How it works: 8 Interesting and Little-known Facts about WI-FI and Ethernet

Wi-Fi is a popular technology in the world, without which people can no longer imagine their lives.

We can’t imagine our life without the Internet. Wi-Fi everywhere and everywhere, in any cafe, street, transport and of course at home!

· Wi-Fi vs Ethernet: What to choose and why?
· Why is Ethernet better?
· Is Wi-Fi suitable for online gaming?
· What is a better Wi-Fi network than Ethernet?

But do you all know about this miracle of technology?

Wi-Fi daily allows our phones, tablets, and laptops to connect to the Internet, share data, and learn a lot. This wireless technology is also used to develop the “Internet of Things,” for example, for building automation, connecting a “smart” house or energy management. You may say that the information is not little known after reading this, and you know it for a long time. But we will try to surprise you.

My team and I have collected eight curious facts, which we will talk about further.

1. Wi-Fi is from Hawaii

Its predecessor, ALOHAnet, was an innovative computer networking system developed by the University of Hawaii. It was used for the first public demonstration of wireless packet data transmission. It happened in 1971.

After 20 years, NCR and AT&T corporations invented WaveLAN technology, which is considered to be the real precursor of Wi-Fi. In 1997, the first version of the wireless protocol IEEE 802.11 was released.

2. First — IEEE 802.11, and then — Wi-Fi.

Devices can communicate with each other using specific standards and protocols. IEEE 802.11 refers to the list of standards that define the transmission of information in wireless LANs. The abbreviation “IEEE” stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

But, as it turned out, the name “IEEE 802.11” was unsuitable, because it sounds very boring and not quite clear.

On this basis, in 1999, brand consulting firm Interbrand began to promote Wi-Fi technology. It developed the official logo of Wi-Fi, which was presented in the style of Yin and Yang. The new logo symbolized the compatibility of all products certified to work with Wi-Fi.

How is the term Wi-Fi deciphered?

3. Wi-Fi is not an abbreviation for Wireless Fidelity

On Wikipedia and many other resources on the Internet you can find information that Wi-Fi is derived from the English word combination Wireless Fidelity, which can be literally translated as “wireless quality” or “wireless precision”. But in fact, it is not.

This misconception appeared because of the early advertising slogan “Wireless Quality Standard.” But surprisingly, the name Wi-Fi does not mean anything. Besides, according to the regulations of the Wi-Fi Alliance (trade association, formed in 1999 to protect the brand), the term should be written with two capital beeches and a hyphen — Wi-Fi. Other versions of writing (wi-fi, Wi-Fi, WI-FI) the Alliance disapproves.

4. Wi-Fi works with radio waves

Those who did not skip physics at school remember that radio waves are a form of electromagnetic radiation. Depending on the wavelength, you can distinguish between gamma radiation, X-rays, UV radiation, visible light, radio waves, etc.

The wireless adapter of a computer or tablet converts data into a radio signal and transmits it by means of an antenna. The radio waves are then received by the wireless router. It converts them into packets and sends them to the Internet over a wired connection. Information from the Network comes in reverse order.

Wi-Fi also has several notable differences from other wireless technologies. About them further.

5. The technology operates at 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz.

The frequencies of Wi-Fi are much higher than those of mobile communications, so technology can transmit large amounts of data.

We can say that all forms of wireless communication represent a kind of compromise between power consumption, bandwidth and bandwidth. As a result, the high speed of data transmission has impacted other parameters: Wi-Fi consumes a lot of power and has a limited range.

6. Wi-Fi can transmit data at a distance of up to 420 km

It is so. Using Wi-Fi, the Swedish Space Agency was able to transmit information to the space probe, located at an altitude of over 400 km. The signal transmission equipment itself had some features and differed from the standard — 6-watt amplifiers were used. Most importantly, there were no physical barriers in the signal path.

A normal router has much smaller ranges, which are determined by a number of factors. Signal strength can be affected by the antenna, reflection and refraction, and transmitter power. The standard is considered to be a range of 30 m, but in some cases (probably faced with them many) the signal disappears already in the next room. What is the problem?

