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(Local Area Wireless Network) An earlier acronym for a WLAN. See wireless LAN.

wireless LAN

(wireless Local Area Network) A communications network that provides connectivity to wireless devices within a limited geographic area. "Wi-Fi" is the universal standard for connecting laptops and mobile devices in a home or office. It is commonly deployed alongside of Ethernet, and both wireless and wired devices can exchange data with each other for backup and file sharing. At home, Wi-Fi can also serve as the only network since all laptops and many printers come with Wi-Fi built in, and Wi-Fi can be added to desktop computers via USB. See Ethernet.

Wi-Fi is achieved with a wireless base station, called an "access point." Its antennas transmit and receive a radio frequency within a range of 30 to 150 feet through walls and other non-metal barriers. For details of the Wi-Fi standards, see 802.11. See Wi-Fi hotspot, cellular hotspot, wireless router, LAN switch, wireless broadband and WPAN.

Wi-Fi in a Company
In a big company, access points, switches and routers are stand-alone devices. In addition, industrial strength commercial products can cost 10 times as much as devices from the shopping mall.

Wi-Fi in the Home
For the home and small office, a wireless router combines three network devices in one box. For more details, see wireless router.

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