Wi-Fi is a wireless network. Where traditional wired networks use cables to pass data between devices, Wi-Fi networks use radio waves. Wi-Fi networks are typically controlled by a router, which includes a wireless access point. This wireless access point is how devices connect to the router. Once they’ve connected, the router controls data moving through the wireless network. It sends packets of data to the right devices, checks packets for damage, and often offers some protection against cyber attacks like DDoS or brute force logins.
The router can connect devices to:
- Each other, wirelessly.
- An ethernet network.
- The internet.
The frequency of radio waves that Wi-Fi uses restricts each access point to a fairly small area of usefulness. This is a key point of difference from wireless internet like 4G or 5G. Wireless internet is usually available over a wide geographical area.
Wi-Fi is a trademark of the not-for-profit Wi-Fi Alliance, and it refers to networks and devices that adhere to the IEEE 802.11 technical standards. The generic (non-trademarked) term is wireless network.