What is the difference between Wi-Fi and a Wired connection?

How does a W-Fi connection work?

In our tech-driven world, the internet and Wi-Fi are everywhere. We use the internet for video calls with friends and family, online banking, attending online classes or work meetings, streaming movies and shows, and so much more. Wi-Fi is the wireless connection that lets our phones and laptops connect to the internet. But have you ever wondered how these wireless networks actually work?

A wireless network functions much like a two-way radio exchange. They utilise radio waves, similar to the technology found in cell phones, televisions, and radios.

The process:

  1. A computer's wireless adapter translates data into a radio signal and transmits it via an antenna.
  2. A wireless router receives and decodes the signal, subsequently forwarding the information to the internet through a physical, wired ethernet connection.
  3. Similarly, the router can also receive data from the internet, convert it into a radio signal, and transmit it to the computer's wireless adapter.

Wireless connection diagram V2.png

 

What’s the difference between Wi-Fi and other radio systems?

The radio technology required for Wi-Fi shares many similarities with the radios used in walkie-talkies, mobile phones, and other devices. They possess the ability to both send and receive radio waves, transforming binary data (1s and 0s) into radio signals and vice versa. However, Wi-Fi radios exhibit distinctive features that set them apart from other radio systems:

Wi-Fi radios operate at either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequencies. This is notably higher than the frequencies used by mobile phones, walkie-talkies, and televisions. The increased frequency enables Wi-Fi signals to carry a larger volume of data.

 

Although 2.4 GHz connections are still used, they are considered somewhat outdated due to their lower data transfer speeds compared to 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz band continues to be relevant, particularly for its capacity to cover longer distances, extending over several hundred feet.

In ideal circumstances, the 5 GHz band can reach a maximum range of approximately 200 feet (61 meters). Nevertheless, in real-world scenarios, it is more susceptible to interference from physical barriers such as walls and doors. Therefore, the 2.4 GHz band may offer faster speeds for users connecting to a router from multiple rooms away, whereas the 5 GHz band is the superior choice for close-range connections.

 

How does a wired connection work?

Whilst Wi-Fi is the most commonly used way to get online, many homes  still rely on something called Ethernet to connect devices to the internet.

What is Ethernet?

The Ethernet is a type of technology used for local networks (like in your home or office) that involves connecting to the internet using special cables, often referred to as Cat5e or Cat6 cables. These cables link your device to a router, allowing data to flow between them.

 

Wired connection diagram V2.png

Summary

One of the advantages of Ethernet is that it's faster than Wi-Fi because it uses cables for a direct connection and doesn't depend on radio waves. It's also a more stable and secure connection due to it being wired, meaning it is less susceptible to interference.

 

 

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