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What is Wi-Fi & how does it work?

21st March 2023

Wi-Fi has become an essential part of our daily lives, with almost everyone using and appreciating its convenience. It allows us to stay connected to the internet from anywhere, making our fast-paced lives easier and more efficient. Whether you’re at home, in the office, or out and about, Wi-Fi helps us enjoy a fast and reliable internet connection, enabling us to stay connected with friends, family, and work.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you might want to know about Wi-Fi, from how it works, to its technical build and the future of the technology. Whether you want to understand what Wi-Fi is, set up your own, or learn how it works, we’ve got you covered!Glowing yellow Wi-Fi signal bands vector image


What is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi is a wireless technology that connects devices to the internet. It was developed as an alternative to wired connections as it eliminates the need to use Ethernet cables around your home to get devices online.

Did you know?
Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr wasn’t just a pretty face. Famously dubbed “the most beautiful woman in Hollywood” Lamar was also a keen inventor and studied electrical engineering when she wasn’t acting. With a passion for science, innovation and invention, Lamarr patented a “frequency hopping, spread-spectrum communication system” with composer George Antheil in 1942. While the original intent was to make radio-guided torpedoes harder to detect or jam, this idea would eventually become the basis for wireless phones, Global Positioning Systems, and WiFi, among other cutting-edge technologies.

Despite these early technological advances, the word Wi-Fi only came to life in 1999 thanks to a company called the Wi-Fi Alliance trademarking the term to certify Wi-Fi products. The name doesn’t stand for anything, it was inspired by the term Hi-Fi and was simply chosen because it would be easy for people to remember.

Wi-Fi comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. From publicly accessible Wi-Fi at local cafes to advanced wireless mesh networks that enable you to use Wi-Fi wherever you are in a building.


How does Wi-Fi work?

Wi-Fi uses radio waves to provide wireless internet and network connections. Wi-Fi networks typically consist of a wireless router or access point and wireless-enabled devices, such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

When a device is connected to a Wi-Fi network, the device sends and receives data through the air, using radio frequencies to your wireless router or access point. The router receives the data from the device and sends it to the internet, while also receiving data from the internet and sending it back to the device you’re using.

Women setting up her wi-fi network using her smartphone


How do I set my Wi-Fi up?

Setting up Wi-Fi at home is easy with only a few simple steps needed. You just need a Wi-Fi router, which is the key bit of hardware that generates a wireless network.

At Giganet, we provide all our customers with a brand new router which comes packed full of useful features to help keep your Wi-Fi safe, secure and fast.

Here are the steps to setting up your Wi-Fi for the first time: 

  1. Connect your router to the power and broadband connection. If you are unsure where your broadband connection is, your broadband provider can help.
  2. Wait for the Wi-Fi network to come online. This can take a couple of minutes and will usually be indicated by a green or blue light on the router. Your router might use different colours, so we always advise you consult the manual that comes with it.
  3. Using a Wi-Fi device (such as a laptop or smartphone), scan for the Wi-Fi network. The default network name will be shown in the router manual or on a sticker attached to the router.
  4. Select the Wi-Fi network and enter the password supplied with the router.


How do I connect to Wi-Fi?

If you’re a technical novice and want to know how to connect to Wi-Fi, we have provided a simple-to-follow guide. It’s worth noting that your device might be slightly different, so we recommend you check your device’s manual before proceeding.

  1. Open your device’s settings app and look for the Network and Internet or Wi-Fi option.
  2. From the Wi-Fi settings, ensure Wi-Fi is turned on, if not already. Your device will then start scanning for available Wi-Fi networks.
  3. Select the Wi-Fi network you want to connect to from the list of available networks. If the network is secured, you may be prompted to enter a password or network key.
  4. Once you’ve entered the correct password or network key, your device should be connected to the Wi-Fi network.
  5. After you connect, the network is ‘Saved’. When your device is near and Wi-Fi is on, it will automatically connect to this network.
  6. A Wi-Fi icon should be visible in your device’s status bar, indicating that you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network.
  7. Now you can browse the internet, access websites and google to your heart’s content!


How do I keep my Wi-Fi secure?

