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Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi)

Definition - What does Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) mean?

Wi-Fi is a type of wireless network technology used for connecting to the Internet. The frequencies wi-fi works at are 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz, ensure no interference with cellphones, broadcast radio, TV antenna and two-way radios are encountered during transmission.

To simplify, Wi-Fi is basically just radio waves broadcast from a Wi-Fi router, a device detecting and deciphering the waves, and then sending back data to the router. It works very similarly to an AM/ FM radio but it is two-way communication channel. Wi-Fi works over longer distances than bluetooth or infrared and is also a low power unobtrusive technology, making it suitable for portable devices such as laptops and palmtops. Wi-Fi is governed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, an association of manufacturers and regulators defining standards and certifying products as Wi-Fi compatible.

Techopedia explains Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi)

There are several standards of Wi-Fi with different speeds and power requirements. The earliest standard was 802.11b, though it is the slowest but least expensive in terms of cost. This was soon upgraded to 802.11a and 802.11g. Both of these standards included technology for splitting the radio signal and thus reducing interference. The latest standard is 802.11n, which allows even longer ranges and data throughput.

A Wi-Fi network may be public (called a hotspot), for private use by an organization or for home use. A network may even be citywide. For example, the South African city of Cape Town has a Wi-Fi network in large parts of the city. Paris, France is currently rolling out an ambitious high speed citywide Wi-Fi network.

Wi-Fi was originally only used by organizations because of its innovativeness and cost. But as with everything electronic, the passage of time means it became more affordable to more users. Several tech-savvy home users now hook up their home Internet connections and device communications using Wi-Fi. Most modern computers are Wi-Fi enabled and include built-in hardware for connection to a Wi-Fi network.

Despite its many advantages, Wi-Fi is not without drawbacks. First and foremost is the issue of security, since the network is widely available, it is an open invitation for hackers. Hotspot users are at risk as their computers are easily accessible to all types of hackers and identity thieves. Second is the issue of network congestion. All Wi-Fi devices in one area are communicating with one router, if the number of users are too large or the users are transmitting and receiving too much data, the router gets overwhelmed and cannot transmit data fast enough. This can be resolved by adding more routers, which adds to the expenses.

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