This group-based ice breaker game is easy and fun. Here we will use it to test your knowledge of Wi-Fi and to learn some basics. In each round there is two true statements and one false statement. See if you can figure out which one is false before moving on the explanations.

Round 1
Wi-Fi originated in Hawaii
Wi-Fi is simply a radio signal
Wi-Fi requires no wires

It is true that a pioneering computer networking system was developed at the University of Hawaii in 1971. Called ‘ALOHAnet’ this early predecessor of Wi-Fi came first, many years before the 1997 release of the first version of wireless protocols (IEEE 802.11).

It is also true that Wi-Fi technology uses radio waves to transfer information between two electronic devices. This information transfer occurs at frequencies of 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz frequency has longer range and the ability to penetrate walls while the 5 GHz frequency is best for line of sight connections that can take advantage of the faster throughput.

The statement that Wi-Fi requires no wires is the false one. While Wi-Fi can be a very efficient way for our electronics to communicate in our homes at some point those communications do get transferred to a wire for the journey out to the internet. That wired infrastructure in the form of routers, modems or combination devices will have an impact on the wireless experience in the home.

Round 2
Wi-Fi is susceptible to interference
I pay for 300 Mbps so that is what speed I should get on my Wi-Fi connected devices
The further a device is from the router, the worse the Wi-Fi signal  

Wi-Fi is very susceptible to interference. The radio waves used to send that Wi-Fi signal often get disrupted by radio waves at similar frequencies. Cellphones, TV’s, microwaves, baby monitors, etc. all can cause Wi-Fi devices to pause and wait for the air to clear. Connecting to a Wi-Fi signal on the other side of a wooden wall should be straightforward. However, metal inside a wall, a chimney, and even a fish tank are things that will make keeping a Wi-Fi signal connected a challenge.

The service level from your ISP is expressed as ‘download speed.’ Remember that Wi-Fi networks are adversely impacted by competing devices in the environment. Knowing that every home is a unique environment the ISP provider bases the stated speeds on devices that connect with an ethernet cable not over Wi-Fi. Therefore, you can run a speed test on a Wi-Fi connected phone standing next to the router and see a result of 125 Mbps. Conversely, you could run a speed test on a laptop connected to the modem with a network cable and see a result of the nearly 300 Mbps being paid for.

It is true that the further a device is from the router, the worse the Wi-Fi will perform. In simple terms if you double the distance between the router and a device, throughput will decrease by one-third of its original strength. That is the rule of thumb for line of sight connectivity, if you bring walls and other forms of interference into the equation that signal degradation can be even more drastic.

Knowing the difference between truths and lies when it comes to Wi-Fi is an important first step in better understanding this critical utility that we can no longer live without. In Part 2 the language of Wi-Fi will be introduced in terms that make sense.

Return to In the News

Wi-Fi Dependency Series - Introduction

Wi-Fi Dependency Series - Part 2

Wi-Fi Dependency Series - Part 3

Wi-Fi Dependency Series - Part 4


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