Once your router is set up and connected, you can log in to your router and change settings to meet your needs. With the router we supply our customers with at Giganet, it’s super easy to change a range of settings to keep your Wi-Fi network secure. In fact, we wrote Wi-Fi security article on it and recommend you give that a read too. However, if you’re short on time, here are a few quick tips.

Change the default password

Changing the default Wi-Fi password will help you improve the security of your Wi-Fi network greatly. When you first receive your router, it will come with a default password you can use to connect to your Wi-Fi network for the first time. We recommend creating your own unique password from the get-go

Our team at Giganet always recommend that you use a password that is at least 12 characters long and uses a mixture of number, symbols and capital letters. You should also consider changing the password at least once a year for added security.

Create a guest network

Creating a guest network will not only help keep your Wi-Fi secure but also keep your guest’s devices isolated. When devices are connected to Wi-Fi there are often ways in which those devices can communicate which each other. If a device which may have been previously compromised by a cyber attack, or ‘hacker’ connects to the same Wi-Fi network as you, it could become harmful to all.

Enable the router’s firewall

Most routers will come with a built-in firewall, even if it is a basic one. A firewall can protect your Wi-Fi and the devices connected to it by stopping malicious users. Firewalls can help prevent hackers from accessing your Wi-Fi network and potentially spying on your data.


Wi-Fi connection vs wired connection

A Wi-Fi connection is a lot different to a wired connection. A wired connection consists of using an Ethernet cable to connect to the internet. This Ethernet cable is normally connected to your router or modem which provides the internet connection.

In comparison, a Wi-Fi connection eliminates the need for an Ethernet cable. Your devices can connect wirelessly to the router or modem. There are advantages to this like not being restricted to a single position within your home as well as having the ability to change internet connections quickly. A common disadvantage is that Wi-Fi is normally slower than a wired internet connection and depending on where your router is, your device may pick up a weaker connection. This can be caused by objects and walls in-between the router emitting the Wi-Fi signal and your device.


Wi-Fi frequencies

Wi-Fi uses frequencies to transmit data over the air so you can access the internet. Wi-Fi operates on a couple of frequency bands, 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz. which are commonly referred to as Wi-Fi channels.

As Wi-Fi has improved over the years, new versions have been released, changing how Wi-Fi performs. These all use a different frequency standard and as a general rule of thumb, have all been released to improve the maximum speed, reliability or signal strength.

The table below shows the top speeds of the most common Wi-Fi specifications. These are all backwards compatible, so you can buy a cutting-edge 802.11ax router and still connect old hardware. However, the frequency needs to be considered.

These Wi-Fi standards are created by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

802.11 standard Wi-Fi version Maximum speed Frequency
802.11b Wi-Fi 1 11Mb 2.4GHz
802.11a Wi-Fi 2 54Mb 5GHz
802.11g Wi-Fi 3 54Mb 2.4GHz
802.11n Wi-Fi 4 300Mb (5GHz) 2.4 / 5GHz
802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 7Gb 5GHz
802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 10Gb 2.4GHz & 5GHz
802.11ax Wi-Fi 6E 10GB 6Ghz

It is worth noting that these are theoretical maximum speeds, particularly regarding 802.11ac and 802.11ax. Those have very high-top speeds however in reality; the actual speed will be much lower but still higher than its previous counterparts.


Wi-Fi 5 vs Wi-fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E are the newest Wi-Fi technology, which promises to provide faster speeds, more reliable data transfer, and improved connectivity in high-density areas. Wi-Fi 6 was released in 2019 but has only recently, as of 2022, become an industry standard for new routers.

Wi-Fi 5, also known as 802.11ac, is the previous generation of Wi-Fi technology and offers speeds up to 3.5Gbps.

Wi-Fi 6 uses a new modulation scheme called 1024-QAM, which allows it to transmit more data per packet, and MU-MIMO, which enables multiple devices to receive data simultaneously. This is what results in faster speeds and better connectivity for your browsing or data transfers. Wi-Fi 6 also introduces features like OFDMA, which divides a channel into smaller sub-channels, allowing for more devices to connect without interference.

