Let me ask you a question: what does the name “Wi-Fi” mean? Considering how ubiquitous Wi-Fi connections are, this should be an easy question to answer; especially if you work in the tech industry.
If your answer is “wireless fidelity”, this is actually incorrect, despite what you’ve been led to believe, so keep guessing. Could it be “wireless fiber”? “Desiring Dragon”?
To give up? In fact, it’s a trick question: the name means nothing.
One old interview from 2005 (opens in new tab) with one of the founding members of the Wi-Fi Alliance has been making the rounds again and retelling the origin story of Wi-Fi. According to founding member Phil Belanger, the name was chosen from a group of ten names that were created by consultancy Interbrand.
Wi-Fi’s original name was “IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence” and the Alliance knew that name could not be used. They needed something more attractive if the standard was to be widely adopted, so “Wi-Fi” was chosen.
mistakes were made
If you honestly thought Wi-Fi meant “wireless fidelity”, blame the Wi-Fi Alliance for that. Belanger says that some of his colleagues felt the need to explain what “Wi-Fi” meant, as they apparently couldn’t grasp the fact that the name was just marketing gibberish designed to draw people in. This led the Alliance to create the slogan “The Standard for Wireless Fidelity”.
Belanger admits that “this was a mistake and only served to confuse people…” He called it “a clumsy attempt to find two words that match Wi and Fi”. This mistake was compounded when the Alliance printed caps and shirts with the slogan. The slogan was so successful that you even had people in US military calls it “wireless fidelity” (opens in new tab).
And if you stop to think about it, that name doesn’t make any sense either. Fidelity, in a technical sense, refers to how well a device can reproduce a signal. High-fidelity (hi-fi) TVs, for example, can reproduce images that can be mistaken for reality. But Wi-Fi doesn’t do that; it’s just a way to connect devices to each other. You are not playing anything.
But why let facts get in the way of a popular misconception? In the nearly two decades since then, people have adopted the imprecise meaning, and if you ask them, they would probably argue vigorously that Wi-Fi stands for “wireless fidelity.” Belanger, however, urges people to do their part and “forget about the slogan” and its false meaning.
Perhaps it is better to focus less on the meaning of the term than on what the technology means to us.
Wi-Fi is an integral part of society and it’s hard to imagine life without it. How many times have we asked a friend what their Wi-Fi password is when you go to their house for the first time? And many of us get frustrated when the Wi-Fi suddenly goes out.
If you experience connection drops frequently, we recommend getting WiFi extenders. Also known as boosters, these devices push the signal beyond its normal range. You should also try to get a high quality router to better handle multiple devices that demand a large part of the bandwidth.
As for the future, several companies are working hard to establish the Wi-Fi 7 standard. Qualcomm still claims its Wi-Fi 7 compatible chip will be able to reach speeds of 5.8 Gbps and latency below 2 milliseconds. And Mediatek promises its Wi-Fi 7 platform will reach speeds 100 times faster than the current UK broadband standard.