WI-FI and mobile data are terms most of us are farmiliar with. About 86% of the world’s population uses smartphones. They probably use the internet as well. While users may not know the differences between WIFI and mobile data besides cost and who provides the service, they still use them regularly. If you happen to be one of the users who is curious about how each one of these methods of internet provision works, read on.
WIFI is an acronym that stands for wireless fidelity? This is not true. Actually, WIFI refers to IEEE 802.11x a standard for defining communication over a wireless local area network (LAN). The term WiFi is arbitrary. That being said, how exactly does it work?
WiFi works by transmitting data using radio waves. These radio waves are usually either at a frequency of 2.4 gigahertz or 5 gigahertz. The higher the frequency, the more data that can be transmitted. 2.4GHz WiFi is becoming obsolete since it offers slower internet speeds. These radio waves are generated by one’s computer WiFi adapter which converts the data to be transmitted into these radio waves.
The waves are transmitted to one’s WiFi router which decodes the data and that is then sent via a physical connection either using ethernet or fibre optic cables to the Internet Service Provider (ISP). This allows one to transmit data to the internet. This process also happens in the opposite direction whereby internet data is sent from the ISP to the router and then back to the user’s computer via radio waves generated by the router. This is what enables to establish an internet connection via WiFi.
WiFi spans a small geographic region since the radio waves generated are not powerful enough to travel far. Most of the world uses cellular devices with access to the internet. Hence most of us are familiar with mobile data. This is a connection to the internet which is facilitated by one’s telecommunications provider. For example, in Kenya, the biggest provider is Safaricom.
The way mobile data works is that a mobile device connects to a cellular tower that is part of a network spanning a very large area. This then enables one to connect to the internet. The signals used by cell towers, similar to those used by WiFi are radio waves. However, these are much more powerful and hence able to cover a much larger area. This makes mobile data much easier and more convenient to use since one can access it from anywhere with a cell phone signal.
The downside of mobile data is that depending on your plan you are charged a specific amount of money for every bit of data transmitted. Contrast this with WiFi where one pays a set amount a month for specific internet speeds with an unlimited amount of data that can be transmitted.