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What is the difference between WiFi and Wireless (as in the 802.11g that is available on my laptop wireless card)?

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"the 802.11g that is my laptop"...? – Arjan Oct 15 '09 at 11:19
Care to explain where you actually see this difference? – Ivo Flipse Oct 15 '09 at 11:37
@Ivo, how about having two different tags - one for wifi, one for wireless? Actually the issue comes in that Wifi in South Africa seems to mean a WAN while wireless is for LAN's - yet listening to american podcasts they seem to use it the other way around (as @brfast indicated) – Robert MacLean Oct 15 '09 at 11:59
@Robert, did Diago understand your question all right, and thus: are the changes to the question ok? – Arjan Oct 15 '09 at 12:42
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Wi-Fi (pronounced /ˈwaɪfaɪ/) is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance for certified products based on the IEEE 802.11 standards. This certification warrants interoperability between different wireless devices.

In some countries (and in this article) the term Wi-Fi[1][2] is often used by the public as a synonym for IEEE 802.11-wireless LAN (WLAN).

Not every IEEE 802.11 compliant device is certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which may be because of certification costs that must be paid for each certified device type. The lack of the Wi-Fi logo does not imply that a device is incompatible to certified Wi-Fi-devices.

Wi-Fi is used by most personal computer operating systems, many video game consoles, laptops, smartphones, printers, and other peripherals.


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WiFi generally refers to wireless LAN (local area network) -- the kind you get when you set up an 802.11a/b/g/n router.

Wireless usually means a wireless connection provided by a cell phone company, used by smartphones and laptops with a wireless Internet card.

(I'm located in the U.S. People may use these terms differently in other countries.)

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I'm in the UK and use the terms interchangably. For a mobile (cell) phone connection I would call it 3G or mobile broadband. – pipTheGeek Oct 15 '09 at 11:52
That's often how the terms are used (in the US at least), but this usage is completely unrelated to the technical side. Technically, all WiFi is Wireless, though not all Wireless is WiFi. – quack quixote Oct 15 '09 at 15:33
Absolutely correct, ~quack. – i-g Oct 15 '09 at 15:57

WiFi is the "consumer" term - it was coined to rhyme with Hi-Fi, something that the average computer user is familiar with, so that the technology doesn't appear threatening or too "techy".

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I'd not refer to it as a consumer term, but rather as a certification. – Arjan Oct 15 '09 at 11:46
Id say the 802.11blabla stands for the certification, to me Wifi is just wanting to make Wireless Fidelity sound fancy – Ivo Flipse Oct 15 '09 at 12:01
Still, Wi-Fi is the certification of implementations of the 802.11 thingies. – Arjan Oct 15 '09 at 12:11
Well "High Fidelity" makes sense for audio: highly accurate sound reproduction, faithful to the original. "Wireless Fidelity", on the other hand... ? – hyperslug Oct 15 '09 at 12:31
@hyperslug - I didn't say it made sense.... – ChrisF Oct 15 '09 at 12:49

"Wireless" is generic and can include BlueTooth, cellular data, and even mice and keyboards that dont connect to the PC using a cable. WiFi is a trademarked certification. That is, "Wireless" includes (is a superset of) "WiFi".

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In the Germany, it's common use to say WLAN or Wireless (LAN). So the wording is not WiFi but Wireless.

In my opinion, there's no difference between these words in a non technical environment.

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