What is Wi-Fi? Background, Function & More

What is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi is the short for ‘Wireless Fidelity’ and pronounced as Wai-Fai. This is a technology to connect between computers and other devices and belong to the family of Wireless Network Protocols. This wireless technology is designed on IEEE 802.11 standards.


  • Wi-Fi offers higher range in open air and less inside a building due to different physical barriers. The range and strength of Wi-Fi however depends on the strength of the antenna.
  • Anyone within the range of the network can join in with a Wi-Fi compatible device both in a public or private setting.
  • Wi-Fi is more convenient and offers more mobility and productivity but is vulnerable to hacking perhaps even more than the wired networks and may cause some health issues.

Understanding Wi-Fi

Understanding Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is a wireless networking technology that operates by using the radio frequency within the range of 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands.

The technology is built on WLAN or Wireless Local Area Network principle.

This principle is defined in IEEE 802.11 series standards, that defines MAC and PHY layer specs. This standard includes:

These standards are determined by Wi-Fi Alliance which, however, decided to make the naming convention of the standards simpler.

During the last quarter of 2018, Wi-Fi Alliance started the new naming convention and changed the name of 802.11ax standard to Wi-Fi 6.

This was done with an intent to make things easier for the masses to understand the capabilities of the Wi-fi technology.

There is a Wi-Fi Access Point or AP installed in this network. It can also work through a Wi-Fi router.

This access point or router is connected to the internet. This connection,ideally, can be made in three different ways using:

  • A physical cable
  • A fiber optic cable or
  • Wired Ethernet cable.

The primary purpose of Wi-Fi is to share data between a computer and other devices without the need of using cables between the devices.

This cost-effective and simple network can also be used to share a single internet connection with several users without needing any physical cables.

There are different versions of this wireless technology available now, and it has evolved over the years.

The first version of wireless network was developed and released in 1971 and was named ALOHA net.

This was considered as the predecessor of the modern 802.11 standards.

Then the first version of the 802.11 standard was released in 1997. This could operate at a speed of 2 Mbit per second.

Two years later, in 1999, this speed was enhanced to 11 Mbit per second and the version was rated as 802.11b standard.

In 1999 there was another significant development. A Wi-Fi Alliance was formed this year.

This is a non-profit organization that was vested with different responsibilities such as:

  • Holding the Wi-Fi trademark
  • Overseeing the development of this technology and
  • Providing a certification process to those companies that want to sell Wi-Fi compatible products.

Some of the major names among the hundreds of companies under this alliance are Dell, Apple, and Facebook.

The most modern generations of this wireless connectivity fall under the 802.11n, 802.11ac, and 802.11ax standards.

These versions made the best of the advancements in technology and provided much better and a larger range of potential frequencies.

This eased the network crowding and at the same time increased the rate of data transfer.

Read Also:  What is Gigabit Ethernet? Types, Pros, Cons & More

Though slower rate is more common, the fastest versions can transfer data at an incredible speed of 15 Gbit per second.

The latest in the block in Wi-Fi 6. This is considered to be the best available Wi-Fi standard and is now used almost everywhere.

Some of the features and capabilities of this Wi-fi technology are:

  • It has lower latency which means that there will be less delays in data flow. It will make data transfer much smoother and improve overall user experience.
  • It operates at much higher speeds if it is connected to a single device. Ideally, the speed may increase by 60%.
  • The design and architecture of this new Wi-Fi standard helps it to work smoothly even in crowded settings where people may be using the same network. Therefore, it will work significantly well as a public Wi-Fi.
  • It also has a higher battery life and is much more effective in registering with several devices and computers. This means that the Wi-Fi in the computer does not need to look for a device.
  • The innovative MU-MIMO form makes it the best Wi-Fi to use in any average household. This will have less issues for the network.

To enjoy all these benefits, you will however need a Wi-Fi 6 compatible router and device.


What is Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is the product and trademark of the non-profit Wi-Fi Alliance, which in 2010 itself had more than 375 companies under its umbrella from all over the world.

The alliance ensures that the term ‘Wi-Fi Certified’ is not used by other companies with products even if those allow interoperability certification testing successfully.

The Wi-Fi integrated circuit chips allow different devices to use this wireless technology. These devices include:

  • Desktop computers
  • Laptop computers
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Printers
  • Smart TVs
  • Digital cameras
  • Digital audio players
  • Cars, and, now
  • The drones.

This wireless technology is far better than the wired Ethernet network.

This is because the Wi-Fi technology utilizes several different parts of the IEEE 802 protocol family.

The design ensures interworking between two devices seamlessly.

There are different versions of this technology that are specified by the different protocol standards of IEEE 802.11. These specifications include:

  • The different radio technologies used
  • The radio bands to be determined
  • The maximum range of its operability and
  • The speeds that it can achieve.

Mostly, the technology uses a specific radio band. Its specifications are as follows:

  • 2.4 gigahertz or 120 mm UHF
  • 5 gigahertz or 60 mm SHF ISM bands.

Both these bands are further segmented into numerous channels.

The networks can share these channels, but, when it comes to transmitting the signals locally, there is only one transmitter on a channel that can do so at any given moment.

The wavebands used in Wi-Fi usually have a much higher absorption rate as compared to other wireless technologies.

This means that it will have a much better line of sight while using, which is even better than the Bluetooth technology, its closest rival in wireless connectivity models.

Yes, it is true that there will be several obstructions in the place where you use Wi-Fi such as the:

  • Pillars
  • Walls
  • Metallic barriers and even the
  • Home appliances.

All these barriers can block the range of the waves and reduce the functionality of the Wi-Fi connection significantly.

However, on the flip side, it will be of great help to minimize the chances of any interference with the signals sent by different networks.

