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What is WiFi®?

Michael Anissimov
Updated May 16, 2024
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WiFi®, also spelled Wi-Fi®, is a wireless networking technology used across the globe. It refers to any system that uses the 802.11 standard, which was developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and released in 1997. This standard was largely promoted by the Wi-Fi Alliance®, a trade group that pioneered commercialization of the technology. A person or business can use a wireless router or similar device to create a "hotspot" or area in which appropriate devices can connect wirelessly to a network or gain Internet access.

Basic Setup

In a WiFi® network, computers with appropriate network cards can connect wirelessly to a proper router. This router is usually connected to the Internet by means of a modem, often one featuring a high-speed connection. Any user within 200 feet or so (about 61 meters) of the access point can then connect to the Internet, though for good transfer rates, distances of 100 feet (around 30.5 meters) or less are often suggested. Retailers also sell signal boosters that extend the range of a wireless network.

Types of Networks

WiFi® networks can either be "open", so that anyone can use them, or "closed", in which case a password is needed. An area blanketed in wireless access through a device is often called a "wireless hotspot." Anyone with a device that includes appropriate functionality can connect to this network while in the hotspot. Through this connection, a local network can be accessed or Internet connectivity can be achieved. This allows people within the hotspot to connect to the Internet via the router and modem, often provided for employees at a business or as a complimentary service at coffee shops and similar locations.

Large Hotspots

There are efforts underway to turn entire cities, such as San Francisco, Portland, and Philadelphia, into big WiFi® hotspots. Many of these plans could offer free, ad-supported service or ad-free service for a small fee to anyone within the city. Such efforts require a great deal of infrastructure planning and support, though they would grant unparalleled connectivity for residents of those cities.

How It Works

WiFi® technology uses radio signals for communication, typically operating at a frequency of 2.4 gigahertz (GHz). Electronics that are "WiFi® Certified" are guaranteed to interoperate with each other regardless of brand, as long as they use the same version of the technology. Companies designed this standard to cater to lightweight computing systems, which are typically mobile and designed to consume minimal power. Hardware developers produce mobile phones, laptops, and tablet computers that are all compatible with this wireless technology. Desktop computers can typically connect to such a network through the installation of a wireless card or dongle.

Different Types

Different versions of the 802.11 standard have been released over the years, often indicated by a letter following the designation. Wireless-G, for example, introduced numerous improvements over the initial standard such as higher transfer rates. It is important for a computer or device user to recognize what type of WiFi® their device uses, to ensure compatibility with the router creating a hotspot. As the technology continues to improve, additional designations are likely to be released, though they are often backward compatible with earlier versions.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated EasyTechJunkie contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.
Discussion Comments
By Fran1949 — On Feb 20, 2014

I live in a condo development and we consist of attached and detached houses -- specifically townhouses and capes. We would like to offer our residents condo-wide free Wi-Fi. Is it possible to do and, if so, how do we go about it?

By flobadob — On Nov 26, 2013

I took my tablet to Kenya and it didn't work, even though tablets bought in Kenya do connect to wi-fi with no problems. I worked out I could buy a portable router but found I had to buy a portable dongle to plug in to it.

My question is,will it work with my UK bought tablet?

And the next time I go to Kenya,will a UK bought portable router work in Kenya, or are they on different frequencies?

And lastly, why doesn't the tablet work if I plug the kenyan dongle directly into the tablet, even though it worked fine in my laptop?

By anon351126 — On Oct 11, 2013

How can I use my mobile WIFI to connect to the internet with my laptop?

By anon281113 — On Jul 22, 2012

I know something about wifi but how can I use it with my laptop? Can anyone help me?

By anon280765 — On Jul 19, 2012

I want to know what is 3G and how it works.

By anon252536 — On Mar 06, 2012

what is the difference between Wi-Fi and WiMax

By anon242193 — On Jan 22, 2012

How do I hook up this router/ zyxel?

By anon169537 — On Apr 21, 2011

My name is Graham. I used my pc as a typewriter. On discovering the vastness of virtuality, I discovered 'Skype'. I have two people I communicate with on it. Recently I was informed by Skype that I was no longer in a 'WiFi hotspot. I would dearly love to remedy this situation. My techno prowess is fairly naive. I learn quickly. Also says - 'Skype does not support my current network etc.' Whatever that means? Need advice.

By anon165553 — On Apr 05, 2011

i bought an LG 3G mobile that has wifi options, but i don't know how to connect or activate it. but i want to know about that. Please tell me.

By anon157757 — On Mar 04, 2011

how do I find out if my laptop has wi-fi? The model is DELL-VOSTRO-1014.

By anon143380 — On Jan 16, 2011

what is the difference between wifi and wireless internet access?

By anon131161 — On Dec 01, 2010

how can wi-fi be used effectively while establishing an enterprise?

By anon111332 — On Sep 16, 2010

why should i use wifi in my system?

By anon104834 — On Aug 18, 2010

wifi is free? my micro laptop has a wifi system. how can I use it?

By anon103153 — On Aug 10, 2010

Which is affordable? WiFi or DSL?

