At a high level, how does WiFi work?

For something that most of us use everyday, not many people understand how WiFi actually works. Without getting into too much of the nitty gritty, here’s an overview. Say you’re sending an email. Your computer encodes the email into a digital signal. It then uses its WiFi radio to send the message across the room to your router using radio frequency technology. Your router then sends the encoded email along to your modem. Your modem receives the digital data from your router and translates it into an electrical signal for transmission to the Internet. This signal travels out of your house through your phone or cable line using an Internet Service Provider like Comcast Xfinity.  As your data travels across the Internet, it encounters a series of checkpoints, including other routers and servers (the machines that store the information you're attempting to access on the Internet). Each time you receive information, the process works in reverse, with the router receiving information from the Internet, translating it to a radio signal, and sending it to your device’s wireless adapter.

Instead of sending packets of data through cables and wires, WiFi uses radio frequencies to send signals between devices. The frequencies for WiFi are 2.4 Gigahertz (GHz) and 5 GHz. This puts WiFi frequencies in a much higher range than cell phone and television frequencies, meaning their signal can carry more data. A governing body called the IEEE sets the standards for networking transmission methods. In their most recent protocol releases, throughput has increased over time, greatly improving data transmission rates. This is in large part due to the fact that modern WiFi devices can utilize both 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies.

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