Wi-Fi, a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance, is not a technical term; however, the Alliance has used the term to describe only a narrow range of connectivity technologies including wireless local are network as well as PAN, LAN, and WAN. “IEEE 802.11″, the technical term, has been used interchangeably with Wi-Fi even though Wi-Fi has become a superset of IEEE 802.11 over the past few years. It is used by over 700 million people and there are over 750,000 hotspots and around 800 million new Wi-Fi devices are created every year.
Since every Wi-Fi device is not necessarily submitted for certification to the Wi-Fi Alliance a lack of certification does not necessarily imply that a device is incompatible with Wi-Fi. Even though technically an item must be certified in order to carry the Wi-Fi logo many times devices that are compliant are allowed to carry a Wi-Fi designation. Many Wi-Fi devices are installed on personal computers, video game consoles, MP3 players, smartphones, and printers.
Non Wi-Fi Alliance wireless technology that is meant for fixed points are usually described as fixed wireless while technologies intended for mobile use are usually described as 3G, 4G, or 5G.
The Wi-Fi Alliance, which is not for profit, formed in 1999 to fill the void of certification that the IEEE developers never pushed for. In 2010, the Wi-Fi Alliance consisted of more than 375 companies from around the world whose products pass the certification process and have the right to mark those products with the Wi-Fi logo. This certification process require conformance to the IEEE 802.11 radio standards, WPA security standards, and the EAP authentication standard.
A new security standard has been developed which allows embedded devices with limited graphical user interface to connect to the internet with ease. This protected set up has 2 configurations which are Push Button configuration and PIN configuration.
The brand consulting firm Interbrand Corporation coined the term Wi-Fi in 1999 which found the term to be catchier than ‘IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence'”. The term Wireless Fidelity was used as a marketing campaign by the Alliance.
Coverage of one or more access points, called hotspots, can comprise an area as small as a few rooms or as large as many square miles. To cover a larger area it is necessary to have a group of access points with overlapping coverage. Many times Wi-Fi is provided in airports, hotels, and restaurants either free of charge or for subscribers. As of 2008 there were over 300 metropolitan-wide Wi-Fi projects. Sunnyvale, California was the first city to offer city-wide Wi-Fi in 2005.
The first wireless network was built by Carnegie Mellon University in 1994. Most traditional college campuses offer at least partial Wi-Fi coverage. Drexel University was the first to offer full campus wide coverage in 2000.
Through ad-hoc mode one computer can communicate with another with no access point. This network mode is popular with multiplayer handheld game consoles such as the Nintendo DS.
Wi-Fi can also lower the cost of deploying local area networks due to the lack of wires and equipment needed. They also work well in areas where cables cannot be run. Most laptops have wireless network adapters built in especially since the price of chipsets for Wi-Fi continued to drop.
There are over 220,000 Wi-Fi public hotspots as well as tens of millions of homes and corporate and university campuses worldwide. WPA2, the current version of Wi-Fi access encryption is considered secure as long as a strong password is used. Wi-Fi has a high power consumption compared to some other standards and therefore its use in a mobile device makes power consumption a concern.
WEP is the most common encryption-standard but is also easily breakable. WPA and WPA2 were the solution to this problem. Most devices require that a user set up the security features. Since many devices don’t work in operation together or work slowly the market is slowly moving towards a process of standardization. Along with poor device compatibility Wi-Fi pollution can become a problem due to too many access points causing device interference. This can be a major problem in high density areas such as large apartment complexes. This along with amateur radio, video senders, cordless phones causing interference can really weaken signals. To solve weak signals a wireless range-extender is used in order to extend the signal.
Security has always become the main concern with wireless as opposed to wired Ethernet where a hacker needed to have access to an actual building. People can also piggyback off of others wireless internet by getting in range and accessing their network without permission.