What it is, how it works

By Riley Gay

Wi-Fi is going wide-range.

No longer confined to local office or home networks, Wi-Fi is extending its range to provide Internet and network access to citywide areas in some parts of the U.S.

What is Wi-Fi? Also known as 802.11, Wi-Fi  is a radio frequency technology used to wirelessly connect devices, such as laptop computers, to broadband Internet or network access points over limited distances.

With most newer laptops and PDAs already Wi-Fi-enabled, or at least Wi-Fi-capable, having the ability to use these devices over a larger area liberates users from having to remain in a single hotspot or Wi-Fi zone in order to stay connected.

A citywide wireless network will allow virtually unrestricted mobility and freedom for network users.

Usually limited to an area of only a few hundred feet, Wi-Fi’s radio signal is being extended by creating a grid of antennas that can cover a broader area, providing overlapping, continuous signal coverage.

Using this “mesh network” model to expand its coverage could make Wi-Fi a highly efficient and relatively inexpensive way to provide services such as Internet access and Voice-Over-IP telephony, allowing users to stay connected while roaming throughout the coverage area.

It can also be useful in places where traditional high-speed Internet access is unavailable, as is the case in many rural areas of the country.

With more places implementing citywide Wi-Fi networks, the more it’s apt to stimulate innovation in the areas of mobile computing and communications…and that should benefit everyone.