Wi-Fi (short for "wireless fidelity") is a term for certain types of wireless local area network (WLAN) that use specifications in the 802.11 family. The term Wi-Fi was created by an organization called the Wi-Fi Alliance, which oversees tests that certify product interoperability. A product that passes the alliance tests is given the label "Wi-Fi certified" (a registered trademark).
Originally, Wi-Fi certification was applicable only to products using the 802.11b standard. Today, Wi-Fi can apply to products that use any 802.11 standard. The 802.11 specifications are part of an evolving set of wireless network standards known as the 802.11 family. The particular specification under which a Wi-Fi network operates is called the "flavor" of the network. Wi-Fi has gained acceptance in many businesses, agencies, schools, and homes as an alternative to a wired LAN. Many airports, hotels, and fast-food facilities offer public access to Wi-Fi networks. These locations are known as hot spots. Many charge a daily or hourly rate for access, but some are free. An interconnected area of hot spots and network access points is known as a hot zone.
Unless adequately protected, a Wi-Fi network can be susceptible to access by unauthorized users who use the access as a free Internet connection. The activity of locating and exploiting security-exposed wireless LANs is called war driving. An identifying iconography, called war chalking, has evolved. Any entity that has a wireless LAN should use security safeguards such as the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption standard, the more recent Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), or a virtual private network (VPN).
WiMax, on the other hand, is a wireless industry coalition whose members organized to advance IEEE 802.16 standards for broadband wireless access (BWA) networks. WiMax 802.16 technology is expected to enable multimedia applications with wireless connection and, with a range of up to 30 miles, enable networks to have a wireless last mile solution.
WiMax was formed in April 2001, in preparation for the original 802.16 specification published in December of that year. According to the WiMax forum, the group's aim is to promote and certify compatibility and interoperability of devices based on the 802.16 specification, and to develop such devices for the marketplace. Members of the organization include Airspan, Alvarion, Analog Devices, Aperto Networks, Ensemble Communications, Fujitsu, Intel, Nokia, OFDM Forum, Proxim, and Wi-LAN.
To learn more about these and other wireless technologies, visit our sister site SearchMobileComputing.com
Dig Deeper on Network protocols and standards
Related Q&A from Amy Kucharik
While a bridge and router share some similarities, the difference between a bridge and router is significant, including how the devices interpret ... Continue Reading
Learn what network latency is in this expert response. Continue Reading
What is the difference between online backup and offline backup? Find out from SearchNetworking.com's networking help desk expert, Amy Kucharik. Continue Reading