Wifi Explained

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Wifi or wireless fidelity is ingrained into our everyday lives. Let us take you into a journey of what it means, how does it work. Did you know wireless fidelity has various generations which have been launched, starting from year 1999? In this article we look to explain what Wifi is about, how wifi works, the types of Wifi, various generations launched and how STL is transforming the Wifi space.

2. Wifi definition

Wifi is really a nickname for wireless fidelity, not an abbreviation. It is a wireless local area network technology which allows one to access or connect to a network using radio waves. This can be used on various devices like computers, smart phones and TVs, video game consoles etc. Simply speaking, it provides a standard way to connect with wireless networking. Wifi network is based on 802.11 standards developed by IEEE. It is trademarked by Wi-fi alliance and used as a brand name for products using IEEE 802.11 wifi standards.

3. How Wifi works?

Have you ever wondered how do wireless devices connect with each other? Well, the simple answer is through wifi technology. Signals are sent through radio waves to the various devices. The receiving device needs to be set to receive waves of a certain frequency. The wifi frequency range is 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. This is a higher frequency than those used for walkie talkies, mobile phones, TVs. This higher wifi frequency range allows signals to carry more data.

Let us explain the process of how Wifi really works:

  • A chord, usually a fibre cable or analog line. This connects an internet source, like a broadband mode.
  • The wifi router is the medium which receives the internet connection via a wide area network (WAN) port.
  • The wifi router gives off wireless signals via radio waves to a card or an adapter in computer, phone, or other devices to establish two-way communication
Wi-Fi Router, Wireless Access Point, Edge Router with Waves Software Manages Users

(Source: waves wifi.com)

4. Types of wifi deployments.

Typically, there are three types of wireless networking systems deployed. It is important to understand the suitability of each wifi network for effective deployment:

Centralised Deployment – If there are a cluster of buildings and networks bunched closed to each other, centralised deployment of wireless network system is used. This deployment consolidates the wireless networks since the controllers are installed in a central location. Centralised deployment is typically applied in campuses wherein it is easier to upgrade and enable advanced wireless functionality through a central location.         

Converged Deployment – This type of deployment converges the wired and wireless networks in one device, by using an access switch. The access switch acts as both a switch and wireless controller, giving users consistency in their wired and wireless connections. Typically, companies having branch offices deploy this type of network system.

Cloud based Deployment – This deployment uses the cloud to manage network devices. Dashboards are used to manage the devices at different locations. Since cloud services are used, all devices are visible to anyone having access to the dashboard.

STL has created a future ready platform, the Wifi Service Management Platform, consisting of Authentication, Billing, Captive Portal, Location-aware Services, Subscriber Analytics, Mobile App and Integration with Mobile Core. The solution is extremely user friendly and supports new business models along with various ready use cases for smart cities and telecom operators. These solutions have sizeable presence among service providers and have been deployed in over 3500+ wifi network in over 60 countries including smart cities, hotels, airports and other public Wifi hotspots.

STL’s Wifi deployment solutions and the benefits can be read about from this link:

https://www.stl.tech/wifi-service-management-platform-smp.html

5. What is Wifi 6?

As technology refines itself, newer generations come into being. Wifi 6 is the newest standard in wifi. The newest version of wifi standards is 802.11ax (Wifi6), and is an upgrade over the previous standard, which is 802.11ac (Wifi 5). This upgraded standard, Wifi 6, is mainly for compatible devices (like routers) to transmit wifi signal more efficiently. Wifi 6 was built in response to the growing number of devices in the world, and to improve performance in high network densities like apartments with multiple routers or outdoor stadiums. The term Wifi6 was coined by WiFi Alliance as an industry designation and seen as a consumer-friendly name over its industry standard name of 802.11ax.

6. How fast is Wifi 6 and how does it work?

Wifi 6 (802.11ax) is an upgraded standard over its previous version with better speed (upload and download) being one of the features. Wifi 6 can achieve a maximum throughput (download speed) of 9.6Gbps across multiple channels compared to 3.5 Gbps in Wifi5.

However, the point to note is that a single Wifi 6 laptop connected to a Wifi 6 router will be only marginally faster than a single Wifi5 laptop on a Wifi5 router. Wifi6 is all about improving the network when more and more devices get connected. Wifi 6 typically keeps connections strong even with multiple devices get connected and demand data. We can see how Intel has listed out Wifi6 capabilities:

Works 4 times better in dense environments, has a much higher data download speed (throughput), increases network efficiency 4 times over, has an extended battery life.

11AX The Path to Truly Brilliant Wi-Fi

7. Wifi6 vs previous generations.

A quick comparison of the different Wifi generations is given in the table below:

Wifi6 vs previous generations

As we can gather, Wifi6 is an upgraded standard over the last one. The launch for Wifi6 which happened about 5 years after the last generation is mainly for

  • performance and reliability for streaming capabilities of number of devices simultaneously.
  • greater range of wifi signal. Devices used at the edge of wifi range (more than 350 feet) will still have decent wifi connectivity, because the network will send a stronger signal to those edge devices.
  • Wifi 6 automatically includes a new protocol called WPA3 which enables the network to be more secure. WPA3 is tough for hackers, as passwords are very secure and data is encrypted and rendered useless for them.

