Everyone knows the following scenario. You are in the middle of watching your favourite show and suddenly no internet connection.
You check your WiFi signal and it has full bars, so what’s the problem. Internet should be there, right? WiFi means Internet should work, right?
That is what many of us assume wrong unfortunately. In general it is widely believed that WiFi equals Internet, but these are actual two different entities.
To make this more understandable, let’s go back a bit and understand the history of WiFi and Internet in 2 summaries.
Internet in a Nutshell
The Internet started in the 1960s as a way for government researchers to share information easier with each other. Another unfortunate reason in the formation of the Internet was the Cold War.
It all started with an experimental computer network “ARPANET” (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), which would later evolve into the internet as we know it today. But before that we had WEB 1, in which more networks started to join and a form of standardisation was necessary so that the computers in the networks could speak to each other. TCP and IP protocols provided a solution for this issue and you could consider this to be the birth of the World Wide Web. Still it was completely different from the internet we know nowadays. Websites were completely static – Read only – no interaction was possible and you couldn’t leave any comments or likes. The Internet was more decentralised and without the big companies like Google.
The official birthday of the Internet is considered to be the 1st January of 1983.
With the introduction of Web 2.0 the era of user-generated content, social networks, and advertisements began. Web pages were no longer static and users were able to interact with them. The internet changed from read-only to read-write. Companies quickly realised the commercial potential of the World Wide Web and with this came the commercialisation of the Internet. Companies started moving their business online and tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Facebook emerged and became highly successful. Over time their influence has grown so much, the more users these companies gained, the more influential they became. This brought a lot of opportunities for the companies, but also a lot of restrictions for the users.
Web 3.0 is called the revolution of the Internet, with the aim of bringing back ownership of content to the users and changing the economic motives online. The idea is to make the Internet an open and decentralised platform, where enabled by technology of blockchain, the user could freely exchange information for money and avoid the middlemen out of the equation. Users could freely choose to sell their data to advertisers or to prioritise their own privacy. The blockchain technology we have today already allows for these things to happen, but although there are some examples of transitioning going towards the Web 3.0 model, the technology is still in its babyhood.
WiFi in a Nutshell
WiFi is a wireless networking technology that utilises radio frequencies to transfer data. This allows high-speed Internet connections without the use of any cables, which were the standard before and you can connect to the Internet from just about anywhere, a coffee shop, a hotel room, or a conference room at work. It is also 10 times faster than a regular dial-up connection. To access WiFi, you need WiFi enabled devices like a PC, Laptop or any portable device. These devices can send and receive data wirelessly in any location equipped with WiFi access.
The term WiFi is a contraction of “wireless fidelity” and commonly used to refer to wireless networking technology. The first version of WiFI (802.11 protocol) was released in 1997, and provided up to 2 Mbit/s link speeds. This was updated in 1999 with an updated protocol (802.11b) to provide faster speeds up to 11 Mbit/s link speeds, which in the end made WiFi very popular.
WiFi networks operate in 2 different bands – 2.4 Ghz, with a speed of 11 Mbps (802.11b) or 5 Ghz with a 54 Mbps (802.11a) data rate. The main differences that the wireless frequencies provide becomes obvious when looking at the range and speed of the two. The 2.4 GHz band is generally very good for connecting over longer distances, but offers slower speeds due to more traffic on the network. The 5 GHz band offers coverage for shorter distances with faster speeds. Another important difference is that compared to the 5 Ghz band, the 2.4 GHz band can’t support as many devices and can quickly become bogged down. While the 5 GHz band is newer and offers more channels than the 2.4 GHz band, it can’t reach as far.
Why Internet and WiFi aren’t the same
Since we now have a better understanding of the massive difference of the Internet and WiFi let’s recap, to not confuse them as the same.
Internet = This is your connection to the world-wide web using a router or modem, generally supplied by your internet provider.
Wireless connection = Initially the speed and strength that your wireless devices such as Computers, Tablets and Smartphones can connect to the router and therefore server (not the internet).
So what to do if your device can’t connect to the Internet but still shows strong WiFi signal?
There are multiple solutions to this issue. The first thing one should do is to check the LED indication on the router. Usually a router has different indications to show which signal it is emitting, for example that the power is on, that WiFi is on and also that it receives internet from the Cable/DSL modem. If the WiFi signal is on, but the internet signal is off, this means your device is still connected to the WiFi network, but will not receive any internet information. Restarting the router is mostly solving this calamity (which for the most of us can feel like it). If you unsure what to do, it is always the best solution to call your internet provider for guidance and help.
Since the Internet is a very technical and complicated topic, watch this video if you are interested learning more about it. The visuals also contribute to a better and faster understanding.
Here some tips and tricks of how to improve your wifi speed:
Check out Mcafee’s advice of how to make your wifi password more secure: