What Is WiFi?


What is WiFi?  Wi-Fi is a system that allows computers, smartphones, and other devices to communicate wirelessly through a wireless connection within a given area or to connect to the internet. It is a radio signal sent from a wireless route to any nearby device, translating the signal into usable data. The device then transmits a signal back to the router, which is connected to the internet by wire or cable. Generally, you access the internet through your Internet Service Providers (ISP).  

What does Wi-Fi Stand For?

Wi-Fi is a trademarked term, officially spelled Wi-Fi without using the ® symbol.  The term is usually described as standing for wireless fidelity.  The word was created by a marketing firm looking for a user-friendly name to refer to a technology actually called IEEE 802.11.  

What is a Wi-Fi network?

A Wi-Fi or wireless wifi network is a shared internet connection used by many mobile devices through a wireless router.  The router is connected directly to the internet via a modem and acts as a central hub broadcasting the internet signal to any Wi-Fi-enabled devices on the wireless networks.  Using a Wi-Fi network allows the individual to stay connected as long as they remain within the network coverage area. A wireless local area network (WLAN) is a wireless distribution network for wireless devices, often seen in homes or small offices, allowing movement without the network area while maintaining connectivity.  

How does Wi-Fi work?

Wi-Fi uses radio waves to transmit data from the Wi-Fi device or wireless router to Wi-Fi-enabled devices.  These devices can be almost anything, including computers, TVs, smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices.  Because this communication takes place over the airwaves, this exchange of information and your devices are all subject to hackers, cyber-attacks, and other cyber threats.  You are especially vulnerable when connected to public W-Fi networks at places like restaurants, coffee shops,  and airports.  Always try to connect only to password-protected networks or a personal Wi-Fi hotspot.  Most of today's routers are Wi-Fi-6 enabled and backward compatible.  XDual bank technology allows working on two frequencies simultaneously, leading to faster speeds and increased reliability.

Advantages of Wi-Fi? 

Wi-Fi networks that allow users to connect wirelessly offer several advantages over other networking and connection systems.  First, it provides a high level of efficiency in improving data communications no matter where located.  It allows people to access information without returning to a specific location to obtain internet access.  In other words, it allows people to be connected always and everywhere.  Along with its increased efficiency, Wi-Fi offers cost savings by being much easier and cheaper to install than a wired system.  Wi-Fi networking is also more flexible than wired connection systems.  You can add access anywhere in your location and create new uses for your network.  A further benefit is that you lose the aesthetic and worker safety nightmare that having cables everywhere creates.  

Disadvantages of Wi-Fi?

Every system has disadvantages, and Wi-Fi is no exception to that rule. The wireless connectivity of your network is more vulnerable to attacks by unauthorized users.  This requires that the system get more attention to its security than with other systems.  Users can improve this issue by using strong passwords, firewalls, and other security devices to reduce risk.  Taking these steps will, however, increase costs.  Wi-Fi is subject to interference if another wireless technology is in use nearby.  Finally, Wi-Fi can be subject to slower transmission speeds and decreased efficiency.  

Types of Wi-Fi connections

Various options are available for connecting wirelessly.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Wired / router 

A wireline or wireless router.  The wireless router is a more common choice for transmitting Wi-Fi signals today.  It is convenient to set up, allows for mobility within its range, and can connect to multiple devices.  On the other hand, it has limited bandwidth, and thus, speed is reduced as more devices are connected. There is also the potential for interference from other nearby electronic devices.

Mobile hotspot 

Mobile and dedicated Wi-Fi hotspots are increasingly the norm when away from the work or home network.  Most cellphone plans offer a personal hotspot subscription cost for your smartphone or tabler.  It is an excellent option if the need for access arises frequently.  It can, however, bleed your battery of power pretty quickly.  In contrast, a free-standing jetpack is a dedicated mobile hotspot picking up its signal from nearby cell towers.  The jetpack allows for connecting more devices and has a great range.  Because it is separate from your phone, it does not affect battery power.  The downside is the cost of purchasing the jetpack and the additional subscription fee from the mobile carrier.

4G LTE Home Internet 

In rural areas where internet options are scarce, 4gGTLTE is not the worst thing in the world.  It offers high-speed service over cell phone towers and mobile networks, giving you average download speeds of about 25 Mbps, usually somewhat better in quality than with satellites.  It can be hard to find and may be higher in cost.  

