To put it bluntly, almost all of us are drowning in Wi-Fi signals these days.
Every home, every school, every office, and every coffee shop has a Wi-Fi router set up – broadcasting high-speed internet all over the place, with signals overlapping one another left and right.
We definitely do not have a connectivity issue, that’s for sure.
At the same time, though, because Wi-Fi is invisible no one really stops think about how does Wi-Fi work “under the hood” and how are we able to access the internet from pretty much anywhere thanks to this invisible broadcast signal. It is also important to know the difference between WLAN vs Wifi.
If you ever wanted to know how Wi-Fi works – how it really works – you’re going to love the info that we share below.
We dig a little bit deeper into what Wi-Fi is exactly, what Wi-Fi stands for, and what the technical capabilities of this wireless protocol really are. By the time you’re done with this quick guide you’ll know how Google Wi-Fi works, the science behind Wi-Fi, and might even pick up a couple of tips and tricks to better optimize your overall Wi-Fi experience.
Let’s get right into it!
To put it simply, Wi-Fi is a wireless connection protocol that operates off of radio frequencies just the same way that walkie-talkies, car stereos, and traditional radios work.
Signals are sent out through the air from broadcast stations (your Wi-Fi router, in this case) over the “gigahertz” range. This is different from the kilohertz range used by AM radio stations as well as the megahertz range used by FM stations, but the general principle is all the same.
Wi-Fi signals are a little bit shorter than what you’d expect to get from AM and FM radio signals, though. But that’s the nature of the gigahertz physical radio wavelength.
These waves have a lot more in common (physically, anyway) with the kinds of ways your microwave produces – which is why so many people recommend keeping your router out of the kitchen, especially if your family likes to make popcorn a lot!
At the end of the day, though, the easiest way to understand how does Wi-Fi work is to really think of it as nothing more than a modern radio signal. All principles are the same across the board.
Interestingly enough, a lot of people are under the impression that Wi-Fi stands for “Wireless Fidelity” – but nothing could be further from the truth.
Sure, in the early days of Wi-Fi (after its technology was initially invented back in the early nineties by organization based out of Hawaii) the tech was advertised as “the standard for wireless fidelity”. But that was really nothing more than a marketing slogan.
In reality, Wi-Fi doesn’t actually stand for anything. It isn’t an acronym, it isn’t short for anything, and it doesn’t mean much, really. It’s just kind of fun to say and was catchy enough to become the universal standard for this new technology – a technology that also went by IEEE 802.11.
Obviously that was a bit of a mouthful so we should all probably be glad that Wi-Fi caught on the way it did!
As we mentioned earlier, Wi-Fi is really nothing more than radio waves on steroids.
Your Wi-Fi router broadcasts electromagnetic radiation in the form of radio waves, creating a bubble of Wi-Fi that different devices can connect to (as long as they are in range). Those devices are fitted with Wi-Fi antennas that can translate the data sent over these electromagnetic radiation waves, but can also send out their own waves that are interpreted by your Wi-Fi router as well.
One of the coolest things about Wi-Fi using these kinds of electromagnetic radiation radio waves is that the frequencies can be fined tuned and amplified to be used pretty much anywhere.
If you’ve ever wanted to know how does airplane Wi-Fi work or how does Wi-Fi work on a plane when you aren’t even close to a ground signal it’s because the Wi-Fi antennas are being boosted with the amplifiers.
Just how much can these Wi-Fi signals get boosted?
Well, engineers at the Swedish Space Agency were able to boost Wi-Fi to transmit over 260 miles, all the way up into our Earth’s atmosphere. They were able to connect to a stratospheric balloon that was conducting experiments.
You might not be able to watch Netflix from 260 miles away from your router if you’re using standard hardware right out-of-the-box, but the technology exists to Frank those signals through the roof!
As a general rule, though, the science behind Wi-Fi limits the range of the signals quite a bit.
The gigahertz range of radio signal is a bit limited, usually only able to extend out to 100 feet or so when produced by our standard Wi-Fi router hardware. When you add in interference (atmospheric, environmental, and a bunch of other Wi-Fi signals in the area) that usable range usually drops by 30% or so.
This is why it’s so important to figure out not only how Wi-Fi works but how it works best in your home or office. You may have to play around with the setup or location of your router to get the best speeds and the stability, simply because of these interference factors.
Of course, you can always get your hands on a wireless extender to amplify your own signal. Top-quality options (SuperBoost review) are pretty affordable and easy to use, giving you the range and stability you need to enjoy high speeds all the way up to 150 feet (or more) away from your router and your booster..
When you get right down to it, though, the fact that we can connect to the entire world on the back of invisible radio waves that are surrounding us pretty much 24/7 is incredible.
It’s important to stop and think about just how advanced our society is today, how far we have come in such a short amount of time. Like we mentioned earlier, Wi-Fi technology isn’t all that old. The earliest technology was pioneered in the seventies and wasn’t perfected until the nineties.
Think of where Wi-Fi will be in another 50 years if it’s already a strong, stable, and as fast as it is right now.
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