Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Ashley from Dallas, TX. Ashley Wonders, “How does wifi work?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Ashley!

How many times have you used the Internet today? Count every time you’ve used a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Add to that any television shows or movies you’ve streamed. We bet you’ve lost count!

Here at Wonderopolis, the Internet is part of our everyday lives. However, it wasn’t always that way. Developers created WiFi in the early 1990s, but it wasn’t available in homes until 1999. After that, it became widespread in schools and businesses. Today, many people consider WiFi a necessity.

Most people use WiFi daily, but many of us don’t know how it works. It’s less complicated than you might think. Have you ever used a walkie-talkie or a cell phone? Like these devices, WiFi uses radio waves to send information. 

Don’t worry, you won’t hurt your home’s WiFi connection by using your walkie-talkie! That’s because the two use different frequencies to avoid getting in each other’s way. Frequency is the speed of radio waves that a device uses. 

We measure frequency in Hertz (Hz), just like we measure distance in miles. Each Hertz is one radio wave per second. A Megahertz (MHz) is one million Hertz, and a Gigahertz (GHz) is one billion Hertz. Higher frequencies send more data per second, so devices use different frequencies based on the amount of data they need to send. 

For example, walkie-talkies work at the frequency 462 MHz. Most cell phones use 800 MHz. Your home WiFi router is on either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz, meaning 2.4 or 5 BILLION waves per second. That’s fast!

So how does WiFi bring you to Wonderopolis? When you tell your computer where you want to go, it sends that information to a router using its assigned frequency. The router then finds the Wonderopolis website and sends it back to your computer. This happens each time you click on a new Wonder!

Thanks to WiFi, information flies at billions of waves per second. Still, developers are making new improvements to WiFi daily. What will be the next big break in Internet technology?

Standards: NGSS.PS4.A, NGSS.PS4.C, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is for all you citizens of Planet Earth!