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Broadband vs WiFi: What's the Difference?

In earlier years, people could only access the internet through modems and dial-ups. Thanks to technological advances, people are now able to access internet sites at faster speeds and download or upload large amounts of data thanks to broadband.

Only recently has WiFi been able to match most of what broadband can do. There is also a lot of misconceptions out there, that your Internet connection, is the same as your WiFi signal.

They are two separate things.

Your internet connection reliability and speeds are dependant on your ISP provider. Whereas your WiFi signal strength comes from your wireless router in your own home.

But really is the difference between these two terms? Continue reading and we'll walk you through everything you need to know about broadband vs wifi.

What Is Broadband Internet?

Broadband is actually a term used in electronics engineering. And it refers to wide bandwidth data transmission.

When most people talk about broadband, they tend to refer to the high-speed signal that is always on and is delivered via radio signals, phone lines, optical fiber, and cable lines.

Imagine that the internet is data that's getting transmitted between two devices. Broadband, in this case, describes the pathway on which that data is moving.

It's important to point out that there are all types of roads that this data can travel upon. These include DSL, wireless, satellite broadband, cable, fiber optic, and fixed wireless. Each of these options has its own advantages and drawbacks.

A good thing to know is that pretty much all internet connections are broadband connections. Cable and DSL are similar in terms of their download and upload speeds.

Where Does WiFi Fit In?

When people refer to WiFi, they are usually talking about one of two things. They're either referring to wireless internet delivery or internet access in the home or office.

In either of these cases, WiFi is a method of using radio waves to receive and send information.

Wifi is the means by which people can access broadband internet without needing a physical connection.

This is an important distinction to make. WiFi and broadband are not two mutually exclusive ways of accessing the internet. Instead, WiFi can be used to take advantage of broadband.

Wifi is able to give people access to broadband internet without needing a wired connection. In the old days, you needed to use physical cables to connect to a network. That's no longer necessary

Today, your router - or a combination of a modem and a router - enables your devices to communicate with other devices in the network by utilizing a short-range wireless connection.

To put it another way, WiFi is how you're able to access the internet that your internet service provider delivers to your devices without a physical cable.

WiFi Is Different from the Internet

Many people get confused when they see that their devices are connected to a WiFi network yet they still don't have access to the internet.

This is because WiFi isn't reliant on the internet. Devices that are on a business or home network can talk with each other even when an internet connection isn't available.

This explains why you may be troubleshooting an issue on your phone and see that you're clearly connected to the WiFi but can't use the internet. You can compare the situation to a television that's tuned to the right channel but there's no broadcast to be delivered.

The Difference Between WiFi and Mobile Broadband

Now, this may sound to you like two competing methods of accessing the internet. However, that's not the case.

WiFi, as we discussed, enables you to access the internet. Mobile broadband, however, refers to an internet service that's entirely portable. It's delivered to your devices via a cellular network and can be accessed anywhere that has a signal.

3G coverage is usually enough to cover streaming although 4G will give you the fastest download speeds. 5G networks will be even faster when they arrive in the not too distant future.

You may be asking yourself, why aren't people just using mobile broadband all the time then? Well, many people are simply relying on mobile broadband thanks to more available plans that offer unlimited data.

There are two problems that these people may run into though.

First, mobile networks are built to sacrifice speed and latency in locations that have coverage issues. Depending on where you live, reliable coverage may be hard to come by.

Second, mobile broadband networks work best when used by many people who are only engaging in low bandwidth activity. When too many people are executing tasks that require a lot of bandwidth, the network's speed could suffer.

What's Fixed Wireless?

A fairly new type of wireless broadband access, fixed wireless utilizes transmission towers (also known as ground stations) instead of cellular networks. 

The benefits of fixed wireless are that it's faster than 4G and doesn't suffer from the same kind of network latency problems that can plague satellite broadband.

Unfortunately, subscribers of fixed wireless need to install special transceivers so that their devices can communicate with the ground stations. And for fixed wireless to work, users need to be within a line of sight of these towers.

The Importance of Knowing the Difference in Broadband Vs WiFi

By knowing the differences in broadband vs WiFi, you can better understand how your internet works and make more informed decisions about it.