A wireless local area network (WLAN) technology that conforms to the IEEE 802.11 standard. Wi-Fi is the wireless counterpart to the wired Ethernet network, which is the ubiquitous local area network (LAN) technology used in companies and homes worldwide. A Wi-Fi logo from the Wi-Fi Alliance certifies that network devices comply with the IEEE 802.11 standards.|
In the early 2000s, 802.11b became widely used, followed by 11a and 11g. The latest version is 11n (see 802.11n). Within a short time, all laptops and many handhelds came with Wi-Fi built in. Earlier laptops can be Wi-Fi enabled by plugging in an adapter via an earlier PC Card or the USB port. Although desktop computers may not be Wi-Fi equipped from the factory, a Wi-Fi USB adapter or Wi-Fi PCI card plugged into a desktop machine makes it wireless as well (a "PCI card" plugs into a slot on the motherboard inside a desktop computer; a "PC Card" plugs into an external slot on earlier laptops).
Learn More About Wi-Fi
To know how Wi-Fi fits into a home or office network, see wireless LAN and Wi-Fi hotspot. For details about the transmission technology, see 802.11.
What's in a Name?
Wi-Fi sounds like "hi-fi" and is thus mistaken to stand for "wireless fidelity." Although the term was obviously inspired by "high-fidelity," Wi-Fi is officially just a catchy name. See Wi-Fi Direct, WiMAX, Wi-Fi Multimedia, Muni Wi-Fi, wireless mesh network and cellular vs. Wi-Fi.
Today, virtually anything can be Wi-Fi enabled. Every hour, the Remote Vision module in this Miele washing machine transmits its current status to the company via the customer's Wi-Fi network and Internet connection. In case of a problem, the operations center notifies the dealer and sends it the failed part for repair.