By anon101179 — On Aug 02, 2010

What would be the advantage of having a DVD player with WiFi access?

By anon100529 — On Jul 30, 2010

Can social networking sites be used? how can i get this on my laptop? please help me.

By anon96515 — On Jul 15, 2010

what is meant by wi-fi? i have a wi-fi feature for my mobile phone, but i don't know how to use it. Can anyone please help me out?

By anon95325 — On Jul 12, 2010

i am going to buy an xbox 360 with WI-FI. but does that mean i don't need any router? and if you need one, how big is the range of WI-FI? any answer would be fine. Thanks for reading and any answer can help me.

By anon89592 — On Jun 10, 2010

i have a wi-fi feature for my mobile phone, but i don't know how to use it. Can anyone please help me out?

By anon88748 — On Jun 07, 2010

how do I get a pc to make a phone call? what are the s/w needs? i have a bsnl broadband connection.

By anon87459 — On May 30, 2010

I want to know one thing: whether the GPRS and WiFi work simultaneously (in a handset over a cellular network) and if yes how it works and if it depends on the device or network provider.

By anon86643 — On May 26, 2010

I don't know how it works, but how do i get it? Would you please post it for me?

By anon83260 — On May 10, 2010

i am having wifi technology trouble with my laptop. can anybody tell me that is there any charges of accessing internet through wifi technology. Please help!

By naumangilani — On Apr 07, 2010

mostly laptops nowadays come equipped with internal wireless networking cards. How can we know that our laptop has equipped with this card?

By anon64601 — On Feb 08, 2010

I have HTC viva. How can I access free internet on it through cyber cafe or my office system?

By anon64313 — On Feb 06, 2010

why do we use wifi? how do I use wifi? i would like to know the details about wifi. Please explain to me.

By anon54722 — On Dec 02, 2009

How can i use a password in wifi ?

By anon50200 — On Oct 26, 2009

Does this system work with satellite?

By anon45771 — On Sep 20, 2009

What might be some wi-fi problems?

By anon45119 — On Sep 14, 2009

how does WiFi help us? why do we use it? can anyone please tell me? I will be very thankful to that person.

By anon41334 — On Aug 14, 2009

What is wireless? Is it other name of wifi?

By anon38918 — On Jul 29, 2009

What is wifi all about? Tell me in simple language. What is it used for?

By anon38647 — On Jul 27, 2009

Tell me how to get wifi on my ipod touch!

By anon37769 — On Jul 21, 2009

It is on the PSP and other video technology.

By anon37209 — On Jul 17, 2009

where are all the answers??

By anon36064 — On Jul 09, 2009

do you have to pay for wifi connection? Also how do you get on your ipod touch???

By anon35988 — On Jul 09, 2009

how do you qet wi-fi on your ipod touch???

By anon31043 — On Apr 28, 2009

i have a free connection of wifi in our dormitory. i don't know who owns it. how come i can't internet even though there is a signal? it is always 'cannot find server' when i started using the net. i'm using the wifi w/o security for months. does it mean it has now a protection security? and the one who can access the net is the owner only? ughhh. but it still doesn't have a password. the only thing is even though there is a signal i can't access the net. help!

By anon27424 — On Feb 28, 2009

I already have a wifi connection for my laptop in my home. If my brother gets a laptop would he be able to use his laptop in the house since I already have wifi?

By mheliza09 — On Feb 18, 2009

How to have a WIFI network? Do i need to apply in any ISP out there?

By anon25762 — On Feb 03, 2009

I want to know about wifi systems because i am abc about wifi. How can I use that system in my laptop? Is it possible to use in my desktop?

By nmmel — On Dec 30, 2008

What's the difference between N and G when buying a wireless router? . . and do I need a special card for my computer, too??

By anon22993 — On Dec 14, 2008

I am looking at a Smartphone (Blackberry Storm) It says "No wifi". Does that mean I will not be able to access the internet?

By dane — On Dec 10, 2008

what is 3G technology?

By dane — On Dec 10, 2008

how can i get my wireless G router to work wired?

it has the wired ports.

By anon20946 — On Nov 07, 2008

Does it work like GPRS with charges per kb?

By anon20786 — On Nov 06, 2008

how do you get wifi on your nokia n96 i try to watch bbci player and it sez it will only work with wifi

By anon16042 — On Jul 28, 2008

I have O2,How can I access free internet on it through cyber cafe

By anon10589 — On Mar 30, 2008

To all Yes wifi is working in The Desktop PC also

By anon10081 — On Mar 19, 2008

Desktop computers can use Wi-Fi technology as well, if you install a PCI Wireless Ethernet Adapter

By anon7123 — On Jan 18, 2008

can wifi be used on desk top computers?

By anon4664 — On Oct 27, 2007

what if I'm using a wifi certified phone and I'm in a wifi hotspot then i use the internet..does it have any fee?

By anon548 — On Apr 27, 2007

I know how it works, but how do you get it? Would you please post it for me?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated EasyTechJunkie contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology,...
Learn more
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