What Is The Difference Between Internet and WiFi?

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The terms WiFi and Internet are often used interchangeably, which can cause confusion about their true meanings. We hear phrases like "What's your WiFi password?" and "Can I get your Internet password?" used as if they were one and the same. In reality, however, WiFi and the Internet are not the same thing. Rather, they’re 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?

The Internet is a global communications network that remotely connects computers and other electronic devices with one another. It is a vast network infrastructure that spans the entire globe, enabling individuals, organizations, and governments to connect and exchange data with one another in real time. 
While the Internet as we know it was invented in 1983, it wasn’t made public until a decade later, in 1993. Since then, 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—either through a wired connection, like Ethernet, or a wireless connection like WiFi—your device connects through an Internet Service Provider (ISP) like Optimum  and starts sending and receiving data. That data is broken into small packets that travel through routers and switches, which guide the packets to their destination. 

Once the packets reach their destination, they are reassembled like puzzle pieces 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 or a slow Internet connection, 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. While you don’t need WiFi if you have a wired connection, it’s useful because it allows you to access the Internet without being tied to a specific location.

WiFi networks are commonly found in homes, offices, and most public locations, providing convenient and flexible Internet access for residents or visitors to use. 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?

WiFi connections utilize radio waves to transmit information across a local or worldwide network. In order to access WiFi, the device you’re using needs a wireless connection adapter that can translate data sent through a radio signal. This translation is then sent to a wireless router, which decodes the message and passes it to the Internet via a wired Ethernet connection. Data received from the Internet performs the same journey in reverse, first passing through the Ethernet connection, then going to the router, where it’s transformed into a code that your wireless device can “read.” 

How do hotspots work?

Many WiFi networks are password-protected—but if you don’t have the WiFi password, you may still be able to access the Internet via a hotspot. These mini networks essentially work by turning your phone (or a standalone hotspot device) into a portable router. A hotspot takes the signal from your cellular data plan and transmits it locally, so you can connect to the Internet with your laptop or other Internet-enabled devices. 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 can use up a lot of data, which may be a concern if you don’t have an unlimited mobile plan.

WiFi vs. Internet

To make a complicated concept simple, WiFi refers to a type of wireless connection, while the Internet is what WiFi connects to. You can’t have WiFi without Internet, but you can access the Internet without WiFi—most commonly via a wired connection or by using 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. As we know now, he was right: Most of us use our phones to access the Internet just as much as (if not more than) wired devices. 

New developments in wireless technology continue to add more speed and capacity to Internet connections by allowing an increasing number of users to access Internet networks. Going forward, we can expect to see satellites make the Internet accessible even in the world’s most remote areas. 

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

As communications technology advances, the Internet becomes even more powerful and available. For context, a few years ago, a a 1 gig Internet plan was unimaginable—today, Optimum offers fiber Internet with speeds up to 8 Gig. 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

The IoT is an interesting concept that stands to shape the way we use the Internet in the future. Computing technology companyIBM describes it as:

“[A] network of physical devices, vehicles, appliances and other physical objects that are embedded with sensors, software, and network connectivity that allows them to collect and share data. These devices — also known as “smart objects” — can range from simple “smart home” devices like smart thermostats to wearables like smartwatches and RFID-enabled clothing, to complex industrial machinery and transportation systems.”
IoT enables these smart devices to communicate with each other and with other internet-enabled devices, like smartphones and gateways, creating a vast network of interconnected devices that can exchange data and perform a variety of tasks autonomously.”

Expertsestimate that there will be roughly 29 billion IoT devices worldwide by the end of the decade, allowing more people to get, and stay, connected wherever they may be. This brings 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 likely include fully functional web screens that allow you to access and explore the Internet the way you would on your computer or smartphone.

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

More than seven billion people will be Internet users by 2030

The number of Internet users will continue to grow dramatically each year. Per Gitnux, roughly 61% of the world’s population will have Internet access by 2025—while by 2030, the number of Internet users worldwide will reach an astronomical 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 and adaptable.

WiFi will have an even greater impact on Internet access 

As technology continues to improve, the Internet (the information and data we access) and WiFi (a way this information and data can be transmitted and delivered) will become even more reliant on each other to satisfy Internet access demand across the globe. 

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

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. 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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