This is especially helpful if it is used in a crowded environment.

The hotspot or access point of it is within the range of about 20 meters or 66 feet when you use it indoors.

Read Also:  5 Differences Between NIC and Ethernet

There are a few more advanced hotspots that can be operable within a 150-metre or 490-foot range, when used outdoors.

This does not mean you cannot use Wi-Fi within a smaller range. In fact, you can even use it in a small, single room.

Alternatively, if you want to use it even at a broader range than the permissible limits of a single unit, you can do so by using a large number of overlapping hotspots or access points.

This will help you to increase its range by even several square kilometers.

However, all these access points should have roaming facilities between them to enable such an increase in its range.

Nevertheless, the makers of this technology have tried to increase the spectral efficiency and speed of Wi-Fi over time.

For example, in 2019, a few specific versions of Wi-Fi were released that could achieve a speed in excess of 1 gigabit per second!

However, it came with its own limitations such as:

  • It had to be used within a close range and
  • It required suitable hardware to run.

In Wi-Fi technology, there is a dedicated QR or Quick Response code. This code allows the devices to connect to Wi-Fi.

The wireless connectivity typically allows any other user within the range of the network to gain easy and unhindered access to your system using a wireless interface network controller.

Therefore, if you want to be safe, prevent such attacks and know when such attacks are made you will need to:

  • Name the network or the SSID, a short for Service Set Identifier, and
  • Use a strong password that cannot be guessed easily.

This password will be typically used for encrypting the Wi-Fi packets.

This will block the hackers or disallow any unauthorized person to interfere with the network.

WPA or Wi-Fi Protected Access is specifically designed to protect the data and information that are transferred across the Wi-Fi networks.

It also includes and is applicable to different versions used by the enterprise as well as personal networks.

There are three standards in it that provides more security such as:

  • WPA
  • WPA2 and
  • WPA3.

However, changing your password is the best way to ensure security and prevent others from using your network without your permission.

To make WPA even stronger, special security features are included to provide better protection and allow the users to follow the newer and better security practices.

The QR code will allow the users to configure the Wi-Fi of the system automatically, especially in the modern mobile phones that have the feature to detect this code automatically.

How Does It Work?

Apparently, it seems that the Wi-Fi technology helps in accessing the internet on laptops, desktops, smartphones and other portable devices.

However, the working process of Wi-Fi in computers is quite different from that. It actually connects to the Wi-Fi router or the access point.

It is this router or AP that provides access to the internet. This means that Wi-Fi is simply a technology and is not the internet itself.

The working process of this technology is as follows:

  • The computer or mobile device receives and translates data into RF signal. This is done by the Wi-Fi dongle or chip.
  • The data is then transmitted through the antenna of the router over the air.
  • The router receives this data and decodes it.
  • Finally, the router then follows the required protocol conversion to send this decoded data over the internet.
Read Also:  What is 802.11n Wi-Fi? Work Process, Pros & Cons

On the other hand, when the Wi-Fi router receives data from the internet, the process is just the reverse using the ISM radio band. This means that:

  • It interprets the data into RF signals.
  • The signal is received by the dongle in the computer
  • It converts the signal into data.

You can use Wi-Fi in your computers, smartphone, video game console, tablets, digital camera, and other devices and create a hotspot 20 meters or 66 feet in range.

If the access point is of the 802.11b or 802.11g standard, this range can be 120 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors to successfully access the internet.

To work, the system uses radio waves instead of any wired connections.

It works within a specific frequency ranging between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.

Each frequency range performs with different channels to transmit the data to separate devices.

This is why there is no interruption or crowding of signals.

The range of a Wi-Fi network can reach typically up to 100 meters but that is in open air.

Actually, within a building the range is reduced to 10 to 35 meters. This is due to the different barriers inside the room.

The strength and range of the frequency broadcast depends on the strength of the antenna.

If this is low then even a higher frequency of 5 GHz or 60 GHz may effectively have a range as low as 2.4 GHz.

This technology can work in both public and private settings and allow anyone within the range to join the network, provided they have a Wi-Fi compatible device. Check out ways to extend WiFi network.

Questions & Answers:

What is the purpose of Wi-Fi?

The main purpose of using Wi-Fi is to transfer data wirelessly between computers and other devices.

You can use these devices in public places if there is Wi-Fi connectivity. Hotspots can be connected with it and therefore can be used during emergencies as well.

What is the full form of Wi-Fi?

The full form of Wi-Fi is “Wireless Fidelity.” It is the registered trademark of Wi-Fi Alliance.

This is a wireless technology in computers that uses radio waves to provide internet access at high speeds.

Where is Wi-Fi used?

Wi-Fi is used almost everywhere from homes to offices, from restaurants to bars and coffee shops. It is also used in different mobile devices apart from the computers.

You will also get Wi-Fi enabled thermostats, home security systems, light bulbs, printers, appliances, monitoring and control systems, automotive products, and lots more.


Wi-Fi is a wireless networking technology that operates by using the radio frequency within the range of 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands.

It is built on the WLAN principle defined in IEEE 802.11 series standards.

Wi-Fi is convenient, offers mobility and productivity, and can share data between devices without using cables.

However, it is vulnerable to hacking and may cause health issues.

Wi-Fi has evolved over the years, and the latest standard is Wi-Fi 6, which offers lower latency, higher speeds, better design, and architecture.

Wi-Fi is widely used, and its benefits can be enjoyed with Wi-Fi 6 compatible routers and devices.

About Taylor Swift

Taylor SwiftTaylor Swift, a UOPEOPLE graduate is a freelance technology writer with in-depth knowledge about computers. She has an understanding of hardware and technology gained through over 10 years of experience. Follow Her at Linkedin

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments