WiFi stands for Wireless Fidelity. WiFi is the technology used by laptops, tablets, mobile phones and other devices to connect to the internet without wires.
The internet is delivered via a telephone or cable connection to a wireless router. This beams it wirelessly to devices in the immediate area.
Almost all new computers and laptops have WiFi built in, as well as most smartphones, tablets and eBook readers. Many games consoles such as the PS3 or Nintendo Wii U also use WiFi to connect to the internet. WiFi is even starting to appear it cameras.
How do I get WiFi?
When you sign up for broadband, your service provider will supply you with a router - like the BT Home Hub 4.
This connects to your telephone or cable connection and provides you with internet access.
It creates an area (known as a “hotspot”) where internet is available.
To connect a device to the BT Home Hub (or other router) you need to know the wireless network name and wireless network key. This is usually a selection of letters or numbers, supplied with the device and often written on the rear or underside.
Using the WiFi settings on your laptop or device, choose the correct wireless network (typically from a list of nearby networks) and then enter the wireless key to connect.
Where else will I find WiFi?
You’ll find hotspots in many public areas, such as cafes, airports and bars.
Some let you connect for free if you register, others require you buy some WiFi time. In smaller establishments you just ask for the password.
There are several hotspot providers. BT has 5 million WiFi hotspots in the UK and Ireland and 3 million worldwide – making it the largest provider in the world.
All BT Broadband customers get free unlimited data access by registering online. If you are not a BT customer, WiFi access costs around £6 day.
What’s so good about WiFi?
The big advantage to using WiFi is that your computer or laptop doesn’t need to be physically connected to a cable to access the internet.
This means you can get online anywhere in the house - even from your garden – as long as you are within around 20m of your router.
WiFi enables multiple devices to get online simultaneously. This means each member of the house is free to use their own gadgets without sharing cables.
Provided you can obtain a WiFi password you can work in a coffee shop, fast food restaurant, airport or a pub. You can take a tablet on holiday and use hotel WiFi to check Facebook, TripAdvisor and email friends.
Is there anything negative about WiFi?
WiFi can be less stable than a wired connection. If multiple people connect to the same access point, it can be slow, causing drop-outs or data loss.
However, it really depends on how the WiFi connection is being used. Drop-outs are more likely to happen if someone is doing data intensive tasks, such as streaming a HD movie or playing games online.
How much WiFi can you use?
The amount of WiFi you can use depends on your broadband data allowance. Use more than this and you will be charged.
Internet providers offer packages for different types of users. BT’s offers customers the choice of: 10GB, 40GB or Unlimited data use per month.
If you’re using WiFi in a public place, you can typically use as much data as you want.
Some places (like hotels) charge you for WiFi access and limit you to a certain amount per day.
BT Broadband customers get unlimited access at BT WiFi hotspots.
It’s worth remembering that some tasks are more data-intensive than others. If you stream a lot of online video or play Xbox Live over WiFi consider an unlimited broadband package.
What type of WiFi is there?
There are two main types of WiFi available known as ‘G’ and ‘N’. The main difference is speed and distance. The newer ‘N’ type is faster and gives a wider signal range.
Most devices are compatible with the older ‘G’ networks, which is fast enough for most internet tasks.
The BT Home Hub provides an ‘N’ network for newer devices to use. You only really notice the difference when downloading large files, such as high-definition movies, which are much quicker on ‘N’ devices.