Wi-Fi Vs. Wireless LAN: What’s the Difference and Which Is Best for You?

There’s a good deal of confusion with networking, wireless technologies, and how they interact or relate to each other. 

In this article, we are aiming to lift the veil of confusion between Wi-Fi and Wireless LAN (WLAN) technologies, so they can be better understood.

Wifi vs Wireless

What is a Wireless LAN (WLAN)?

A LAN is a local area network. This means it’s a communication network that operates in an office building or a residential home. A LAN uses network cables to connect the router and each device (usually a PC or set-top box). 

A wireless LAN (called a WLAN) is simply the wireless version of this type of network. The router broadcasts a wireless signal, which one or more devices can pick up, connect to, and communicate with. 

What Frequency Does a Wireless LAN Use?

There is any number of possible frequencies that are WLAN might use. This depends on local frequency availability, but it sometimes pertains to licenses permitting operators to use certain ones to provide their services or to established standards. 

For example, a wireless residential alarm system is one type of WLAN. It may use its own frequency that’s different from anything else used in the home to avoid interfering with other systems.

Indeed, the alarm system with a central control unit and remote sensors for the doors and windows may not be internet-enabled at all. It could be a closed, wireless system that operates locally in the home, and that’s all. 

How Does Wi-Fi Come into Play?

Because a wireless LAN can use different frequencies and network configurations, it’s adaptable. Tech equipment may be set up to work with one or more frequencies or to conform to established standards such as Wi-Fi. 

With the aforementioned alarm system, it may broadcast wirelessly at 430 MHz. Likely only the alarm sensors and central control unit use this frequency. 

However, Wi-Fi is an established standard known as 802.11. The standard has enabled manufacturers of routers, network cards, and other networking devices to create products that can all communicate using the same frequency and an identical communication protocol.

This is why a set-top box, a router, a PC, or your smartphone all have access to Wi-Fi, and it works pretty seamlessly. They’re listening on the correct frequency (2.4 GHz or 5 GHz) and speaking the same universal language. 

Can Wi-Fi Be Part of a WLAN?

Yes. A wireless LAN isn’t limited to Wi-Fi, but it’s often the most common communication protocol used. This is because it’s a well-established standard, and there are now billions of devices available globally that use it. 

What Does Broadband Internet Use in the Home?

When you compare broadband services, all the different offers can get confusing very quickly. Indeed, there are so many broadband deals on offer that indecision is a real risk when comparing providers. 

Internet services are delivered to a residence and are then hooked up to an internet router. Since Wi-Fi is so ubiquitous now, it’s incumbent on internet providers to offer their service using this standard.

That way, all your various personal digital devices can get access to the Wi-Fi signal once the broadband router has been professionally installed and configured. 

How Should You Pick a Broadband Provider?

When looking at a broadband comparison of providers in your area, you’ll be able to see their maximum available speed. 

It depends on what the best broadband deals are as to how much you’ll pay for different speed levels (there isn’t just one-speed option). 

However, rest assured that all UK broadband providers offer Wi-Fi compatible routers, so connecting to the wireless is easy.

Certainly, you can find more information here from usave, which lists the best internet offers in your area to get connected quickly with the right package. 

Wi-Fi Frequency Options and Avoiding Frequency Interference

There is a concern with Wi-Fi that it can become too congested with neighbours using Wi-Fi too, and the signals overlapping.

It’s still the case that most Wi-Fi is used on the older 2.4 GHz frequency, which is far more congested than the newer 5 GHz one.

However, it’s only the most modern devices that support 5 GHz. This means while a broadband router might be capable of broadcasting in either frequency (but not both at the same time), some devices in your home won’t find that signal. 

Therefore, currently, most routers are still set to broadcast at 2.4 GHz. To avoid interference, it’s often possible to change the channel being used on the router. This might get around any local interference slowing down the speed.

It’s a setting on the router that’s easy to change once logged in via a web browser. However, this is rarely needed. 

As to whether WLAN or Wi-Fi is the best, the answer is moot. Because a WLAN is only a locally based wireless network, it may or may not utilise the Wi-Fi standard.

It’s more convenient if it does because other devices can connect to it, but it’s not an absolute requirement.

Nevertheless, UK broadband providers offer Wi-Fi ready routers for residential users, so it’s not a concern.