How Does a Wifi Hotspot or Wireless Internet Access Work?

By Aaron Wardell


Wireless Internet and Wi-Fi Hotspots are similar in that they both send out radio signals from a central location that are read by nearby computers. It is an extremely useful feature that allows large numbers of users to connect to and enjoy the Internet.

Where They're Used

Wireless technology is commonly found in offices, homes and business that offer Internet to their customers, like coffee shops. Businesses can reduce the use of cables while maintaining security. Homes can offer Internet access to friends and family, and businesses can give or sell access to the Internet to attract new customers and increase existing customers' satisfaction. Wi-Fi Hotspots allow customers, commonly through cell phone companies, to access preexisting wireless networks at handy locations, like bookstores.

How It Works

Wireless routers are at the heart of every wireless Internet setup. They usually connect directly to the Internet's source (an ethernet port, cable or DSL modem) and convert the digital signals into high-frequency radio signals. This works like a short-range radio station, allowing computers with network cards to detect them if they're in range. If a computer decides to join, the user's network card sends its own radio signals to the router, establishes a connection, is granted a specific "address" and gains access to the Internet. If a network is secured, a password will usually be required and subsequent communications will be encrypted. If not, anyone can join. A network administrator can control security and many other settings through the router's setup menu.