What is Wi-Fi and How Does it Work? | Explained in Simple Terms

Wireless Fidelity or Wi-Fi dates back to 1971 when ALOHAnet connected the Great Hawaiian Islands with a UHF wireless packet network. Various developments and improvements in the design and functionality followed thereafter until it has evolved to be an essential powerful tool in our daily lives. Here is a simple explanation of Wi-Fi as we know it today.

What is Wi-Fi?

It is a technology that uses radio waves to allow computers to connect to the internet wirelessly. Different versions are specified using different IEEE 802.11 protocol standards with different radio technologies determining the radio bands, the maximum ranges, and speeds that can be achieved.

Generally, it uses the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radio frequency bands.  Furthermore, the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands are then divided into multiple channels that can be shared between networks.

Over time, the speed and spectral efficiency of Wi-Fi increased. Some version, when ran on a suitable hardware, can achieve speeds of over 1Gbps in close range.

How Does Wi-Fi Work?

Wi-Fi acts as a local network by broadcasting signals wherein nearby devices can connect using the network name and the password. When devices are connected to a network, the devices can access the internet.

These signals can only cover a limited area. Thus, to connect to a network, the device must be within range.

Today, laptops, smartphones, tablets, televisions, and even household appliances such as washing machines, ovens, fridges, and stoves can be connected to Wi-Fi for remote access.

Smartphones and tablets can also act as hotspots – practically becoming routers.

Common Terminologies Connected to Wi-Fi

SSID – Service Set Identifier. It is the name of the Wi-Fi network.

LAN or Local Area Network – Limited to a “local area”. Computers and other devices in a network may be connected using a LAN cable, or wirelessly via router. If connected wirelessly, it is called a Wireless Lan or WLAN. In WLAN connection, a host device like a router connects to the internet through a modem to facilitate internet access to devices wirelessly.

WAN or Wide Area Network – An ecosystem of many LANs combined. The most popular WAN is the internet itself.

Final Words

Wi-Fi has now evolved to Wi-Fi 6. This technology uses OFDMA or Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access, capable of dividing a wireless channel into many sub-channels. Each sub-channel is capable of carrying data for different devices to address the problem of congestion. Moreover, with the inception of MU-MIMO (multi-user, multi-input, multi-output) technology, it will enable seamless communication between multiple channels at a time. With such advancements happening real-time, Wi-Fi 6 will empower people with faster internet speeds, buffer-free streaming experience, and faster downloads.

Lastly, Wi-Fi has become an integral part of people’s lives. Not having an internet connection is difficult, because today, livelihoods depend on it. And you will be missing numerous opportunities if internet access is absent. Because of the internet, people can work without leaving the safety of their home. It has indeed opened tremendous opportunities for people to improve the way they live.

Read: A Complete Guide on How to Fix Wi-Fi Connection Problems

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