WiFi (also written Wi-Fi) stands for Wireless Fidelity. It is a wireless network technology that allows computers and other devices to be connected to each other into a LAN and to the Internet without wires and cables. WiFi is also referred to as WLAN, which stands for wireless LAN, and 802.11, which is the technical code for the protocol.
In this article, we look at WiFi in the following lines:
- WiFi’s Worth and Limitations
- WiFi Hotspots
- WiFi Protocols
- WiFi Equipment
- How WiFi Can Benefit You
- WiFi and Voice over IP – Saving Money on Communication
WiFi’s Worth and Limitations
WiFi offers enormous power for communication and has revolutionized LANs worldwide. Thanks to WiFi, more and more people are able to connect to the Internet and more easily. The greatest advantage of WiFi is the portability it offers to people using laptop computers and handheld devices like smart phones and PDAs – they can switch from one network to another without the hassle of worrying about wires.
WiFi has one serious limitation, and it is the only major limitation it has. Since it is a LAN technology, WiFi offers a connection radius of only some dozens of feet. Beyond 20-25 meters, you are simply out of the network. A WiFi antenna sends waves everywhere around it in a sphere. The WiFi signals lose intensity as they move further away from the antenna, which is why the quality of the connection decreases as the computer or device is placed further away from the source.
WiFi connection management applications on computers and other devices often have levels for grading the strength of the connection: excellent, good, poor etc.
A WiFi hotspot is the area around a WiFi source (a wireless router, WiFi antenna, etc., generating WiFi signals) in which computers and devices can connect through WiFi.
Hotspots can be found in many places: on campuses, in offices, in cafes, and even at home. For example, you can have a WiFi hotspot at home by having a wireless router with your broadband line. The router sends the WiFi throughout your house and your computers and devices can be connected without wires. Read more on WiFi hotspots.
WiFi Protocols – 802.11
WiFi is actually a protocol, which, in two words, is a series of rules governing how data transmission is carried on a network, so as to get all machines compatible with the transmission. The code name given by the IEEE to the family of protocols in which WiFi is found is 802.11. This number is normally followed by a letter: a, b and g are for WiFi. 802.11g is the newest and better version, with higher transmission speed and wider range.
What You Need for WiFi
You don’t need much to be able to benefit from WiFi. It is slightly expensive to set up the network, not that it is complex, but the hardware will cost a bit. But it cost me nothing to have my own WiFi hotspot at home, because I got my wireless router free with my broadband Internet service.
Now what you need are computers and devices that are WiFi-enabled. In the case of computers and laptops, they need to have WiFi adapters or cards.
When purchasing a laptop, make sure you see WiFi or WLAN or 802.11g in the specifications. If your laptop doesn’t have that, you can still have a USB Wi-Fi adapter. Same applies to your desktop computer. For mobile phones, they have to support WiFi and WiFi phones are relatively few and more expensive, although they are becoming more popular.
Then you will need software. But this is not a hassle, for WiFi phones come with the software support and all popular computer operating systems come with in-built WiFi connection management software. There are also a bunch of free programs out there for download, if you want third-party and more advanced applications for WiFi management.
How WiFi Can Benefit You
WiFi can benefit you in many ways:
- It provides mobility. I get Internet connection wirelessly and seamlessly through my laptop computer at home and at work. This is because I have WiFi hotspots both at home and at work. I can be connected that way anywhere else there is a WiFi hotspot, like in the municipal garden, for example.
- It is a great way to connect to the Internet with smart mobile phones and PDAs. This opens up a number of possibilities for mobile users, including surfing the Internet, playing games, communicating, etc.
- It makes LAN’s far more flexible, scalable and dynamic. Any machine can connect and disconnect into a network at any time.
- It allows places that are remote and therefore deprived of communication cables, like rural areas in developing countries, to benefit from connectivity. Some more efforts are required by the designers, but this is possible in many places: e.g. see , ,
- It allows you to save a huge amount of money on communication through your mobile device while making both local and international calls, through VoIP. Read on below.
WiFi and Voice over IP – Saving Money on Communication
Voice over IP, apart from its many advantages, allows people to communication through voice for very cheap if not free. Using VoIP with your mobile computer or device in a WiFi hotspot, you can make free calls or cheap ones.
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