Believe it or not, Wi-Fi and internet are two different things

The terms ‘Wi-Fi’ and ‘Internet’ are often used interchangeably. Wi-Fi is often used synonymously with access to the Internet to refer to a home broadband Internet connection, or when traveling, understood to mean free Internet. 

Knowing the difference between Wi-Fi and Internet connections can help with troubleshooting problems at home, purchasing the right equipment for your network, and understanding the risk of using a free Wi-Fi network. 

Wi-Fi 

The term ‘Wi-Fi’ is the name of wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connections. It is a common misnomer that the term is derived from ‘wireless fidelity’ whereas it is merely a trademarked phrase that means IEEE 802.11x. The term is thus used to merely indicate an alternative to network cables to connect the devices of a local area network (LAN). Preceding Wi-Fi connections, devices could only be connected through physical network cables between them, which is both inconvenient and immoveable. Thus, currently, Wi-Fi technology allows devices to connect to one another without the actual cables. Basically, a Wi-Fi network is a wireless local network. 

A home Wi-Fi network is practically always hosted by a router, and is independent from the Internet. It is controllable and owners can change the name of the network, the password, manage the number of connected clients, allowing them to exchange data with one another or not. Additionally, even the Wi-Fi router or access point itself can be changed or turned on or off at any time. 

Any devices on the network can share and back-up data, print and stream local media. If device users want to access Skype, Netflix, news, and social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, a connection with the Internet is required. 

A router such as a broadband modem is needed to connect a home Wi-Fi network to the Internet. The Wi-Fi signal of the local network also provides a connection to the Internet for any device connected to the network. Hence, Wi-Fi is one way of connecting to the Internet via a device, explaining why sometimes even if your Wi-Fi signal is at full strength, you still can’t access the Internet. 

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Internet 

Basically, the Internet connects computers from around the world and is known as a wide area network (WAN). Using multiple routers, the Internet connects many local networks together meaning that your home local network is part of a massive worldwide network. 

Other than paying for the desired connection speed and turning it on or off, your Internet connection is generally beyond your control. Although Internet speed has increased in the last decade, it is still slower than that of a wired local network. A fast residential broadband connection was generally capped somewhere between 1.5Mbps to 20Mbps, but is now between about 50Mbps to 200Mbps or faster. 

What are the implications? 

Having Wi-Fi does not necessarily mean you have Internet access and a strong Wi-Fi signal may not mean a fast Internet speed. You need to test the speed independently from your Wi-Fi signal to know how fast your Internet speed actually is. 

Simply put, a strong Wi-Fi signal is not equal to a fast Internet connection. For example, the use of Wi-Fi extenders may result up to a 70% percent signal loss. Using several Wi-Fi extenders may thus result in an unstable Internet connection. The use of multiple access points that connect to the main routers via network cables is the better option. If it is not an option, ensure that you have no more than one Wi-Fi extender in a network. 

Consider the fact that when you’re connected to an unknown Wi-Fi, the owner of that network can potentially see all the information you’re sending and receiving, including usernames and passwords. Consequently, when using free Wi-Fi, unless you’re accessing a secure website (one in which the address, or URL starts with https) don’t use or access sensitive information. Rather refrain from doing any online banking using free Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi from at an airport or an office is generally more secure than a Wi-Fi network at a café or mall. An open Wi-Fi network, one that requires no password or agreement of terms of service to use, is the riskiest.

Types of broadband Internet connections 

Wired Internet (also known as residential broadband)  

Wired Internet requires a physical cable to connect to the Internet, be it a telephone line (DSL) or a cable line (cable), or a fibre optic line (FIOS). A wired Internet connection generally comes with no data caps or at least very high caps, so users don’t need to worry about how much they download or upload. 

Satellite Internet (also known as satellite broadband) 

Satellite Internet is similar to wired Internet, but means that you connect to a service via a satellite dish on the roof. Satellite Internet may be more expensive and slightly slower than wired Internet, but is still an affordable option for remote areas with no cable or DSL services. 

Cellular Internet 

Cellular Internet is more expensive and comes with monthly data caps. This type of connection is very popular with smartphones and tablets. A mobile hotspot is a mini Wi-Fi router that connects to a cellular network and broadcasts a Wi-Fi signal with a Wi-Fi-enabled device.  

 

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