How Does WiFi Work?

WiFi is the over the air network used by millions of computers across the world to connect up to each other and the internet. There is no doubt that by now you are familiar with some of the basics of what this is with free WiFi hotspots all over the place. Many people do not even stop for second to consider how the technology works or why it is so fast and so easy to connect up. In this article I am going to examine the basics of wireless networking so you can have a better understanding of how the technology functions.

The Basics Of How WiFi Works

At its heart, wireless networking is based around technology that has been in use for almost a hundred years now. A wireless network will use radio wave to communicate similar to how your television and radio works. In those devices however there is only one way communication. Probably the earliest examples of WiFi are the talk radio. This simple device evolved into the cell phone, and now the same core technology is being used in WiFi systems to connect computers up to the internet.

Your laptop will take the outgoing data you want to send, translate that information into a radio signal and transmit it using an antenna. This signal is encrypted so only the proper device that can decrypt will be able to analyze and decode the signal. In older laptops this was done by an external card with a large antenna. Today, the device is embedded inside the laptop and you will not even see it. In order to download information, this process will work in reverse. The WiFi router will send out a signal that only your computer can decipher, you will translate it and download the information.

There are a few notable differences between a WiFi system and a cell phone or a walkie talkie. The first is that WiFi operates at a much higher frequency then these other devices. Typically a WiFi system will transmit either in 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz. This higher frequency allows the WiFi system to transmit a significantly higher amount of data.

The data for WiFi uses the 802.11 networking standard in 4 distinct types. The a standard transmits at 5 GHz and can move up to 54 megabits of data per second by using orthogonal frequency division multiplexing. For the purposes of this article you really do not need to know that is suffice to say it is a more efficient way of moving data. B is the slowest and least expensive standard operating at 2.4 GHz. It can do 11 megabits per second. G is the most common as of today, it is similar to a in that it uses OFDM, but it operates at 2.4 GHz making it a lot less expensive. It can handle 54 megabits per second. The newest standard of WiFi is N. This standard significantly improves not only speed but range as well. It can achieve a high of 140 megabits per second. These devices are not common, but are becoming so.