It would be hard to imagine a world without the internet. Now, with only a few clicks of the mouse you can book a show, download music, pay bills and search for hours on the most trivial subjects imaginable.
However, until recently you would have been confined to one room in the house, usually the study or living room, by your physical phone or cable connection.
Wireless networking changes the way the internet is used, allowing access to the web anywhere in the home.
Please note: this information was current as of May 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
What is Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi is a wireless networking technology that allows your laptop, internet radio or other wireless product to connect to a network in your home at data transfer speeds fast enough for you to enjoy music and video downloaded from the internet.
There are several versions of Wi-Fi, and any devices you have, such as an iTouch or wireless MP3, will indicate its transfer speed as either 802.11a, b, g or n – this is usually specified on the product box.
- The first version, 802.11a, is fairly slow and is generally no longer available.
- Version 802.11b communicates at speeds that allow you to browse the web without too much trouble, while version g provides faster speeds for such things as listening to internet radio and downloading video.
When looking for your next wireless device, make sure it supports at least 802.11g. The recently introduced 802.11n standard supports even faster speeds and a wider range than 802.11g, so if you are having trouble getting a wireless connection in some areas of your house, using 802.11n wireless devices might help.
What about Bluetooth?
Bluetooth is a wireless technology that has been around on mobile phones for several years. However, until recently wireless headsets were the only other devices widely available. Now there are many more for use in the home, including stereo headphones, wireless keyboards and controllers for games consoles, such as Nintendo Wii.
Bluetooth works well with a Wi-Fi network and should not cause any interference as most Bluetooth devices only operate within a small area of 10m or less.