Everything about WiFi

WiFi is one of the world's favorite ways to access the Internet. And that's no surprise, since a wireless connection is established in no time and enables high transmission rates, and because practically every terminal device comes with a WiFi module or can be supplemented with a wireless USB client.

But this wasn't always the case. At the dawn of the DSL age, Internet connections were established via LAN cable, before WiFi proved to be a more luxurious alternative. Besides, there are all kinds of WiFi: the technology keeps evolving, with its progress marked by a variety of standards. This article takes a closer look at the different standards and offers other interesting facts about WiFi.

What is wireless LAN?

Wireless LAN is short for "Wireless Local Area Network". The technology enables the wireless connection of terminal devices, like tablets, PCs and smartphones, to radio networks. To establish such a radio network, a router supporting wireless LAN is required (for example the FRITZ!Box 7590). It receives the incoming DSL, cable or LTE signal and forwards it to corresponding devices within range.

Aside from this, the wireless connection works the same way a cable-based network does: WiFi devices register and exchange data with the router. The advantages are obvious: no cables needed and you can roam freely throughout the coverage area with your smartphone or handheld device without losing the signal. The devices also reconnect automatically when they return to the WiFi coverage area. The modern WPA2 encryption featured in all FRITZ!Box models keeps wireless connections safe. All WiFi networks are secured by an individual network key upon delivery.

What are the advantages of dual wireless?

Since WiFi is a radio network, radio signals need to be transmitted on a certain network or frequency range. The 2.4 GHz network has been a standard for years. This means that all wireless devices in the home network use this frequency, which not only results in a lot of traffic due to the quantity of hardware, but can also lead to interference between the devices. An alternative to the 2.4 GHz band is the 5 GHz band, which is subject to much lower interference for wireless LAN.

When the Wireless AC standard was introduced in 2013, it kick-started broader utilization of 5 GHz WiFi networks, wherever a corresponding client is available. Dual wireless means that the FRITZ!Box is able to serve connected devices on both channels concurrently. And when the technology inside the wireless router enables it to decide autonomously which band to use for which device and to switch accordingly, this is called band steering.

What standards are there?

Wireless AC was already mentioned as the most modern standard. However, there were a few predecessors, each of which offered new possibilities. Here's a short-list of the most important wireless LAN standards:

IEEE 802.11: This is the standard that serves as the basis for communicating over wireless networks. The first wireless standard, introduced in 1997, transmitted data at 1 Mbit/s. The letters "IEEE" refer to the developers of the standard: the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The following standards are developments of IEEE 802.11.
IEEE 802.11b: The first advancement dating from the turn of the millennium is signified by the b. In theory, Wireless b enables up to 11 Mbit/s in the 2.4 GHz network.
IEEE 802.11g: Wireless g is the next stage of Wireless b and also transmits solely on the 2.4 GHz network. The maximum throughput was raised to 54 Mbit/s and was available as a standard as of 2003.
IEEE 802.11n: In September 2009, the successor standard Wireless N was released. Wireless N supports devices transmitting either on the 2.4 GHz or the 5 GHz network and is able to transfer data at up to 600 Mbit/s.
IEEE 802.11ac: Wireless AC was standardized at the end of 2013 and is still – in 2018 – the most modern and fastest type of wireless network. Wireless AC is only standardized for the 5 GHz band. Yet the speed is new, currently achieving up to 1733 Mbit/s with a device configuration equipped with 4 antennas. For more information on Wireless AC, please refer to this guide.

Development is far from over, of course. One of the upcoming wireless standards is to be called Wireless AX, and will open up a whole new realm of transmission speeds. All of these wireless standards are also downward compatible, which simplifies communication among the individual devices in the home network.