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Definition: Wi-Fi terminology


The term Wi-Fi is often used incorrectly to imply the "only" means of connecting computers to the Internet. It has almost become a synonym for transmission to the Internet. However, Wi-Fi is only one of three common methods for connecting.

Wi-Fi is required for tablets and stand-alone virtual assistants such as Alexa (see Amazon Echo). However, home users with a single computer and no mobile devices can connect their computer directly to their router via an Ethernet cable.

Smartphones can connect to the Internet via their cellular service without any need for Wi-Fi (see carrier data plans). Tablets with built-in cellular capability can also connect to the Internet.

Laptop computers come with both wired (Ethernet) and wireless (Wi-Fi) connectivity, and either one can be used. Laptops can also be fitted with cellular connectivity and used anywhere there is cellular service with no need for Wi-Fi or Ethernet (see Wi-Fi vs. cellular). See Wi-Fi and Ethernet.