Have you ever wondered what people mean when they talk about broadband speeds or Wi-Fi connections?
Most of us in the UK understand it at a conceptual level, that if the Wi-Fi symbol is on that we have internet, but how does it work?
Do you need broadband and Wi-Fi? Is one better than the other? What are the differences between broadband vs Wi-Fi?
I’m here to tell you all about it. I’ll tell you what the real differences are between broadband and Wi-Fi, answer some other internet-related questions you may have, and talk about why they are both so important.
Ready? Let’s begin.
What’s the difference between broadband and Wi-Fi?
In the most condensed way I could say it, Wi-Fi is the connector, and broadband is the supplier.
Wi-Fi works through radio signals to connect devices wirelessly to broadband. It has a short-range and is necessary to translate the data coming in from broadband.
Broadband is a wide-range transmission device that can be either wired or wireless at different stages of transmission. It supplies the actual internet connection.
Terminology of Wi-Fi and Broadband
Before I begin unravelling the intricate difference between Broadband and Wi-Fi, let’s first learn some of the terminologies that will be important later.
When I say broadband and Wi-Fi, what do I mean?
You might be interested to know that, contrary to popular belief, Wi-Fi does not stand for wireless fidelity. In fact, it does not stand for anything. The term Wi-Fi was created to be a more user-friendly way to refer to a technology IEEE 802.11.
Wi-Fi is simply the radio signal that allows wireless devices to connect to a router or LAN network.
Router Vs. Modem
Okay, so this one is a bit more complicated. Essentially, the modem is the internet connection, and the router is the device connection.
The modem converts analogue signals into digital. In the dial-up era, modems worked the same way by getting analogue information from the phone lines and turning it into digital signals that computers could read.
Modems are WAN networks; this means they cover a wide area.
Routers work on LAN networks; local areas. Routers take the digital signal and put it out in the form of radio waves for your devices to pick up.
The router is where you get Wi-Fi; it’s what your devices connect to.
In the simplest terms, broadband is a replacement for dial-up. Where dial-up was a one-way street where you either got phone or internet, broadband is a highway full of many different lanes going both ways with phone, internet, and other data transfers.
Broadband isn’t always wired. It can be coaxial cable, optical fibre, twisted pair, or wireless radio, or satellite.
When it comes to technology, broadband is fairly straightforward. The four most commonly used broadband technologies are Fibre optics, satellite, cable, and DSL.
Fibre optics are thin lines of glass or plastic wires that transmit data through light. They are one of the best and most efficient ways to transmit data quickly.
Satellites transmit data by bouncing radio waves between other satellites, while cable – technically referred to as coaxial cable – transmits data through electrical signals.
DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is a relatively uncommon broadband technology. DSL is what one commonly refers to as dial-up. It has mostly fallen out of favour.
For Wi-Fi, all you need to know is there are four types. They function in almost the same way and make little difference to your everyday life. They are 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n.
As I mentioned earlier, Wi-Fi works off of a LAN network while broadband works off of WAN.
Because Wi-Fi is a local network used to transmit to nearby devices, the range is usually only about 50m.
Broadband, on the other hand, assuming it is a wired connection, can go as far as you’d like. The Wireless broadband range is around 50km.
Ranges for both can vary depending on the technology you are using.
Wi-Fi Vs. Broadband Speed
The question of broadband vs Wi-Fi speed is complicated. For starters, the technology for broadband can be extremely varied. If you have fibre optics delivering your internet vs cable or satellite, you will have much faster, more reliable speeds.
But if you are then using 802.11b Wi-Fi, you’re not going to be getting the full speed that fibre provides.
It’s the same issue if you are using 802.11n Wi-Fi and cable.
Overall, there isn’t that much difference unless you have the best of both or the worst of both.
Fibre optics is by far the fastest broadband connection, and 802.11n Wi-Fi is regarded as the best, but it does have drawbacks, namely that it has trouble with physical obstacles like walls.
Broadband Vs. Wi-Fi: which is better?
When it comes to broadband and Wi-Fi, it isn’t so much a question of which is better, but how they work together.
Broadband is a means to transmit data that is always on. It is the gateway to the internet and many other forms of data transfer.
Wi-Fi is how devices connect to and read this data. You can’t really have one without the other.
It is not a question of which is better because then it just becomes an apples and oranges comparison. They are different technologies that serve different functions.
If I had to pick one, I would say broadband, just because Wi-Fi would be useless without it. With broadband alone, you at least have the option to hardwire an internet connection.
Are broadband and Wi-Fi the same thing?
In short, no, broadband and Wi-Fi are separate entities. Broadband is a technology that transmits data to us over a wide area. It is how I get the internet. Wi-Fi is the hub that translates that data into something our wireless devices can read.
Can broadband be used as Wi-Fi?
Yes and no. If you are talking about having a wireless internet connection without Wi-Fi as the middleman, then not really.
You can get internet access through mobile data on your phone; this uses the cell signal to transmit information.
If you want to use broadband without Wi-Fi for your home computer, then it will need to be hardwired to the broadband.