Wi-Fi (wireless networking)
Wi-Fi is the name of a popular wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connections. A common misconception is that the term Wi-Fi is short for "wireless fidelity," however this is not the case. Wi-Fi is simply a trademarked phrase that means IEEE 802.11x.
How Wi-Fi Networks Works
Wi-Fi networks have no physical wired connection between sender and receiver by using radio frequency (RF) technology -- a frequency within the electromagnetic spectrum associated with radio wave propagation. When an RF current is supplied to an antenna, an electromagnetic field is created that then is able to propagate through space.
The cornerstone of any wireless network is an access point (AP). The primary job of an access point is to broadcast a wireless signal that computers can detect and "tune" into. In order to connect to an access point and join a wireless network, computers and devices must be equipped with wireless network adapters.
Recommended Reading: How Wireless Networks Work.
The Wi-Fi Alliance
The Wi-Fi Alliance, the organization that owns the Wi-Fi registered trademark term specifically defines Wi-Fi as any "wireless local area network (WLAN) products that are based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) 802.11 standards."
Initially, Wi-Fi was used in place of only the 2.4GHz 802.11b standard, however the Wi-Fi Alliance has expanded the generic use of the Wi-Fi term to include any type of network or WLAN product based on any of the 802.11 standards, including 802.11b, 802.11a, dual-band and so on, in an attempt to stop confusion about wireless LAN interoperability.
Wi-Fi Support in Applications and Devices
Wi-Fi is supported by many applications and devices including video game consoles, home networks, PDAs, mobile phones, major operating systems, and other types of consumer electronics. Any products that are tested and approved as "Wi-Fi Certified" (a registered trademark) by the Wi-Fi Alliance are certified as interoperable with each other, even if they are from different manufacturers. For example, a user with a Wi-Fi Certified product can use any brand of access point with any other brand of client hardware that also is also "Wi-Fi Certified".
Products that pass this certification are required to carry an identifying seal on their packaging that states "Wi-Fi Certified" and indicates the radio frequency band used (2.5GHz for 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n, and 5GHz for 802.11a).
Top 5 Wi-Fi Related Questions
Stay up to date on the latest developments in Internet terminology with a free weekly newsletter from Webopedia. Join to subscribe now.
The following facts and statistics capture the changing landscape of cloud computing and how service providers and customers are keeping up with... Read More »Facts about Computer Science: Education and Jobs
The following computer science facts and statistics provide a quick introduction to the changing trends in education and related careers. Read More »Text Messaging & Chat Abbreviations
From A3 to LOL and ZZZ this guide lists 1,500 text message and online chat abbreviations to help you translate and understand today's texting... Read More »
Learn about each of the five generations of computers and major technology developments that have led to the computing devices that we use... Read More »Computer Architecture Study Guide
Computer architecture provides an introduction to system design basics for most computer science students. Read More »Network Fundamentals Study Guide
Networking fundamentals teaches the building blocks of modern network design. Learn different types of networks, concepts, architecture and... Read More »