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What Is Wi-Fi Connectivity? How It Works, How to Optimize It

Wi-Fi connectivity refers to the overall ability of devices to connect to the Wi-Fi network and access resources. This includes not just the strength of the Wi-Fi signal, but also backend elements like DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server performance, WAN (Wide Area Network) link reliability, and more.

For enterprises, ensuring reliable connectivity means regular network monitoring, redundancy in critical components, and proactive troubleshooting.

In this article, we take a close look at Wi-Fi connectivity. Here’s what we cover:

Want to learn how enterprises can address Wi-Fi connectivity issues at scale? Chat with our sales team!

What Is Wi-Fi Connectivity?

As touched on above, Wi-Fi connectivity refers to the ability of devices to connect wirelessly to a local area network (LAN) using the IEEE 802.11 family of Wi-Fi standards. This technology allows devices like smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other wireless-enabled devices to exchange data with a network and access the internet without the need for physical cables.

In the following sections we dive a little deeper, focusing on how Wi-Fi connectivity works and how enterprises benefit from optimizing connectivity on their network.

How Does Wi-Fi Connectivity Work?

Put plainly, Wi-Fi connectivity works by transmitting data wirelessly between devices and wireless access points (WAP or AP) and routers using radio waves.

Wi-Fi connectivity relies on standards developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, which define the technical specifications for wireless communication. In particular, the IEEE 802.11 standards include connectivity elements such as frequency bands, modulation techniques, and security protocols, ensuring interoperability among Wi-Fi-enabled devices from different manufacturers.

The Wi-Fi connectivity process involves several key steps:

  1. Device Scanning and Discovery
  2. Authentication and Association
  3. IP Address Assignment (DHCP)
  4. Data Transmission
  5. Encryption and Security
  6. Wireless Access Point and Routing
  7. Connection Management
  8. Wide Area Network (WAN) Link

Let’s dive into each of these.

1. Device Scanning and Discovery

Connectivity begins with the scanning and discovery process. This is when Wi-Fi-enabled devices, such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets, search for available wireless networks in close enough proximity to establish a connection. The device identifies and lists the networks within range, showing their Service Set Identifiers (SSIDs).

2. Authentication and Association

Next, the user, or in some cases the automated network selection function, selects a Wi-Fi network to connect to and provides any necessary credentials for authentication. The device and the wireless access point then authenticate one another to ensure that the device is authorized to connect to the network. Once authenticated, the device “associates” with the access point and establishes a connection.

3. IP Address Assignment (DHCP)

From here, the DHCP automatically assigns an IP address to the connected device. This IP address allows the device to communicate within the local network and access the internet.

4. Data Transmission

Once connected, the device can send and receive data over the Wi-Fi network. To facilitate the movement of data over a network, the data is broken into packets and transmitted via radio waves in the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, or 6 GHz frequency bands, depending on the Wi-Fi standard and device capabilities.

5. Encryption and Security

To secure wireless communications, Wi-Fi networks use encryption protocols like WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) or WPA3. These protocols encrypt the data, preventing unauthorized access or eavesdropping on the transmitted information.

6. Wireless Access Point and Routing

Throughout the connection process, the WAP acts as a bridge between the wired network and the wireless devices that are connected to it. WAPs forward data between connected devices and may also provide routing functions to enable internet access.

7. Connection Management

In addition, once a connection is established, devices and access points continuously manage them to ensure stability and optimal performance. If a device moves out of range of one access point, it may automatically switch to a closer one for continuous connectivity. This practice is called Wi-Fi roaming.

8. Wide Area Network (WAN) Link

Finally, for internet access, the local Wi-Fi network is typically connected to a router that serves as the gateway to the wider internet. The router manages the connection between the local network and the internet service provider (ISP).

Looking for tools to help you monitor and optimize Wi-Fi connectivity at all stages? Speak to our Wi-Fi optimization experts!

How Enterprises Benefit by Optimizing Wi-Fi Connectivity

Now, it goes without saying that having access to high-quality, fast, reliable Wi-Fi is critical to enterprise performance. By investing in Wi-Fi connectivity optimization solutions, enterprises can create more efficient, secure, and adaptable networks that align with the demands of their particular business operations. These improvements contribute to enhanced productivity, efficiency, and user experience across teams.

Here are several ways in which enterprises can benefit by optimizing Wi-Fi connectivity:

  1. Increased Productivity and Improved User Experience
  2. Support for Mobile Devices and the Internet of Things (IoT)
  3. Enhanced Collaboration
  4. Secure Connectivity
  5. Scalability

Let’s begin with…

1. Increased Productivity and Improved User Experience

Reliable and fast Wi-Fi connections enable employees to access and share information quickly. This in turn contributes to more efficient collaboration, file sharing, and real-time communication within the organization. Likewise, faster download and upload speeds provide better connectivity experiences for employees, customers, and guests.

2. Support for Mobile Devices and the Internet of Things (IoT)

Mobile devices are essential for completing work-related tasks. Optimized Wi-Fi ensures that these devices can connect seamlessly, allowing employees to work from various locations with limited quality fluctuations and optimal roaming.

