What is WiFi and How Does It Work?

What Is WiFi And How Does It Work?
26 Mar 2012, 12:06 PM Darren Bunker

What Is WiFi?

Wireless Fidelity (or WiFi for short) is a technology for electronic devices to exchange data without the use of a wired connection.

WiFi is used in millions of devices around the world, from microwave ovens to smartphones. The reason behind WiFi’s growth in popularity is its versatility. It can make devices accessible in places conventional wired networks often cannot reach.

The rise of the smartphone’s popularity can also be credited in part to WiFi. 3G (and now the newer 4G) is readily used for smartphones to connect to the Internet, but WiFi’s higher speeds mean that many users prefer to connect their smartphones to either a WiFi hotspot or via their own personal wireless home network whenever possible.

How Does WiFi Work?

WiFi uses radio waves, the same waves used in mobile phones, radios and televisions. A computer fitted with a wireless transmitter translates the computer data into radio signals which can then be sent without the need for a wired connection. These radio signals are picked up by a wireless router which decodes the radio signals back into data that the receiving computer can read. The wireless router sends the data via an Ethernet cable to the Internet.

A computer can also receive data wirelessly from the Internet. The wireless router translates the information from the Internet into radio waves. These waves are then picked up by the receiving computer via its wireless transmitter. Any wireless-enabled device can also perform the same actions.

The beauty of WiFi is that more than one device can connect to the same router at any one time, without the need for wires to support the connection. It’s worth noting though that too many devices connected at once to the same router can cause loss of data and slower connection speeds. Our recommended solution for this is to check how many devices you have connected at one time. If you are experiencing slower speeds than expected, consider switching off the devices that are not essential. Some of the main offenders for eating bandwidth can be apps on your mobile phone and games consoles.

Remember to check that the device you’re using to access the WiFi connection has the appropriate security measures in place. An article in the Guardian gives some useful recommendations for using public WiFi hotspots securely.

What’s The Future For WiFi?

As technology advances, the speed of WiFi will surely follow. With more and more devices becoming WiFi-enabled, the popularity of WiFi sees no sign of slowing either. WiFi hotspots are becoming increasingly common in public places, including cafes, airports and trains.

4G is the fourth generation of cellular mobile communications standards, and what part this plays in the future of WiFi is yet to be seen. WiFi still remains an easy and cost-efficient way to provide Internet access to users at home, work or on the go.

Darren Bunker is a director at QubeGB, a telecommunications company in the UK. When Darren is not out supporting his favourite rugby team he can be found working with his teams in the Galashiels and London offices. Darren is passionate about the communications industry. If you would like to keep up to date with company news, please visit the QubeGB LinkedIn page.

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