A Quick Guide to WiFi Connection

What is Wi-Fi ?
WiFi stands for Wireless Fidelity. WiFiIt is based on the IEEE 802.11 family of standards and is primarily a local area networking (LAN) technology designed to provide in-building broadband coverage.

Current WiFi systems support a peak physical-layer data rate of 54 Mbps and typically provide indoor coverage over a distance of 100 feet.

WiFi has become the de facto standard for last mile broadband connectivity in homes, offices, and public hotspot locations. Systems can typically provide a coverage range of only about 1,000 feet from the access point.

WiFi offers remarkably higher peak data rates than do 3G systems, primarily since it operates over a larger 20 MHz bandwidth, but WiFiWiFi systems are not designed to support high-speed mobility.

One significant advantage of WiFi over WiMAX and 3G is its wide availability of terminal devices. A vast majority of laptops shipped today have a built-in WiFi interface. WiFi interfaces are now also being built into a variety of devices, including personal data assistants (PDAs), cordless phones, cellular phones, cameras, and media players.

WiFi is Half Duplex
All WiFi networks are contention-based TDD systems, where the access point and the mobile stations all vie for use of the same channel. Because of the shared media operation, all WiFi networks are half duplex.

There are equipment vendors who market WiFi mesh configurations, but those implementations incorporate technologies that are not defined in the standards.

Channel Bandwidth
The WiFi standards define a fixed channel bandwidth of 25 MHz for 802.11b and 20 MHz for either 802.11a or g networks.

Wi-Fi - Working Concepts
Radio Signals
Radio Signals are the keys, which make WiFi networking possible. These radio signals transmitted from WiFi antennas are picked up by WiFi receivers, such as computers and cell phones that are equipped with WiFi cards. Whenever, a computer receives any of the signals within the range of a WiFi network, which is usually 300 — 500 feet for antennas, the WiFi card reads the signals and thus creates an internet connection between the user and the network without the use of a cord.

Radio Signals
Access points, consisting of antennas and routers, are the main source that transmit and receive radio waves. Antennas work stronger and have a longer radio transmission with a radius of 300-500 feet, which are used in public areas while the weaker yet effective router is more suitable for homes with a radio transmission of 100-150 feet.

WiFi Cards
You can think of WiFi cards as being invisible cords that connect your computer to the antenna for a direct connection to the internet.

WiFi Cards
WiFi cards can be external or internal. If a WiFi card is not installed in your computer, then you may purchase a USB antenna attachment and have it externally connect to your USB port, or have an antenna-equipped expansion card installed directly to the computer (as shown in the figure given above). For laptops, this card will be a PCMCIA card which you insert to the PCMCIA slot on the laptop.

WiFi Hotspots
A WiFi hotspot is created by installing an access point to an internet connection. The access point transmits a wireless signal over a short distance. It typically covers around 300 feet. When a WiFi enabled device such as a Pocket PC encounters a hotspot, the device can then connect to that network wirelessly.

Most hotspots are located in places that are readily accessible to the public such as airports, coffee shops, hotels, book stores, and campus environments. 802.11b is the most common specification for hotspots worldwide. The 802.11g standard is backwards compatible with .11b but .11a uses a different frequency range and requires separate hardware such as an a, a/g, or a/b/g adapter. The largest public WiFi networks are provided by private internet service providers (ISPs); they charge a fee to the users who want to access the internet.

WiFi Hotspots
Hotspots are increasingly developing around the world. In fact, T-Mobile USA controls more than 4,100 hotspots located in public locations such as Starbucks, Borders, Kinko's, and the airline clubs of Delta, United, and US Airways. Even select McDonald's restaurants now feature WiFi hotspot access.

Any notebook computer with integrated wireless, a wireless adapter attached to the motherboard by the manufacturer, or a wireless adapter such as a PCMCIA card can access a wireless network. Furthermore, all Pocket PCs or Palm units with Compact Flash, SD I/O support, or built-in WiFi, can access hotspots.

Some Hotspots require WEP key to connect, which is considered as private and secure. As for open connections, anyone with a WiFi card can have access to that hotspot. So in order to have internet access under WEP, the user must input the WEP key code.

Wi-Fi - IEEE Standards
The 802.11 standard is defined through several specifications of WLANs. It defines an over-the-air interface between a wireless client and a base station or between two wireless clients.

There are several specifications in the 802.11 family −

802.11 − This pertains to wireless LANs and provides 1 - or 2-Mbps transmission in the 2.4-GHz band using either frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) or direct-sequence spread spectrum (DSSS).

802.11a − This is an extension to 802.11 that pertains to wireless LANs and goes as fast as 54 Mbps in the 5-GHz band. 802.11a employs the orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) encoding scheme as opposed to either FHSS or DSSS.

802.11b − The 802.11 high rate WiFi is an extension to 802.11 that pertains to wireless LANs and yields a connection as fast as 11 Mbps transmission (with a fallback to 5.5, 2, and 1 Mbps depending on strength of signal) in the 2.4-GHz band. The 802.11b specification uses only DSSS. Note that 802.11b was actually an amendment to the original 802.11 standard added in 1999 to permit wireless functionality to be analogous to hard-wired Ethernet connections.

802.11g − This pertains to wireless LANs and provides 20+ Mbps in the 2.4-GHz band.

Here is the technical comparison between the three major WiFi standards.

Feature    WiFi (802.11b)    WiFi (802.11a/g)
PrimaryApplication    Wireless LAN    Wireless LAN
Frequency Band    2.4 GHz ISM   
2.4 GHz ISM (g)

5 GHz U-NII (a)

Channel Bandwidth    25 MHz    20 MHz
Half/Full Duplex    Half    Half
Radio Technology   
Direct Sequence

Spread Spectrum



Bandwidth    <=0.44 bps/Hz    ≤=2.7 bps/Hz
Modulation    QPSK    BPSK, QPSK, 16-, 64-QAM
FEC    None    Convolutional Code
Encryption    Optional- RC4m (AES in 802.11i)    Optional- RC4(AES in 802.11i)
Mobility    In development    In development
Mesh    Vendor Proprietary    Vendor Proprietary
Access Protocol    CSMA/CA    CSMA/CA
Wi-Fi - Access Protocols
IEEE 802.11 wireless LANs use a media access control protocol called Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA). While the name is similar to Ethernet's Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD), the operating concept is totally different.

WiFi systems are the half duplex shared media configurations, where all stations transmit and receive on the same radio channel. The fundamental problem of a radio system is that a station cannot hear while it is sending, and hence it is impossible to detect a collision. Because of this, the developers of the 802.11 specifications came up with a collision avoidance mechanism called the Distributed Control Function (DCF).

According to DCF, a WiFi station will transmit only when the channel is clear. All transmissions are acknowledged, so if a station does not receive an acknowledgement, it assumes a collision occurred and retries after a random waiting interval.

The incidence of collisions will increase as the traffic increases or in situations where mobile stations cannot hear each other.
A Quick Guide to WiFi Connection A Quick Guide to WiFi Connection Reviewed by Joseph on April 27, 2018 Rating: 5

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