So what does WiFi mean? The name means Wireless Fidelity and is probably a nod towards the old audio term Hi-Fi (High Fidelity).
Usually people associate WiFi with being connected to the internet. While the two do usually go hand in hand, this isn't completely accurate.
You can be connected to a WiFi router or hotspot and not actually be connected to the internet. What you actually connect to is a wireless local area network (WLAN) and that network can then share access to the internet.
The reason a network is created is to allow multiple devices to connect at the same time. It wouldn't be particularly useful if only one device could connect at a time!
So WiFi isn't just about wireless internet access, it's also a way to share or copy files from one device to another, print documents or stream music and video.
How does WiFi work?
Like almost all wireless technology, WiFi works by using radio waves to send and receive data. This is the same technology as simple FM Radios and more complex mobile phones.
If you have "wireless internet" in your home then what you actually have is a wireless router that is first connected to either your phone line or cable installation. This wired connection is what provides "the internet".
The router then wirelessly transmits internet data to and from any connected device whenever you're browsing the internet, watching a YouTube video, downloading a file etc.
What is the range of WiFi?
It's tricky to give an exact figure since the range depends on a number of factors including:
- Signal strength
- Any interference
- The version of WiFi the transmitter and receiver are using
- Line of sight and obstructions
A good approximation suggests a range of about 50m (164 feet) indoors and roughly double that outdoors, 100m (328 feet).
Boost the range of your WiFi
To get the best WiFi range there are a few things you can do to improve the signal and increase the range.
- Try and place your router around waist level, e.g. on a window sill or table
- If you want the best coverage in all rooms, try placing your router as centrally as possible in your home e.g. a central hallway.
- Experiment with different WiFi channels (see below)
- Check to see if your router has a detachable antenna that can be replaced with a higher spec antenna.
- You can buy a WiFi Booster also known as a Wifi Extender
You can't go far wrong with this plug-and-play 300 Mbps NETGEAR EX2700-100UKS
How to change your WiFi channel
There are a couple of ways you can change your WiFi channel. Some modern routers scan for the least congested channel when they are turned on, so simply turning them off and on again is sometimes all you need to do (yes really!).
If your router doesn't support this you can still do it manually but you'll need your computer for this. You'll also need to know your router's network address and admin login details.
- Load up your internet browser and enter the network address of your router (usually 192.168.0.1)
- You will then be prompted for your username and password
- Find the settings or preferences section and there will be an option to change the channel
- Select a different channel then save your settings
The best WiFi channels are usually 1, 6 or 11 as they provide the least amount of interference with neighbouring WiFi signals.
However as with anything it's worth experimenting to see what works best for you.
What is SSID?
The Service Set Identifier or SSID is the broadcast name that's given to your router so it can be easily identified and connected to.
When you do a search for WiFi networks, the results that are shown are the SSID's of any router found.
The SSID can be called anything you like and is easily changed (see below). By default they are normally set to the manufacturer name or your internet service provider's name.
You can choose not to broadcast your SSID - this simply means that anyone searching for networks near you won't find your router and therefore you are less likely to have someone attempt to hack your connection.
How to change your WiFi name
Normally there isn't a great need to change your WiFi broadcast name (SSID) but if you have to for any reason then it's fairly straight forward to do.
- Open your internet browser and enter the network address of your router (usually 192.168.0.1)
- You will then be prompted for your username and password
- Find the settings or preferences section and there will be an option to change the SSID
- Delete the current SSID and change it to whatever you want and save your settings
Remember if you have any devices using the old WiFi name, these will need to be changed to the new name.
Funny WiFi names
It's common for hotels, coffee shops and other businesses to give their networks easily identifiable names so customers know what they are connecting to.
But over the years there has been a trend of creating unique and funny WiFi names.
As the SSID is fairly straight forward to change it has led many to see who can come up with the best name.
Here is a list of our top 10 best WiFi names
- FBI Surveillance Van
- Virus Infected WiFi
- Wi believe I can Fi
- Mum use this one
- It burns when IP
- Skynet Global Defence Network
- Pretty Fly for a Wi-Fi
- Network Not Found
- Please Connect for Identity Theft
Advantages of WiFi
- The biggest advantage is probably the most obvious - it's a network and internet connection without wires giving you the freedom to browse, work and play wherever you want!
- You can connect about 255 wireless devices at once to a WiFi router. By comparison you can only connect 4 wired devices to a typical router.
- WiFi is an extremely convenient way of connecting multiple devices to the same network without having to run long cables around your home or office.
Disadvantages of WiFi
- As good as WiFi is, if you live in a big house or a house with particularly thick walls you might struggle to get a signal in all rooms
- Security can still be an issue with WiFi especially for users that just leave their equipment on default settings. It's always recommended to change your login password and make sure you've enabled encryption in the security settings. (WPA or WPA2 should be used if available).
- It's not ideal for transferring lots of large data over the network as WiFi is usually slower than a wired connection
- WiFi is susceptible to interference from other WiFi devices (e.g. your neighbour's equipment) so performance and reliability can be degraded if you have lots of devices all fighting for the same radio space.
- Not all devices have WiFi built in. Some Smart TVs, DVD players, set-top boxes etc. still only have wired Ethernet connections. Some manufacturers sell external WiFi dongles that can make them WiFi enabled but this obviously comes at a cost.
So there you have it. WiFi is truly a wonderful thing. Not long ago we were shackled to our desks with computers and laptops plugged into an Ethernet cable.
WiFi has transformed how we connect devices, communicate, play games, stream data or simply browse Facebook! Chances are you're reading this over a WiFi connection right now.
WiFi, the unsung hero of the modern digital world we live in, we salute you.