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Explained: What is the Difference Between Wi-Fi & Wireless Internet

What is Wi-Fi?

As of April 2022, over 63% of the world’s population is on the internet. Most of those people are accessing the internet on portable devices, such as smartphones and laptops. These types of devices generally have a wireless connection – but what does that mean, really?

There are two primary types of connection these devices are using: Wi-Fi and Wireless Internet (also known as Mobile Wireless). Let’s take a look at these connections, and how they’ve changed over time.

This may be the most surprising thing you learn today: Wi-Fi isn’t short for anything. The term Wi-Fi was created as a marketing term for the wireless connectivity standard IEEE 802.11, as “IEEE 802.11” felt a little clunky to say.

A tagline, “Wi-Fi stands for Wireless Fidelity,” was created when marketers thought the general public would want an explanation of the term and technology. However, this is a backronym – the term Wi-Fi was created before the explanation, “wireless fidelity,” was!

What is Wireless Internet?

Just like most of us have connected to Wi-Fi at some point, we’ve also been somewhere where Wi-Fi wasn’t available. Fortunately for those of us who rely on their GPS for even a trip to the corner store, Wi-Fi isn’t the only type of wireless connection out there. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you’re likely familiar with Wireless Internet, also known as Mobile Wireless or Cellular Wireless.

Wireless internet came into its own in 2001, when 3G was introduced in Japan. This increased download capabilities of cell phones on mobile networks, providing cellular users with the ability to browse simple HTML pages on the go. In 2007, the iPhone was released, and the increase in smartphone capabilities led to increased demand for on-the-go internet. Mobile wireless quickly evolved to meet consumer demands.

what is wifi

Mobile wireless is also known as “Cellular Wireless” because of the way it works. Land is divided into parcels known as “cells,” each of which contain a cell tower. The cell tower sends out radio waves, which connect with the antenna inside your phone to transmit information. Wireless internet can send data much further than Wi-Fi, which allows you to access the internet while outside the home and away from a router.

Wi-Fi vs. Wireless Internet: What is the Difference?

Here are three of the key differences between Wi-Fi and wireless internet:

  • The primary difference between Wi-Fi and wireless internet is where it comes from. Wi-Fi is a wireless connection created from a wired network using a wireless router or access point. Wi-Fi can provide wireless connectivity for multiple types of internet service, such as DSL, satellite internet, and fiber optics. Wireless Internet, on the other hand, is another name for Cellular Wireless. It is produced by cell towers.

  • Wi-Fi requires physical devices, like routers and modems, to operate. Wireless internet works directly with your phone or tablet by connecting them to a cell tower.

  • Wi-Fi has a much smaller area than Wireless Internet. A wireless network generally covers 50-100 square meters, although this can be expanded with the use of access points and repeaters. However, even the largest Wi-Fi networks cannot compare with a cell of a wireless network, which can cover anywhere up to 18 square miles depending on population density and terrain. These cells interconnect to provide wireless networks that stretch across whole cities, states, and countries.

Is 3G/4G Cellular Data Wireless Internet?

3G, 4G, and 5G are common nowadays with how frequently we use our phones when we’re out and about. You’ve probably seen your phone connected to one of these networks at one time or another.

These are often called “cellur data” but they are simply subsets of Celluar Wireless, which means they are a form of wireless internet.

The primary difference between 3G, 4G, and 5G is the speed. While 3G delivers data at kilobits per second (kbps), 5G is capable of delivering data at over 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), although these speeds can vary widely depending on environmental factors.

is wireless internet and wifi the same

What You Need to Know About Wi-Fi vs. Wireless Internet

Wi-Fi is a way for devices like laptops and tablets to connect to the internet without the use of Ethernet cables. Wireless internet requires a wireless router or access point, which is connected to the main internet network from your internet service provider. Wi-Fi networks generally cover a small area, such as a home or business. Many of them are password protected, as your home network likely is.

Wireless internet, on the other hand, is a way for devices to connect directly to the signal from cellular towers. You can access wireless internet on smartphones and some tablets, and you can generally access the network across a much larger area than a Wi-Fi network. The speeds and service of wireless internet can vary widely depending on the terrain and the amount of people connecting to the cellular tower.

Both Wi-Fi and wireless internet allow you to access the internet from a device without having to connect to an Ethernet cord. However, Wi-Fi requires a connection to a larger internet network, such as a fiber optic or satellite provider.

Meanwhile, wireless internet allows your device to connect directly to the cellular signal from a cell tower. As a general rule, Wi-Fi networks are capable of reaching higher speeds than wireless internet networks, especially in areas with poor cellular service.

Whether it’s Wi-Fi at home or cellular wireless on the go, you’re likely able to stay connected to the internet just about anywhere you go. As devices get even smaller and more portable, both Wi-Fi and wireless internet will likely continue to improve over time, offering faster speeds and better coverage for all your connectivity needs.

Still Have Questions About Wi-Fi and Wireless Internet?

Your phone can use both Wi-Fi and cellular data – but if it’s switching between the two in your home, you may want to consider a managed Wi-Fi service to prevent Wi-Fi dead zones. For only $17.99 a month, EPB Smart Net Plus provides expert set up, the right number of routers for your home, and 24/7 troubleshooting with our EPB Tech ProsSM. Contact us today to learn how to get the most out of your home network.

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