8. STL in the wifi space.

STL has created a future ready platform, the Wifi Service Management Platform, consisting of Authentication, Billing, Captive Portal, Location-aware Services, Subscriber Analytics, Mobile App and Integration with Mobile Core. The solution is extremely user friendly and supports new business models along with various ready use cases for smart cities and telecom operators. These solutions have sizeable presence among service providers and deployed in over 3500+ wifi network connection over 60 countries including smart cities, hotels, airports and other public Wifi hotspots.”

STL’s wifi deployment solutions and the benefits can be read about from this link:

https://www.stl.tech/wifi-service-management-platform-smp.html

STL is also transforming organisations who are tracking business metrics, through innovative mobile strategies. Some of the Wifi linked solutions being provided by STL are Wifi Roaming solutions and LTE-Wifi interworking.

“STL has a Wifi Service Management Platform (SMP) and Monetization Framework, which caters to the varied needs of Service Providers, Operators, ISPs, Cable operators, Smart City Initiatives, MVNOs, Public Venue owners to easily launch Public Wifi services, Mobile Data offload to Wifi and innovative monetization services”. One can read about STL’s solutioning in the Wifi space is the link below:

https://www.stl.tech/service-provider-wifi.html

9. FAQs:

a. What does wifi mean?

 –  It is a wireless local area network technology which allows one to connect to a network using radio waves. This can be used on various devices like computers, smart phones and TVs, video game consoles etc. Wifi network is based on 802.11 standards developed by IEEE.  It is a nickname for wireless fidelity.

b. What is Wireless LAN (WLAN)?

 – At a broader level, Wifi (wireless fidelity) and WLAn (wireless LAN) are the same thing. They both use wireless network technology that can connect and exchange data at high speed to various devices. However, technically, wifi is a type of WLAN. Wifi is a wireless standard and WLAN is a wireless network used in local area network.

c. Who invented the wifi?

 – Vic Hayes is popularly referred to as the “Father of wifi”. In 1997, he chaired the IEEE committee that created the 802.11 standards – the standards defining wifi. However, CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) of Australia created a chip that greatly improved the signal quality of wireless fidelity. Accordingly, the group of scientists, namely, Dr. John O’Sullivan, Dr. Terry Percival, Mr. Diet Ostry, Mr. Graham Daniels, and Mr. John Deane are credited to be the inventors of wifi. 

d. What is wifi enabled?

 –  Whenever a device sends and receives wireless signals through a wifi network, the device is called wifi enabled. Wifi enabled devices can connect to the internet through available wifi network.

e. What is a wireless access point?

 – A wireless access point or WAP is a hardware device which helps different wireless networks to connect. WAPs allow connectivity between devices and the internet. WAPs in conjunction with the wireless router help provide wifi throughout an average house.

f. What is a wireless router?

A wireless router is a device that connects local networks or enables internet to transmit wifi signals to devices. Usually a wireless router has a built-in wireless access point to enable providing wifi. The wireless router or wifi router is a device having the functions of a router and a WAP.

g. What is the difference between a wifi and an internet?

 – Let us understand the basic differences between wifi and internet:

Wifi is a wireless network to connect local area devices. Internet is a global network, connecting computers globally.

Wifi uses radio waves to send / receive data. Internet uses a defined TCP/IP protocol router to transmit data between computers.

Wifi needs routers for connecting devices.  For internet, modems, routers, switches are required for connecting.

h.  Does Wifi 6 require new hardware?

 – Each Wifi generation is based on new hardware and software. Hence it means that for Wifi6 accessibility, one will have to buy new devices (computers, phones etc etc). Devices, including routers will need to be Wifi 6 compatible to reap the benefits of Wifi 6.

i. Is Wifi 6 backward compatible?

 – Yes, Wifi 6 is backward compatible. This means that previous standards of wifi devices can be used on a wifi 6 network.

j. Ethernet vs Wifi 6

 – Ethernet is wired network and wifi 6 the latest generation of wireless network. Let us look at different parameters to understand which is most suitable for you – Ethernet or Wifi 6.

Speed: Ethernet has a maximum speed of 100 Gbps, whereas Wifi 6 has 1.2 Gbps of max speed.

Latency: Ethernet is a wired network, hence does not have any interference from various devices. Wifi 6, being wireless may face such interferences and accordingly have issues in latency.

Convenience: Connecting cables is always more troublesome. Hence convenience lies in Wifi 6 over Ethernet.

In a nutshell, Ethernet is useful if one is looking for consistent data transfer and minimum external interference. Whereas, Wifi 6 is better if one does not want to encounter cabling hassles to set up network connection.

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