5G Home Internet 

Now that 5G (fixed wireless access) is becoming more available, it is also becoming one of the best and most cost-efficient internet connection services around.  It provides more capacity than 4G, is far faster (up to 1Gig) and less latency than usually seen in home systems.  The only real drawback is its still limited availability, but that is changing rapidly.  

How Do Devices Connect to Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi uses radio waves for wireless signal communication between mobile devices. The usual frequency bands are 2.4GHz to 5GHz.  There are even devices that let you choose which frequency to use for a given network.  The 2.4 GHz bank provides more coverage at slower speeds; 5GHz transmits faster but with less coverage.  Each frequency has multiple channels which wireless devices can use to send and receive data.  The purpose of channels is to reduce interference, like lanes on a highway.  Wi-Fi devices automatically access channels; there are apps for checking which channel is being used if you need to know.

Your devices will connect to Wi-Fi via a built-in wireless adapter.  It is part of the hardware in your system called the Wi-Fi card.  

What are WiFi Standards  

Wi-Fi standards have evolved since their development in 1997.  The commonly used standards include:

  • IEEE 802.11 - developed in 197, speed is about 2 megabits per second (Mbps)
  • IEEE 802.11a - developed in 1999 and particularly useful for commercial and industry use; works o 5 GHz frequency with a maximum speed of 54 Mbps.  It avoids interference with 2.4 GHz devices.
  • IEEE 802.11b - Created alongside 802.11a but uses 2.4 GHz; maximum speed 11 Mbps; primarily for domestic use.
  • IEEE 802.11g - 2003, combined 11a and 11b, max speed of 54 Mbps at 2.4 GHz.
  • IEEE 802.11n - dual frequencies at around 600 Mbps.
  • IEEE 802.11ac - Max speed is 1.3 Gbps with less range, but is, with 11n, one of the two standards most commonly used today.
  • IEEE 902.11ax - the wave of the future dual change to 10 Gbps with about 40% improvement over 11ac.

Wi-Fi Security Explained 

Various security products are available, although many of the earliest systems, such as wired equivalent privacy, proved vulnerable to hackers and were abandoned.  The other security currently in use is WPA2, whose notable feature was using the Advanced Encryption Standard, the federal government's standard for transmission of classified data. It is, however, possible to break into it via the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS).  The newest current form of Wi-Fi security is WPA3.  It is mandated for all devices since 2019.  

How to Improve weak Wi-Fi signal? 

You can purchase a hotspot signal booster which must be modem connected to a compatible modem that must have a cellular antenna port.  The main difference between the two primary boosters is the nature of their antennas.  The signal comes through the modem and goes into your system for better and faster internet speeds. 

Wi-Fi Signal Boosters

A wired WiFi booster connects to a coaxial cable in your home or office to extend the wireless network to areas where the signal is low. The wired connection prevents interference that can cause a wireless booster to slow down.

How Do Wi-Fi Extenders Work?

Wi-Fi extenders rebroadcast the internet signal, increasing its range.  They are inexpensive and easy to set up but not always the best solution.

Who invented Wi-Fi?

The complexity of Wi-Fi makes it challenging to assign its "invention" to any one person.  Vic Hayes is often called the father of Wi-Fi because he chaired the IEEE committee creating the original standards in 1997.  A key patent in Wi-Fi belongs to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of Australia (CSIRO), which credits John O'Sullivan, Terry Percival, Diet Ostry, Graham Daniels, and John Deane with creating the technology.  

Common terms related to Wi-Fi

Certain standard terms are frequently used in discussing Wi-Fi.  They include:


Broadband is the transmission of wide bandwidth data over a high-speed internet connection.


Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted over a connection in a specific period.

Wireless Access Point

The device that creates a wireless local area network, usually in a larger space.  It connects to a wired router via an Ethernet cable.  You can also use a wireless gateway that will combine the functions of the access point with those of a router and provide firewall protection.  

Satellite Internet

A system for accessing the internet via geostationary communication satellites; it provides global coverage.

Mesh Networks

A mesh network links devices or nodes together and branches off other devices or nodes.  

Long-Range WiFi

Long-range Wi-Fi networks are low-cost systems for boosting an internet signal throughout a property, either to another building or just to the outside.  There are indoor extenders, range extenders, mesh networks, long-range outdoor networks, and long-range point-to-point networks.  

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