Incisor overview: Wi-Fi
Coming from the wired, Ethernet standard, there is a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) technology – commonly known as Wi-Fi – that connects devices such as computers, PDAs or other devices to each other, but without any wires.
Wi-Fi is made up of a group of radio technologies that operate in the unlicensed 2.4 and 5 GHz Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) radio bands, and whose names include IEEE 802.11a, 802.11b or 802.11g are used by Wi-Fi networks to provide wireless connectivity. Wi-Fi networks can also connect to computers on wired networks, providing that they are using IEEE 802.3 or Ethernet. A full listing of Wi-Fi versions is shown below. Only the 802.11 a, b, g and n versions are really relevant to users. The others matter to developers and the other people that make Wi-Fi tick.
The IEEE 802.11b version of Wi-Fi provides data throughput of 11 Mbps, while 802.11a provides up to 54 Mbps. Products are now being built to an emerging 802.11n version of Wi-Fi, which promises data throughput of above 100Mbps, though this version has yet to become an official standard.
Where can I use Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi is suitable for home and business users. While a Wi-Fi network at home may mean that one person can surf the net in the lounge while connected to the Wi-Fi access point near a PC in the home office, companies are using Wi-Fi to connect meeting rooms, training classrooms and large auditoriums to standard wired Ethernet networks. If you are a large company, or perhaps a university or other facility, you may use Wi-Fi to connect buildings.
What devices use Wi-Fi?
Laptops and smartphones increasingly have Wi-Fi built in, and as users want or need to be able to be connected wherever they are, Wi-Fi networks can be found in public places like coffee outlets as well as hotels, airport lounges, shopping malls, etc. The reach of Wi-Fi is now also extending into other devices such as cameras, MP3 players, domestic music systems, flat panel TVs and more.
Isn’t Wi-Fi tough to use?
At one time, setting a PC or other device up to connect to a Wi-Fi network was complicated, and would often require the input of a professional. Today it is much easier. In most cases you will just plug in your Wi-Fi card or USB connection, turn on your computer or other device and it will use layers of auto-install software and systems to go away and find the Wi-Fi network and ensure that in very little time you will be surfing the Net.
Who is looking after me?