotspot is used to define an area where WiFi access is available. It can either be through a closed wireless network at home or in public places such as restaurants or airports.
In order to access hotspots, your computer should include a wireless adapter. If you are using an advanced laptop model, it will probably include a built-in wireless transmitter already. If it doesn't, you can purchase a wireless adapter that will plug into the PCI slot or USB port. Once installed, your system should automatically detect the WiFi hotspots and request connection. If not, you should use a software to handle this task for you.
Connect To WiFi Via Modem
To start a connection with a wireless router, you must first ensure that it is plugged into the internet connection point. Turn on your external modem before plugging the router into your computer via an Ethernet cable. Then, switch on your wireless router and open your internet browser.
You will be asked to enter in a router IP address. This IP address will vary, depending on the service you use. Users using Belkin should enter http://192.168.0.1.. If you are a Linksys user, enter http://192.168.1.1. If you're not using either service, enter code http://192.168.2.1.
Now fill in your router's username and password. Set your SSID (wireless capability) as active, and then type in the username and password provided by your ISP and select either WEP or WPA security.
Choose a new passkey to finish the WiFi configuration.