How WiFi Works - Deepstash
Understanding WiFi

Many cities use WiFi to provide free or low-cost internet access to people. WiFi networks are easy to set up, inexpensive and unobtrusive.

 A wireless network uses radio waves, just like cell phones, radios and televisions . 

  • A computer's wireless adapter decodes data into a radio signal and transmits it via an antenna. 
  • The wireless router receives the signal, interprets it, and sends the information to the internet using a wired ethernet connection. 
  • The process also happens in reverse.

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Radios used for WiFi connections are similar to radios used for walkie-talkies or cellphones - they transmit and receive radio waves. They can change 1s and 0s into radio waves or from radio waves to 1s and 0s.  

WiFi radios have some differences.

  • They transmit at much higher frequencies of 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz, allowing the signal to carry more data.
  • The 2.4 band can carry over several hundred feet, but the 5GHz band has a max range of 200 feet (61 meters) and is more prone to interference from walls and other objects.

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  • 802.11b is inexpensive and the slowest. It transmits in the 2.4 GHz frequency band and can handle up to 11 megabits of data per second. It uses complementary code keying (CCK).
  • 802.11a transmits at 5 GHz and can move 54 megabits of data per second. It uses a more efficient orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM).
  • 802.11g transmits at 2.4 GHz at 54 megabits per second. Network congestion makes that it can achieve only 24 megabits of data per second. It uses OFDM coding.
  • 802.11n can transmit up to four streams of data, and can reportedly achieve speeds of 140 megabits per second.

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  • 802.11ac operates at 5 GHz and is backwards compatible with 802.11n, with n on the 2.4 GHz band and ac on the 5 GHz band. It can transmit on up to eight spatial streams and push a maximum of 450 megabits per second on a single stream.
  • 802. 11ax (WiFi 6) allows up to 9.2 Gbps. Manufacturers can install more antennas on one router, and accept multiple connections simultaneously without interference and slowdown.
  • 802. 11be (WiFi 7) is projected to be the standard by 2024.

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WiFi hot spots

A WiFi hot spot is used to refer to wireless networks that are accessible in public areas.

You can use your own cell phone to create a mobile hot spot or set up a WiFi network at home. If your computer does not have a built-in wireless transmitter, you can buy a wireless adapter that plugs into the USB port.

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Building a wireless network

You can create a wireless network with a wireless access point. For this, you'll need a wireless router. 

A router contains the following:

  • A port to connect to your cable modem 
  • A router 
  • An ethernet hub 
  • A firewall 
  • A wireless access point

When you plug in your router, it should work at its default settings but can be changed using the web interface. 

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Using the web interface, you can select:

  • The name of the network, known as the service set identifier (SSID). The default is often the name of the manufacturer.
  • The channel that the router uses. The default is 6, but if there is interference, you can switch to a different channel.
  • Your router's security option. It's a good idea to set your own username and password. 

If you set your router to create an open hot spot, anyone can use your signal. Most people want to keep strangers out.

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Use one or more of the following methods to keep your network private:

  • WiFi Protected Access version 2 (WPA2) is the recommended security standard for WiFi networks and involves signing on with a password. It uses either Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) encryption or Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption.
  • WPA3 is more complex encryption on the router and client's side.
  • The Media Access Control (MAC) address uses a computer's physical hardware to authenticate users, instead of passwords.

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