Similarly, the Internet of Things (IoT) is playing an increasingly important role in enterprise environments. A well-optimized Wi-Fi network can support and manage the growing number of IoT devices and ensure an efficient distribution of network resources.

3. Enhanced Collaboration

Video conferencing, VoIP calls, and collaborative tools heavily depend on a stable and high-speed Wi-Fi connection. Optimizing Wi-Fi ensures a smooth experience during virtual meetings and collaborative work.

4. Secure Connectivity

Another element of Wi-Fi connectivity optimization is the implementation of robust security measures, such as WPA3 encryption and secure authentication protocols. These practices protect sensitive data from unauthorized access, securing enterprises against potentially disastrous security breaches and the associated reputational harm.

5. Scalability

As enterprises grow, the demand for Wi-Fi connectivity also increases. Optimized connectivity practices are easier to scale when accommodating additional users, devices, and applications becomes more urgent. In addition, they enable this growth, as well as the associated business transformations, without undue sacrifices to performance.

To learn more about optimizing Wi-Fi connectivity in complex enterprise environments, chat with our experts!

How to Improve Wi-Fi Connectivity on Your Network

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s address the topic at hand: how you can address interference on your network and provide top notch connectivity experiences for your end users.

In this section we’ll focus on the following:

  • Key Aspects of Wi-Fi Connectivity
  • How to Measure, Monitor, and Optimize Wi-Fi Connectivity

Key Aspects of Wi-Fi Connectivity

First up, in order to create seamless Wi-Fi connectivity experiences, you need to familiarize yourself with the various elements that contribute to the process.

In particular, you should focus on the following aspects of Wi-Fi connectivity:

  1. Wireless Access Points (WAPs): As noted above, WAPs are devices that enable wireless communication between wireless networks and the Wi-Fi-enabled devices connecting to them. They provide a bridge between the wired and wireless networks, allowing devices to connect and communicate.
  2. Wi-Fi Standards: Wi-Fi operates based on various standards, such as 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac, and 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6). These standards define the specifications for data transmission, frequency bands, and other aspects of wireless communication.
  3. Security Protocols: Wi-Fi networks use security protocols like WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA2/WPA3 to encrypt data and secure wireless communication, preventing unauthorized access.
  4. Authentication and Encryption: Wi-Fi networks often require users to enter a password or use other authentication methods to access the network. Encryption protocols like WPA3 provide secure data transmission over the wireless connection.
  5. Signal Strength: The strength of the Wi-Fi signal influences the quality and speed of the connection. Factors like distance from the access point, physical obstructions, and interference can affect signal strength.
  6. DHCP: DHCP is responsible for automatically assigning IP addresses to devices on the Wi-Fi network, simplifying the configuration process for users.
  7. WAN Link: In enterprise settings, the connection between the local Wi-Fi network and the wider internet is crucial. A reliable WAN link ensures that users can access online resources seamlessly.

Once you understand these elements and how they impact Wi-Fi connectivity, you’ll need to take steps to measure their performance over time and optimize their functionality for continuous improvement.

How to Measure, Monitor, and Optimize Wi-Fi Connectivity

This takes us to the 7SIGNAL Wi-Fi monitoring platform. With its unique combination of hardware and software elements, you’ll be able to monitor connectivity from the outside in. 

The 7SIGNAL platform leverages Wi-Fi sensors to gain visibility into WLAN performance. These sensors enable you to measure traffic to various APs and identify areas in your network where performance is lagging and the potential causes.

In addition, the 7SIGNAL platform leverages a SaaS application, which is installed on end-user devices (Windows, Android, MacOS, Linux, GoogleTV, iGEL) and used to enhance digital experiences from the client perspective. This means you’ll have insight into how various manufacturers, software versions, adapters, drivers, and other specifications perform on your network.

Finally, 7SIGNAL’s performance monitoring dashboards enable you to observe and visualize everything in one place. This will help you catch issues in real time, prioritize how you address them, and reduce MTTR (mean time to resolve). 

By providing a comprehensive health overview and allowing deep dives into specific issues, 7SIGNAL ensures that network engineers and IT teams are always a step ahead in ensuring optimal Wi-Fi performance. By complementing WLAN vendors and offering a distinctive outside-in perspective, 7SIGNAL is setting new standards in Wi-Fi network performance and user experience optimization.

To learn more, set up a meeting with our team!

Learn More From the 7SIGNAL Experts

We’re always here to answer your Wi-Fi questions at 7SIGNAL. Our enterprise Wi-Fi optimization platform helps you plan and execute a healthier network. Contact us to learn more.

7SIGNAL® is the leader in enterprise Wi-Fi optimization, providing insight into wireless networks and control over Wi-Fi performance so businesses and organizations can thrive. Our cloud-based platform continually tests and measures Wi-Fi performance at the edges of the network, enabling fast solutions to digital experience issues and stronger connections for mission-critical users, devices, and applications. Learn more at www.7signal.com.