WiFi comes from 'Wireless Fidelity’ that is a wireless data transmission technology used for the Internet - mainly - and based on the 802.11 standards. But what is it in reality, and how does it work? In most cases, it is used in the home environment, for the connection of devices in a local network, but it is not the only practical application possible, and the details about its operation are much more complex.
Whenever possible, it is most convenient to connect by cable. It is the greatest guarantee of speed and stability; however, there are cases in which only the WiFi connection is possible. And its advantage is precisely there, in that the WiFi can arrive where the wired connection does not arrive, as it happens with mobile networks about the fiber-optic broadband infrastructure. Also, in terms of installation cost, it is also cheaper than a wired network.
The WiFi is based on radio waves, exactly like the radio itself, mobile telephony or television. However, the frequencies used for this wireless connectivity technology are different, specifically 2.4 GHz up to the 802.11n and 5 GHz standard in 802.11 ac. Currently, although the 5 GHz provide superior performance, both frequencies are used and, in addition, in the higher performance equipment, the data transfer is combined by both bands.
The two components of WiFi
In a WiFi connection, we have a wireless adapter in a computer - or other devices - that translates the data in the form of a radio signal and, through an antenna, transmits them ’over the air’ and a router which is responsible for receiving the signal and decode it. And once this is done, by a physical connection, by cable, through Ethernet, it sends the information through the Internet to other servers.
Obviously, this whole process happens exactly the same, but vice versa, when it is the ’customer’ who has to receive information from the Internet. The wireless router receives data that translates into a radio signal and sends it to the wireless adapter. All this can happen in 2.4 or 5 GHz, as we mentioned earlier, and over 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac standards. There is backward compatibility between adapter standards and access points, and in the latest specifications, it can be transmitted simultaneously in two bands for faster data transfer speed.
An access point is an area with wireless connectivity through this technology. The router is a WiFi hotspot, for example, as long as it has this technology, and public networks in coffee shops, airports, and other working places are too. However, a wide variety of wireless network adapters can share WiFi if they are connected to another network that allows them to access the Internet. In fact, smartphones can take advantage of wireless connectivity with mobile networks and, therefore, we can share WiFi with Android and iPhone.
The security of WiFi is variable, mainly based on the encryption that applies to communications between the router and wireless adapters. There are several options, and they can be divided between safe and unsafe by their technical characteristics:
An open WiFi, without a password, does not apply encryption in communications and has no access password. This is the most insecure option, while anyone can connect to the router and intercept their communications with the devices connected to it. Therefore, it is relatively simple to spy on any user. But QEP encryption is also insecure, which is the most basic. It is weak encryption and with demonstrated vulnerabilities that allow obtaining the encryption key in just a few minutes.
The WPA encryption, which is considered safe, although it is not one hundred percent secure. WPA2 encryption is also considered secure which is an evolution of the previous one, and not only improves security but also introduces performance-related improvements in information exchanges. These two options, as we mentioned earlier, are those that are considered safe today.
A mobile device, such as a laptop, must have a card or a wireless adapter, to take advantage of Wi-Fi technology. The latest laptops have built-in wireless cards; however, in older models, you can use a wireless adapter to connect it to a USB port or a wireless card that connects to a PCI card slot. Printers and desktops that do not have wireless cards can also use USB wireless adapters to connect to the USB ports (universal serial bus). A desktop computer also has a PCI slot where a wireless card can be connected.
A wireless router acts as a gateway to the main access point. This wireless router connects to a wired Ethernet network that provides the Internet connection; therefore, the router must have a port to connect to a cable or DSL modem.
Configure the wireless router with the basic or default settings required. An SSID (service set identifier) is the name of the network. This has a default configuration with the name of the manufacturer. You can keep that name or you can change it to whatever you want. You must also configure the router with the channel which, by default, is channel 6.
You can change this setting to avoid interference if you live in a multi-dwelling construction. Also, you may have to configure the router security option. You can use the standard connection settings or the one that is publicly available. However, this entails the possibility of receiving a cyber-attack or an intrusion through the network. Therefore, it is recommended that you use a password and username to protect your wireless network.
The mobile computing industry is becoming more popular every day. Thanks to the public Wi-Fi interactive zones that people can use. When you turn on your computer or other devices that have Wi-Fi enabled, they will show available network connections. You can choose the one that has the strongest signal and connect. Often, in a public interactive zone, you can connect directly without using a password. However, some interactive zones require the user to enter a password to connect. Usually, this happens when the service is paid.