What is the Difference Between WiFi & Internet?

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The terms WiFi and the Internet are often used interchangeably, which can cause confusion about their true meanings. We hear phrases like "What's your WiFi passcode?" and "Can I get your Internet passcode?" used as if they were one and the same. However, once you delve a little deeper, it’s clear that WiFi and the Internet are actually distinct entities that work together to bring us the wonders of online connectivity. In this article, we'll unravel the differences between WiFi and the Internet, shedding light on their individual functionalities and how they work together. By the end, you'll better understand these two fundamental components that power our digital world.

What Is the Internet?

In order to grasp the difference between WiFi and Internet, you need to first understand each subject separately. Think about it, can you explain with conviction what the Internet is? If you can’t, you likely won’t be able to answer questions about Internet vs. WiFi.

So, here it is: The Internet is a global network of computers and other electronic devices connected together, allowing them to communicate and share information with each other. It is a vast network infrastructure that spans the entire globe, enabling individuals, organizations, and governments to connect and exchange data. 

The Internet has revolutionized how people communicate, access information, conduct business, and entertain themselves. It has become an integral part of modern life, connecting people across borders and providing a vast array of resources and opportunities.

How Does The Internet Work?

When you access the Internet, your device connects through an Internet Service Provider (ISP), like Optimum , and starts sending and receiving data. That data is broken into small packets and travels through routers and switches, which guide the packets to their destination. 

Once the packets reach their destination, they are reassembled to form the original information, allowing you to access websites, send emails, and perform online activities. The Internet collaborates among different organizations to ensure secure and efficient data transfer. This all happens really fast so, unless you have latency , the whole process is almost instantaneous.

What Is WiFi?

Now that you better understand what the Internet is, let’s move on to WiFi. WiFi is a wireless communication technology that allows devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets to connect to the Internet and communicate with each other without needing physical cables. It relies on radio waves to transmit data between devices, as well as a wireless router or access point to create a local network. 

WiFi networks are commonly found in homes, offices, public spaces, and various other locations, providing convenient and flexible Internet access. By connecting to a WiFi network, devices can access online services, browse the web, stream media, and interact with other connected devices within the network's coverage area.


How Does WiFi Work?

It sounds like a complicated process, but this explanation from CCM.net can help simplify the concept:

“Like mobile devices and mobile phones, a WiFi network and WiFi connection make use of radio waves to transmit information across a worldwide or local network. The computer network should include a wireless connection adapter (not a physical connection) that will translate data sent through a radio signal. This same signal will be transmitted, via an antenna, to a decoder known as the wireless router. Once decoded, the data will be sent to the Internet through a wired Ethernet connection, such as an Ethernet cable and access point.

As the wireless network works as two-way traffic, the data received from the Internet will also pass through the router to be coded into a radio signal that will be received by the computer's wireless adapter.”

How do hotspots work?

Did you know that your smartphone or tablet may be able to generate its own WiFi signal via a hotspot? Many devices now have a hotspot function for connecting to the Internet. And if yours doesn’t, you can also purchase separate hotspot devices. 

WiFi hotspots and mobile hotspots have gained popularity in recent years, especially for people on the go. When you are away from a dedicated WiFi network, you can still connect to the Internet by generating an Internet signal with the hotspot and connecting to this signal with your laptop or other online devices. 

Hotspot technology works by taking the signal from your cellular data plan and transmitting it locally when you connect (which requires a password), just like a regular router would do. With this technology, you can stay connected to WiFi everywhere you go. This can be very convenient when you’d otherwise be disconnected from the web. Just be mindful that using the hotspot function on your mobile device may take a toll on your cellular data plan.

WiFi vs. Internet

The difference between the Internet and WiFi can be a little blurry for people without any prior technical knowledge. Questions like “If I have Internet, do I have WiFi?” or “Are WiFi and Internet the same?” are pretty common searches on Google and other search engines. To help clarify, here’s a simple explanation of how they are distinct, but related, entities: WiFi is a means to connect wirelessly to the Internet or other devices, while the Internet is a global network that provides access to a wide range of online content and services. You need a WiFi connection to access the Internet wirelessly on your device, but you can access the Internet using other types of connections, such as wired Ethernet or cellular data.

The Future of WiFi

Nearly a century ago, Nicola Tesla—the inspiration behind and namesake of the revolutionary high-performance electric car brand Tesla Motors—envisioned that people would one day use pocket devices to wirelessly communicate with people around the world. 

Today, new developments in wireless technology add more speed and capacity to Internet connections by allowing increasing numbers of users to access Internet networks. 

What is WiFi 6?

Technologically advanced high-speed Internet networks like WiFi 6 are projected to be “the new standard of Internet connectivity” and revolutionize the way we access and process Internet information by offering faster Internet speeds and greater Internet capacity.

The Future of the Internet

So now that we’ve glimpsed the future of WiFi, what about the Internet itself? As communications technology advances, the Internet becomes even more powerful and available. For context, a few years ago, a 1 gig Internet plan was unimaginable, and now it can be purchased easily. With that said, here are five predictions on what’s coming regarding Internet protocol, Internet technologies, and how they will affect Internet users. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) will become the norm

What is IoT? Norton.com offers some interesting insight:

“The Internet of Things—IoT, for short—is made up of devices that connect to the Internet and share data with each other. IoT devices include not only computers, laptops, and smartphones but also objects that have been equipped with chips to gather and communicate data over a network.

The potential of Internet of Things devices is enormous. Consumers often use their smartphones (like iPhones and Android smartphones) to communicate with IoT devices, whether it’s a smart speaker or home thermostat. Connected devices offer convenience, like helping you make a grocery list or savings, like when you turn down the heat at home while you’re on vacation.”

By 2025, there will be more than 21 billion IoT devices. IoT is projected to gain even more momentum and help us stay connected to the things that enhance our lives.

IoT technology leads us to our next prediction... 

You’ll surf the web on any connected device

Today, appliances such as refrigerators and ovens have Internet connectivity to provide you with temperature and capacity data. Moving forward, they’ll include fully functional web screens allowing you to access and explore the Internet.

Think about it: Instead of reaching for your phone or tablet to look up an online recipe, wouldn’t it be nice if your oven could talk you through the process as you cook? That’s the idea.

Over 7 billion people will be Internet users by 2030

The number of Internet users continues to grow dramatically every year. And by 2030, Gitnux reports that there will be 7.5 billion. 

More people accessing the Internet will require greater data speed and Internet capacity. This means Internet service providers (ISPs) will need to be proactive.

WiFi will have an even greater impact on Internet access 

Now, we’ve gone full circle. The Internet (the information and data we access) and WiFi (a way this information and data are transmitted and delivered) will become even more reliant on each other to satisfy Internet access demand. 

New Internet technologies that we have yet to even think of could also help ensure global Internet access. 

The Internet and WiFi: Better Together

To recap, even though the Internet and WiFi are often confused, they are actually two different things. But they are literally and figuratively linked and, when paired together, offer unprecedented access to activities such as video and audio files, online gaming, web browsing, and more. 

It’s also certain that Internet service and WiFi as we know them will continue evolving over time in new and exciting ways. Based on our predictions above, the sky is no longer the limit—the universe is. 

Optimum: The Future Is Now

Go ahead, dream big, go big. When it comes to enjoying the things you love most, Optimum is here to support you with the Internet access you need. No matter what the future holds for the Internet, television, or anything else, Optimum strives to be on the cutting edge of online technology to ensure you stay connected with the world around you.

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