Overall, Wi-Fi 6 is the leading tech and provides faster and more efficient connectivity for modern devices and high-density environments. Meanwhile, Wi-Fi 5 remains a reliable option for older devices and less crowded areas.


Types of Wi-Fi connections


The most common type of Wi-Fi connection you probably use comes from your home broadband network. Most broadband providers issue customers with a router which can emit a Wi-Fi signal. This Wi-Fi frequency of the router from your broadband provider is normally either 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, or 6 GHz.

Mobile Hotspots

Mobile hotspots are a type of Wi-Fi connection that is emitted from a smartphone or similar mobile-connected device. This device can provide a personal W-iFi hotspot which allows other devices to tether to and use your mobile network to connect to the internet. Additionally, some mobile devices allow you to extend the Wi-Fi connection your phone is already connected to. This can prove very useful if you need a temporary Wi-Fi solution.

Mesh Wi-Fi

Mesh Wi-Fi is a newer technology which allows homes and businesses to extend their Wi-Fi network more reliably. Mesh Wi-Fi works by connecting multiple ‘nodes’ together. These nodes are small devices that connect to each other wirelessly. Mesh allows you to set up your Wi-Fi network how you want, ensuring you get near-seamless coverage in every room.

4G Broadband

4G broadband brings reliable broadband and Wi-Fi without the need for a wired broadband connection. This technology utilises 4G cellular technology to provide users with faster data transfer rates which are now widely available across most of the UK. If you use 4G broadband, you will still receive a router just like a normal broadband connection except this router connects to the 4G signal much like your mobile phone.

5G Broadband

5G broadband is the same technology as 4G broadband except it takes the speed and reliability to the next level. 5G broadband networks are designed to support the growing demand for bandwidth. 5G broadband offers users even faster download and upload speeds, lower latency, and improved network reliability and capacity.


Benefits of using Wi-Fi

It’s safe to say that Wi-Fi is widely used and appreciated by almost all of us. It makes our fast-paced lives simpler with an internet connection accessible wherever you are.


Wi-Fi makes connecting to the internet, sending emails and watching your favourite films easier. Compared to a wired connection that forces you to stay in one location, Wi-Fi allows you to freely roam around your home while still having access to the internet.

Widely Available

Wi-Fi is widely available almost everywhere you go. Most homes and businesses have a form of Wi-Fi enabled whether it’s powered by their broadband connection or tethered from a mobile device. In addition, if you have no available Wi-Fi connection, you can easily purchase or enable a wi-fi connection.


Wi-Fi and broadband have become very affordable options as ways to connect to the internet. You can pay as little as £15 a month for a basic Wi-Fi connection at home or as much as hundreds of pounds if you want large bandwidth. At Giganet, we offer a full fibre broadband connection which comes with a powerful eero Pro 6E Wi-Fi router you can plug in and connect to.


Future of Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi technology has become an essential part of our daily lives, enabling us to connect to the internet wirelessly from an ever-expanding number of devices. As technology continues to evolve, the future of Wi-Fi is promising and will likely bring significant advancements to improve connectivity and performance.

One of the current significant developments is the emergence of Wi-Fi 6E, which utilizes the newly opened 6 GHz frequency band for even faster speeds and reduced congestion. Wi-Fi 6E is expected to bring significant improvements in speed and latency, making it ideal for applications that require high bandwidth and low latency, such as augmented and virtual reality. Giganet now offers Wi-Fi 6E to all customers who choose our full fibre broadband.

The future of Wi-Fi also includes the integration of Wi-Fi with other wireless technologies, such as 5G, to create seamless connectivity across different networks. This integration will enable devices to automatically switch between Wi-Fi and cellular networks based on the availability and quality of the connection.

Overall, the future of Wi-Fi looks bright, and we can expect continued advancements in speed, capacity, and connectivity, enabling us to stay connected and productive in an increasingly wireless world.

If you’re looking for a reliable broadband and wi-fi provider, Giganet can help. We offer full fibre broadband with powerful next-generation Wi-Fi across the UK. Our Wi-Fi is easy to use and comes packed with useful features like parental controls. For more information, visit our broadband page.