Problems may arise from a physical obstacle. Radio waves pass through most barriers but can be absorbed by materials that conduct electricity. Water also conducts electricity, so no matter how strange it sounds, even our bodies can interfere with Wi-Fi. But don’t worry, these waves are not harmful to our body.

Another reason that Wi-Fi can work worse is interference (the phenomenon of superimposing coherent waves). Since Wi-Fi uses radio waves, they can overlap each other and weaken the signal. For example, microwave ovens operate at a frequency of 2.4 GHz, potentially interfering with the Wi-Fi signal (particularly if it works in the 2.4 GHz band).

7. Wi-Fi varieties

You already know about the existence of the 802.11 protocol, but since 1997 there have been several species of it, namely:

802.11a;

802.11b; 802.11g;

802.11n;

802.11ac.

Each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of speed, interference from external sources and price. Each standard requires its own equipment, and new versions are compatible with the old ones (but not vice versa).

8. Wi-Fi is not suitable for most items from the world of “Internet of Things”.

“Internet of Things” has a large number of technologies in its portfolio, and many of them are associated with small sensors or devices that should run on battery power for a long time. They do not need to send large amounts of data, often a few bytes is enough. However, in many cases it is necessary to send them a few kilometers, not meters.

As you already know, in most cases, Wi-Fi operates on the reverse principle: it is used to transmit large amounts of data over short distances — due to high energy consumption. Therefore, for this purpose, it may not always be useful.

In turn, Wi-Fi is indispensable when you use devices that are plugged into an outlet or that must send a large amount of data (such as video cameras, home alarm systems). For most other applications from the category of “Internet of Things” the best option is Bluetooth, energy-efficient long-range networks (LPWAN) or mobile communications. Scientists are also working to create new Wi-Fi standards specifically for use on the Internet of Things: HaLow (802.11ah) and HEW (802.11ax).

Wi-Fi vs Ethernet: What to choose and why?

The world is moving towards wireless technology. The absence of numerous wires and convenience that allows connecting to the Internet almost everywhere leads to the fact that Wi-Fi becomes the main choice for all who want to access the world network.

Everyone loves speed, especially fans of online games. High-quality and fast connection to the network is of paramount importance. If the Internet connection is unreliable, there can be sudden interruptions and delays during the gaming sessions.

If you want a good connection during online gaming, the Ethernet connection is the most suitable option.

Of course, Wi-Fi networks are very convenient, but the stability and reliability of a wired connection is much higher. But it should be noted that the most modern routers can easily provide high performance over Wi-Fi network.

Why is Ethernet better?

wifi to ethernet adapter

Radio waves used by routers to connect to Wi-Fi are often interrupted; it occurs for various reasons:

- obstacles caused by walls, doors, floors, cabinets;

- interference from other devices;

- the distance between the router and the connected device.

All these factors can lead to signal loss during online gaming or delays that will interrupt data transmission on the network. The Ethernet connection is fully protected from these problems because it has a wired connection between the router and the console (or PC) that cannot be interrupted in any way. All this ensures a stable and uninterrupted connection at all times.

Is Wi-Fi suitable for online gaming?

In spite of the fact that wired Ethernet connection is more reliable and stable, it is possible to play comfortably via Wi-Fi network. If you can not use Ethernet because your Wi-Fi router is in another room, do not worry. In order to prevent a weak signal, you can use special Powerline adapters that allow you to perform Ethernet connection in any room.

What is a better Wi-Fi network than Ethernet?

The Wi-Fi network offers many conveniences for its owners, especially for devices that regularly move around the house, such as smartphones. But this advantage does not matter much when it comes to consoles because they rarely change their position during games.

Another advantage of Wi-Fi networks is the maximum download and upload speed, which when using the most modern routers can reach or exceed 1000 Mbps (this is the maximum Ethernet speed when using a cable Cat 6).

For gamers, wired network is always more efficient and stable. Still, there are many other factors that can lead to network loss and delays. Most of all distances between a player and a game server and also congestion of a home network influence on gameplay online.

Therefore even if you use Ethernet connection, there is no confidence that the network will be stable.

Software developer with 30 years of experience