How Does Wi-Fi Work?

Last Updated: October 24, 2020By


WiFi allows gadgets to communicate without wirelessly. The wireless networking protocol is a trademark of Wi-Fi Alliance and uses radio waves. What happens is that the wireless adapter of the computer translates data into a radio signal and delivers it to a wireless router using an antenna. The wireless router decodes the signal and sends the data to the internet using a wired Ethernet connection. The process works in reverse as well. The router receives data from the internet, translates into a radio signal and sends it to the PC’s wireless adapter.

WiFi radios are capable of transmitting at a frequency of 2.4 or 5 GHz. This frequency is higher than the frequencies used for TVs, mobile phones and walkie-talkies. This is because higher frequencies allow the signal to carry more information. WiFi radios utilize 802.11 networking standards that come in different variations. 802.11a transmits signal at 5 GHz and is capable of moving up to 54 megabits of information per second. It uses OFDM or orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing. This coding method that divides the signal into multiple sub-signals before it reaches a receiver, which helps reduce interference.

802.11g can move up to 54 megabits of information per second. It transmits data at 2.4 GHz and uses OFDM as well. 802.11b is the most affordable and slowest standard. It can also transmit data at 2.4 GHz and accommodate up to 11 megabits of information per second. 802.11b uses the CCK or complementary code keying modulation to boost speeds.

802.11n is capable of moving up to 54 megabits of information per second, but can only achieve real-world speeds of approximately 24 megabits of information per second due to network congestion. It’s allegedly capable of achieving speeds as fast as 140 megabits per second. 802.11n is backward compatible with b, g and a. It can transmit up to 4 data stream at150 megabits per second. However, most routers only permit 2 or 3 streams.

802.11ac is far faster and less vulnerable to interference than its predecessors. It can handle up to 450 megabits of data per second on one stream and is backward compatible with 802.11n. 802.11ac is on the 5 GHz band and enables transmission on up to 8 spatial streams. Due to its frequency band, 802.11ac is sometimes called 5G WiFi. It can exceed VHT or Very High Throughput and a gigabit per second on several streams.

WiFi radios can frequency hop quickly between the bands. This helps to reduce interference and allows several devices to make use of the same wireless connection at once. Multiple devices can use a single router to connect to the internet, provided that they have a wireless adapter. This connection is fairly reliable, practically invisible and convenient, but users can lose their connection or experience interference if too many people are using high-bandwidth applications simultaneously or if the router fails.

How to Build a Wireless Network

If you have multiple computers at home, you can make a wireless network that has a wireless access point. A wireless router is needed if you want to replace your existing Ethernet network or if your computers are not yet networked. You will need a router, a firewall, a port to connect to your DSL modem or cable, a wireless access point and an Ethernet hub.

A wireless router lets you use Ethernet cables or wireless signals to connect your mobile devices or computers to the internet, printer or one another. Most routers cover about 100′ in all directions, but doors and walls can block the signals. Repeaters or range extenders can increase the range of your wireless router. 802.11b routers are more affordable than others but slower than 802.11g, 802.11ac, 802.11n, and 802.11a routers. This is because the standard is older.

The router will start functioning at its default settings once it is plugged in. Most routers allow you to utilize a web interface to modify the settings. You can choose the security options of the router. Many routers use a standard sign-on that is publicly available, so you should choose your password and username. You can also choose the name of the network or SSID (service set identifier). The manufacturer’s name is usually the default setting. You can choose the router’s channel as well. The default setting is usually channel 6. You may experience interference if you’re living in an apartment and the neighbors are using the same channel as well. Changing the channel should solve the problem.

It’s also important to secure your home wireless network. If your router creates an open hotspot, anyone will be able to access your signal. You can keep other people out of your network by observing some security precaution. Your security precautions should be updated. Keep your network private by choosing WPA2 or WiFi Protected Access version 2. It requires users to sign on with a password. WPA2 is the suggested security standard for a WiFi network. It uses either Advanced Encryption Standard or TKIP encryption, depending on what you pick at setup. Advanced Encryption Standard is viewed as the most secure.

You may want to turn off WiFi Protected Setup or WPS because it creates a weakness that hackers can exploit. If possible, look for routers that don’t have this feature. You can alter other router settings to enhance security such as setting it to block WAN requests to prevent the router from responding to any IP request from remote users. Limit the number of devices that can connect to the router. You can also disable remote administration to make sure that only computers plugged directly into the router can alter the network settings. Change the SSID or Service Set Identifier to prevent hackers from identifying your router. You should also choose a strong password.

Specify which MAC (Media Access Control) addresses are permitted when you set up the router. If your visitors want to use your network or you want to purchase a new computer, you will need to include the MAC addresses of the new devices in the list of approved addresses. However, the system is not fool-proof, and smart hackers can copy a known address to fool your network that the device they are using belongs on your network.

Take extra precautions when setting up your WiFi to protect yourself and your network from hackers.