Wi-Fi, also spelled WiFi and Wifi, is a wireless networking technology that allows electronic devices to exchange information or connect to the internet wirelessly via radio waves. Wi-Fi is actually a trademarked term meaning IEEE 802.11x (a set of media access control and physical layer standards for defining communication over a wireless local area network in the 2.4, 3.6, and 5 GHz frequency bands). Only those products that complete Wi-Fi Alliance interoperability certification testing can use the Wi-Fi trademark. A wireless network allows for wireless telecommunications to be implemented and administered using radio communication. Wi-Fi uses radio frequency (RF) technology to send and receive information. A Wi-Fi enabled device can connect to the Internet if it is within range of a wireless network and if the network permits this. Routers, Ethernet hubs, or switches often incorporate Wi-Fi access points within them, providing Wi-Fi network service to all devices connected to them through a wireless access point (WAP).
Wi-Fi networks have several advantages over wired networks, including cheaper deployment of local area networks. Networks save a lot of money by not having to run Ethernet cables throughout businesses. In addition, Wi-Fi networks provide access to the Internet in spaces where Ethernet cables are not permitted to run, such as outdoor areas. Wi-Fi chipsets and network interfaces are a worldwide standard; a device that is Wi-Fi enabled can work anywhere in the world. Finally, Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA2) is considered one of the most secure sources of encryption available.
While Wi-Fi networks have their advantages, there are plenty of limitations as well. The main limitation is the range of a Wi-Fi network. Ranges vary within the frequency band, but all ranges are within a few hundred feet. In addition, Wi-Fi consumes more power than many other technologies. Wi-Fi connections can be slow or disrupted due to interference or by having similar devices on the network in the same area. In other words, Wi-Fi networks can become congested with users in high-density areas. Devices that work on the same band the Wi-Fi network is on can interfere with the transmission. For example, many Wi-Fi networks run on the 2.4 GHz band, and they share that band with Bluetooth devices, cordless phones, baby monitors, and even microwave ovens - all which can disrupt the signal. Finally, the main limitation to Wi-Fi is the data security risks it poses. Although WPA and WPA2 encryption is considered very secure, the most popular for Wi-Fi encryption is Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). This type of encryption is easily breakable, providing open access to a local area network for other devices to monitor and record data.