Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Wi-fi is a type of electromagnetic signal that is used in telecommunications to transmit data. The phrase has become very common and is often used interchangeably with the concept of access to the internet or a mobile phone data line. 

Etymologically, the term is often explained to mean "wireless fidelity,"...

View
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Wi-fi is a type of electromagnetic signal that is used in telecommunications to transmit data. The phrase has become very common and is often used interchangeably with the concept of access to the internet or a mobile phone data line. 

Etymologically, the term is often explained to mean "wireless fidelity," but this was actually a marketing ploy, playing off of the then-common phrase "high fidelity," or hi-fi, meaning a high quality or high faithfulness to an original source. Wi-fi is really just a radio transmitter. It's distinguished primarily by the type of data it carries and the range of radio wavelengths that it's allowed to occupy according to the regulations laid out by various international agreements (in the United States, these are governed by the FCC). Radio wavelengths are categorized in this manner in order to organize them and minimize interference with other uses.

The wave itself isn't very different from a radio wave that you might encounter for a radio station, but it's modulated differently, using a more complex method of "stacking" lots of information into the same signal called OFDM. For practical purposes, you can just think of them as being radio waves and subject to all the same conditions (for example, being able to travel through walls, but also having the potential for interference from other nearby EM sources, such as a microwave).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team