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All That You Want To Know About Wi-Fi

The modern home has broadband, smartphones, tablets, PCs and laptops. Naturally Wi-Fi has become a new buzzword in connectivity. Not only the technology that let you break away from wires, but it also allows different users to share internet connection. What's more, it has other purposes too, such as the ability to transfer files between devices, wirelessly print documents and more. So, if you're wondering how you can go wireless at home, read on...

But first, what is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi or Wireless LAN (WLAN) is a standard that allows devices to communicate with each other using a Wi-Fi router as the central hub. All devices with Wi-Fi connect to the router via which data exchange take place. Depending on the router used and the surroundings conditions - such as walls, physical obstructions and other wireless networks in the vicinity - Wi-Fi routers can have a range of around 20-25 feet indoors.

What Does 2.4GHz, 5GHz mean? Which one is Better?

Each and every wireless network that you are surrounded with have its particular frequency to get itself propagated in. Means that each wireless transmitter has its pre-defined frequency range in which it can transmit signals. And this frequency ranges or bands must differ with each other, so that they doesn't mix-up themselves with other signals, which can be treated as noise. Noise is simply an unwanted signal which can destroy or manipulate your actual signal which results in information loss and the integrity of information can't be maintained.

The 2.4GHz sticker that you see on your Wi-Fi router is nothing but its frequency band. This means that it can transmit data at the frequency of 2.4GHz (Giga Hertz). This applies for 5GHz routers too.

Most gadgets nowadays use this 2.4GHz frequency to transmit the data. Now when there exist more than one Wi-Fi routers in a short distance, and if they both are transmitting at 2.4GHz, there lies the chances of network congestion and interference. This limitation lead us to the introduction of 5GHz frequency band, which, for now, is less-crowded thus providing better transfer rate and less congestion. 

However the one fact that should be taken under consideration is the range of the above mentioned frequencies. Higher the frequency, the shorter its range. Which directly means that with 2.4GHz router you can transmit in a larger area compared to 5GHz, thus it needs less repeaters to transmit long distance. Though this both frequencies are higher enough which prevents them from penetrating the solid objects like walls, thus limiting their reach.

What does Wi-Fi a/b/g/n mean?

The Wi-Fi technology was introduces in 1997, with time, Wi-Fi has been updated with several new standards that enhances its functionality to match with the demand of the latest "bandwidth hungry" devices!

Wi-Fi standards 'a' and 'b' are old standards and nearly non-existant. Both of these were introduced in the early days of Wi-Fi thus providing very low data transfer speeds, which is quite impractical in today's world of Fiber Internet.

Wi-Fi standard 'g' stands for the transmission of 2.4GHz frequency band. And it is the most common standard used these days. It has the theoretical maximum transfer rate of 54Mbps, and it is more tolerant to the signal interference that previous ones.

Wi-Fi standard 'n' is the latest of the lot which supports a whooping 300Mbps of speed. The latest laptops and smartphones/tablets are well equipped to support Wi-Fi 'n'. It can use either 2.4Ghz or 5GHz frequency. It also provides better signal strength due to improved signal intensity, but it is more prone to signal interference.

Dual Band or Single Band?

There exists three type of routers: Single Band, dual band and simultaneous dual band.
  • Single Band routers operate at the single frequency of 2.4GHz and do not support 5GHz frequency at all.
  • Dual Band support both, 2.4GHz & 5GHz, frequency bands, but can work with only one at a time. Means, if you are operating that router with 2.4GHz band, it won't be able to connect with 5GHz frequency. 
  • Simultaneous dual-band routers removes the limitations of both above mentioned routers, means it can work with both bands at the same time, providing more flexibility and speed.

ADSL/DSL + Wi-Fi Routers?

ADSL and DSL technology is used to provide broadband connectivity to the households. Normally, a phone line wire is inserted into a DSL or ADSL modem, via which your broadband connection works.

Wi-Fi routers with built-in ADSL or DSL modem can be purchased, thus eliminating the need for separate modem or router. However, it is recommended to use a separate modem and Wi-Fi router, since it turns out to be more cheaper and better. Most Wi-Fi routers with built in modem lack several features unless you shell out some more bucks, and they can get unstable under heavy usage due to the excess heat generation.

Security Matters!

If left open or unprotected, your Wi-Fi network is open to all allowing your neighbours to use broadband for free without your knowledge! Thus it is always advisable to protect your Wi-Fi with password to prevent any misuse. Besides, Indian government has made it mandatory that every Wi-Fi network has to be password protected so as to prevent terrorist from using it.

A simple and effective way of protecting a Wi-Fi network is by hiding its name, known as SSID (Server Set Identifier) - that is, the router will not show up when someone seeks a connection to it. Thus if no one can see it, no one will access it! Simple as that. But one drawback of this is that you will have to enter your Wi-Fi's name every time you want to connect, which can be cumbersome at times.

While modern Wi-Fi routers comes with tons of security modes to protect network, the most common are WEP, WPA, WPA 2. Of this, WPA 2 (WiFi protected access 2) is the most advanced, secure and common protocol out there, and is mandatory on all routers after 2005.

The WPA2-Enterprise mode has advanced security, but it is not recommended for home or small office purpose.
Rajat Patel

Rajat Patel

Founder at TheNextGeek.com. Software Engineer & Business Analyst by profession. Avid open source evangelist. Mostly writes about Technology that interests him, and some neat tricks to make your day-to-day tech life a breeze.

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