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WLAN vs WiFi: A Comprehensive Guide to Wireless Local Area Networks

WLAN vs WiFi: A Comprehensive Guide to Wireless Local Area Networks

WLAN or WiFi was one of the first wireless LAN connection technologies, and is still one of the most widely used today. Find out everything you need to know about it, and its use in Data Science!

These days, wireless connectivity is as much a part of everyday life as running water or electricity. But this wasn’t always the case.

Until the 1990s, local area networks were mainly based on wired network technologies such as Ethernet, created in the 1970s by Xerox Corporation.

However, these wired connections had limitations in terms of mobility and flexibility. Users were limited by the length of the cables, and generally confined to a restricted physical space to access the network.

In 1997, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) changed all that and ushered in a new era with a technology that is still essential today: WLAN, also known as WiFi.

What is WLAN?

Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) is a technology that allows devices to be connected wirelessly to a local network.

Unlike wired connections, WLAN uses radio waves to transmit data between devices and the network. They establish communication and transmit data between the connected devices and the network.

This is what allows users to access the Internet and share files, while moving freely without being restricted by cables.

When and how was the WLAN standard created?

The 802.11 standard of 1997 enabled data transmission at relatively low speeds, but laid the foundations for what was to become the modern WLAN. Over the following years, various standards were developed in succession to improve performance and functionality.

In 1999, 802.11a made it possible to achieve transmission speeds of up to 54 mbps in the 5GHz frequency band.

However, the 802.11b standard operating in the 2.4 GHz frequency band is compatible with a wider variety of devices. However, its transmission speed is limited to 11 Mbps.

A little later, in 2003, its 802.11g evolution made it possible to reach 54 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band. Then, in 2009, 802.11n, also known as WiFi 4, exceeded the 600 Mbps mark while increasing the range.

The 802.11ac or WiFi 5 standard was launched in 2013. It operates exclusively in the 5GHz frequency band and can reach speeds of several gigabits per second.

Finally, the latest standard is 802.11ax or WiFi 6, which offers a significant increase in network capacity, better management of simultaneous connections and improved energy efficiency. Its maximum speed exceeds 10Gbps.

Little by little, WLAN has become increasingly popular in homes, businesses and public places. It has also revolutionised the technology industry, enabling devices such as laptops and smartphones to connect wirelessly.

As a result, it has made a major contribution to the rise of the internet and always-on connectivity. The story is only just beginning, however, with WiFi 7 expected by the end of 2023, with a maximum speed of 46Gbps!

Advantages and uses of WLAN

WLAN has considerably improved the way we work, communicate and access information. It can be used in many ways.

At home, it has become essential for enjoying high-speed wireless Internet connectivity. Almost all of us use it for file sharing, multimedia streaming or communication via messaging applications or video calls.

Similarly, within companies, WLAN networks are widely used to enable employees to benefit from a wireless connection. This allows greater flexibility in the choice of work location, facilitates online meetings and improves collaboration between teams.

In public places such as cafés, airports, hotels and shopping centres, WiFi hotspots are becoming increasingly common. They allow users to connect to the internet for free or for a fee, even when they’re on the move.

Compared with other wired or wireless connectivity technologies, the main advantage of WLAN is its mobility, as it allows you to connect to the Internet without being tied up by cables over a wide coverage area.

It is also possible to extend a WLAN network to cover larger areas or support a greater number of users simply by adding additional access points.

Another highlight is the support for multiple devices connected simultaneously to a single WLAN access point. These networks are also relatively easy to install and configure, making them accessible to non-technical users. Value for money also contributes to their widespread and accessible adoption.

Cybersecurity, the weak point of WLAN?

Unfortunately, WLANs also present potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities. It is vulnerable to brute force attacks, data interception and middle-man attacks.

To protect WLAN networks, appropriate security measures are essential. This includes the use of security protocols such as WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and WPA (WiFi Protected Access), WPA2 or the latest standard WPA 3.

Similarly, users must use strong passwords, update their equipment regularly and configure firewalls to prevent unauthorised access.

Why is WLAN so important in Data Science?

In the field of Data Science, WLAN is commonly used to collect, transfer and analyse data. WLAN-connected devices such as sensors, IoT (Internet of Things) devices and mobile devices continually generate data.

This may include information about users, behaviour, performance or environmental conditions.

WLAN facilitates the collection of this data by providing wireless connectivity for the devices that generate it, providing the wireless connectivity required to connect to a local network and facilitate the collection of large amounts of data in real time.

The wireless network then enables this freshly collected data to be transferred quickly and efficiently to servers or processing and storage platforms. This ensures that the data is available for further analysis and exploration.

Once the data has been transferred to the servers, Data Science professionals can use data analysis techniques to extract actionable information, which can include data mining, data visualisation, statistical modelling, machine learning and other advanced methods.

Data science can also be used to optimise WLAN networks themselves. By analysing performance data, it is possible to identify bottlenecks, predict potential failures and choose the best network configuration to improve quality of service for users.

Conclusion: WLAN, a wireless network that changed the world

By making it possible to connect to the Internet wirelessly, WLAN has made a major contribution to extending connectivity to mobile devices and other connected objects.

It is an essential technology for data transfer, and many Data Scientists use it on a daily basis.

To learn all about WLAN and other network technologies, you can choose DataScientest. Our various training courses will enable you to acquire all the skills required to become a Data Analyst, Data Enginner, Data Scientist or Data Product Manager.

You will also learn about the Python language, data analysis and Machine Learning techniques, DataViz, databases and Business Intelligence tools such as Power BI or Tableau.

All our courses can be completed remotely, and lead to certification issued by our partner MINES Paris Executive Education. Discover DataScientest now!

You know all about WLAN. For more information on the same subject, check out our complete dossier on Cloud Computing.

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