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Wi-Fi (an acronym for Wireless Fidelity), a wireless-technology brand owned by the [Alliance], that promotes standards with the aim of improving the interoperability of wireless local area network products based on the IEEE 802.11 standards.

Wi-Fi is

an example of a wireless computer network localized to a limited geographic area. A Wi-Fi network uses a set of broadband wireless networking standards, known as Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11x.[1]

Technical aspects[]

Wi-Fi networks operate on an unlicensed basis under Part 15 of the Commission's rules, in the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands. With the latest 802.11n draft standard, Wi-Fi networks can provide multiple data rates over 200 mbps.[2] A Wi-Fi network is comprised of one or more base stations or Access Points (AP) that enable communication between any Wi-Fi equipped wireless device, such as a personal computer or a mobile telephone, that comes within 300 feet (100 meters) of an AP. The range of an 802.11x (a, b, org) Wi-fi device is approximately 300 feet (100 meters), whereas an 802.11n Wi-Fi device typically can deliver more than twice the range.[3] Wi-Fi networks often rely on another type of broadband connection for access to the Internet.[4]

Wi-Fi networks can be set up by installing multiple toaster-size antennas on street lights, traffic signals, and buildings, so that multiple wireless hotspots overlap each other to form a continuous "mesh" network of wireless signals.[5] In order to provide an initial connection to the Internet and to manage network traffic, "backbone" technology (also called "backhaul" technology) must be installed at one or more points connected to the network. The installation of such a wireless network may be less expensive than installing a wireline network of the same size.[6] But whether the long-term operating costs of such a wireless network are more or less than those of a comparable wireline network is not clear at this point.[7] Also, it appears that multiple networks may be created in the same geographic area by installing multiple sets of antennas and backhaul connections.[8]

"On January 9, 2013, the FCC announced a governmentwide effort to increase speed and reduce congestion in Wi-Fi networks by releasing up to 195 MHz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band — the largest block of unlicensed spectrum to be made available for the expansion of Wi-Fi and other devices that use unlicensed spectrum since 2003."[9]

Types of Wi-Fi[]

There are three main types of Wi-Fi:

Earliest to market, and hence most ubiquitous, is IEEE 802.11b, which operates on an unlicensed basis in the 2.4 Ghz band with data rates of up to 11 Mbps. IEEE 802.11g, the technological successor to IEEE 802.11b, uses [Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing ("OFDM")] modulation and has data rates of up to 54 Mbps. It is also backward-compatible with IEEE 802.11b, such that WLANs can be configured using equipment manufactured according to either standard (although using both types of equipment together can reduce expected data rates). Finally, the IEEE 802.11a standard is used by WLAN equipment operating on an unlicensed basis using OFDM modulation in the 5 Ghz band.[10]


Common applications for Wi-Fi include Internet access at "hot spots" in coffee shops, airports, and on university campuses, VoIP phone access, gaming, and network connectivity for consumer electronics such as televisions, DVD players, and digital cameras.


  1. Internet of Things: Status and Implications of an Increasingly Connected World, at 5 n.10.
  2. See Eric Bangeman, "802.11n Specs Moves Closer to Completion," Ars Technica (Jan. 19, 2007) (full-text); see also Broadcom White Paper, 802.11n: Next Generation Wireless LAN Technology (Apr. 2006) (full-text).
  3. See David Naskin, "FAQ: 802.11n Wireless Networking," Computerworld (May 16, 2007) (full-text).
  4. See Appropriate Regulatory Treatment for Broadband Access to the Internet Over Wireless Networks, WT Docket No. 07-53, Declaratory Ruling, 22 FCC Rcd 5901, 5907, ¶15 (2007) (Wireless Broadband Internet Access Services Order).
  5. See generally Connected On the Go: Broadband Goes Wireless 4, 19-24.
  6. "[W]ireless technologies frequently are a more cost-effective solution for serving areas with less dense populations, and provide rural and remote regions new ways to connect to critical health, safety, and educational services." Id. at 13.
  7. Moreover, although wireless Internet technology continues to improve, current technologies may be disrupted by severe weather conditions such as strong wind, physical structures such as buildings, large vehicles, trees, or fallen tree branches; by geographical features such as hills or valleys; or by other wireless signals such as those emitted by microwaves, baby monitors, or cordless phones. See generally Tropos Networks, Metro-scale Mesh Ntworking with Tropos MetromeshTM Architecture 9 (2005) (full-text). Some wireless carriers have begun to deploy orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing technology, which does not require a direct line-of-sight between the transmitter and the receiver.
  8. See generally Michelle Kessler, "City Takes Fast Track to High-Speed Access," USA TODAY, May 1, 2004, at 3B (full-text).
  9. Autonomous Vehicle Technology: A Guide for Policymakers, at 80.
  10. Connected On the Go: Broadband Goes Wireless 19-20.

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