Wi-Fi, short for wireless fidelity, is a means by which computers, peripherals, mobile devices, and smart phones may connect to a local area network (LAN), enabling connection to the World Wide Web. The heart of a wireless network is the router, a hub to which all devices connect. Devices communicate with the wireless router by transmitting and receiving data via radio signals through one or more antennas.
The radios used in wireless networks are like two-way communication devices, such as walkie-talkies or cell phones. Wi-Fi networks operate at frequencies of 2.4GHz or 5GHz, which are considerably higher than frequencies used by walkie-talkies or cell phones. The higher frequencies enable them to transmit and receive more data, although at a significantly shorter range. The lower frequency 2.4GHz routers have a range of about 46m indoors and 92m outdoors. The higher frequency 5GHz routers have a range that is one third that of the 2.4GHz routers; however, the 5GHz band is less cluttered and has a greater capacity to carry more data at a faster rate. Some wireless modems, termed “dual-band modems,” offer communications in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, which offer advantages of range and speed at both frequencies.
Wi-Fi networks operate in accordance with a family of IEEE 802.11 standards, which are created and managed by an organization known as the Wi-Fi® Alliance, a worldwide network of companies that promote common standards for wireless Internet communications. These standards determine the range, speed, and communication protocols of a Wi-Fi network. Over the years, as wireless technology has evolved, so have the standards, hence the different letters after the 802.11 designation. A brief overview of these standards is provided below:
The current trend is that more and more devices are becoming Wi-Fi compatible, going beyond computers, cell phones, and peripherals, toward appliances, home entertainment, automation and security systems, cloud-based computing, automobiles, and more. To meet these demands, we expect Wi-Fi technology to continue evolving, enabling faster transfer of larger amounts of data between an ever-increasing number of wireless devices.
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