What is Wireless Computer Networking?

Everything you need to know about wireless networking technologies

Networking Concept
Networking Concept. Getty Images

Wireless communication technology is a modern alternative to traditional wired networking that relies on cables to connect digital devices together. Wireless technologies are widely used in both home and business computer networks.

Types of Wireless Network Technologies

A large number of technologies have been developed to support wireless networking in different usages. Mainstream wireless technologies include:

Other technologies still under development but likely to play a role in wireless networks of the future include 5G cellular Internet and Li-Fi visible light communication.

More: Guide to Wireless Network Protocols

Advantages of Wireless over Wired Networking

Wireless computer networks offer several distinct advantages compared to wired networks but are not without a downside. Pros of wireless technology include mobility (portability and freedom of movement) and elimination of unsightly cables. Disadvantages of wireless include additional security concerns, plus the potential for radio interference (due to weather, other wireless devices, or obstructions like walls).

More: Wired vs. Wireless Computer Networking

Wireless Internet Service

Traditional forms of Internet service rely on telephone lines, cable television lines, and fiber optic cables. While the underlying core of the Internet remains wired, several alternative forms of Internet technology utilize wireless to connect homes and businesses.

More: Introduction to Wireless Internet Services

Other Applications of Wireless

Besides home networking and Internet connectivity, wireless is being integrated into an increasing number of places where it wasn't used before. Watches, refrigerators, and many other personal devices - sometimes even clothing - are gradually being fitted with wireless communication capabilities. How useful all of this technology is for society remains to be seen.

More: Introduction to the Internet of Things (IoT)

Wireless Network Hardware

To build or tap into a wireless network requires certain types of computer hardware. Portable devices like phones and tablets feature built-in wireless radios. Wireless broadband routers power many home networks. Other kinds of equipment include external adapters and range extenders.

Wireless network equipment can be complex to develop. Consumers recognize popular brand names of wireless routers and related home network gear, but many do not realize how many internal components they contain and how many different vendors produce them.

More: Types of Wireless Network Equipment

How Wireless Works

Wireless technologies employ radio waves and/or microwaves to maintain communication channels between computers. While many technical details behind wireless protocols like Wi-Fi often aren't important to understand, knowing the basics can be very helpful when configuring a network and troubleshooting problems.

More: Useful Facts About How Wi-Fi Works

The wireless tech we know today had its origins in scientific research going back more than 100 years. Nikola Tesla pioneered wireless electric lighting and power transmission, for example - areas that continue to be an active area of study today for such usages as wireless charging.