Key Differences Between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

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This article will tell you what are the key differences between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies.
The Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies are not new to us anymore. However, there still exists a confusion about these technologies, especially in the minds of people who are not so tech-savvy. In this article, we are going to highlight some of the key differences between the two, which will help you understand these technologies better. We are also going to highlight some of the most important features of these technologies. So if you have a basic idea about them, this article will definitely add to your knowledge.

The article is intended to give you a basic understanding of these technologies and to help you in using them like a pro. Very little practice will be needed to use them correctly. These technologies have widespread popularity all over the world. Also, both these technologies are very basic, easy to use, and yet significant in the field of electronics and communication.

Now let's begin... We will start with the Bluetooth technology, then move towards Wi-Fi technology and finally have a look at the key differences between them. We will also give you a brief idea about tethering, which integrates the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies.
Bluetooth Technology
The Bluetooth technology was invented by Ericsson in 1994 and is managed by the SIG Group. This technology is basically used for transmission and reception of data between two devices in a close vicinity. It can be used for sharing data which exists in various formats. It uses UHF (Ultra High Frequency) radio waves in the ISM (Industrial, Scientific, and Medical) band for the trans-reception. The operating frequency is 2402 MHz to 2484 MHz. Sounds a bit complicated? Don't worry, we will simplify it for you.

Ideally, the proximity between the transmitting and receiving devices should not be more than 10 meters in the line of sight, in case of Bluetooth 3.0, and up to 240 meters in case of Bluetooth 5. The connectivity between the devices transmitting and receiving over Bluetooth may get affected by physical barriers and obstructions between them. So it is recommended that the devices should be close to each other, to ensure uninterrupted transmission of data. Also, data is transmitted over the channel, in the form of packets. So if some of the packets are lost, the transmission fails.

Sharing data between the two Bluetooth enabled devices is extremely easy. You have to simply turn on the Bluetooth on both the devices. Then you can select the files you want to share and click on the Bluetooth symbol. Then the receiver's device asks the receiver if they want to accept these files being sent. Once the receiver hits the yes button, data transmission begins. When data transmission is done, the sender gets a notification, which usually says, “Files sent” and the notification that the receiver gets is usually “Files received”. The sender and the receiver should not forget to switch off the Bluetooth once they are done with the file sharing.
Wi-Fi Technology
Wi-Fi, a broadly used term for this technology, stands for Wireless Fidelity. When the Internet was new to the world, people used LAN (Local Area Network) to share the internet connection with devices on the network, in a wired fashion. LAN involved creating physical connections between the modem and the computers. If the speed given by the internet is around 20 Mbps and there are 4 computers on the network (all 4 up and running), then the speed for each computer will be around 5 Mbps. If only 2 computers are up and running, out of 4, then each will get a speed of around 10 Mbps and so on. LAN is still not an outdated concept and is widely used, especially in factories and offices.

Then, the concept of switches evolved, wherein the switch acted like a central hub, and the modem and computers were plugged into this switch. This made the connections easier, however, the connections were still wired connections. Later, the revolutionary Wi-Fi technology emerged! The invention of Wi-Fi technology is a controversial topic. So let's not discuss it here. We will talk about what it does instead. It basically eliminates all the physical connections which existed in cases of LAN and switch and allows you to connect to the internet wirelessly.

So you can connect to the internet without having to worry about the bulky wires lying all over the place. Isn't that awesome? So you have simply a MODEM (Modulator-Demodulator) connected to a router and you can connect your devices to this router in a wireless fashion. Then what? Go online! The wireless technology operates on three frequencies: 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 60 GHz. Most routers have 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands. The latest 802.11ac has 60 GHz band for an increased speed. Most devices are compatible with the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands and hence, a 60 GHz band is obviously for the future technology.

The maximum range, which can be achieved by a Wi-Fi router is up to 105 feet. It varies for different routers available in the market. The connectivity of a Wi-Fi is also affected by structural constraints of the place where you are using this device, like in case of the Bluetooth. Nowadays, equipment allotted by a lot of ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to their customers, has a built-in MODEM and a router.
Tips for setting up a router:
    • Connect the router hardwired to the MODEM, a device provided by the internet service provider. Then connect the router hardwired to the main computer and start the main computer. Most routers these days come with a setup CD. You have to simply run this CD on your main computer.
    • If the setup fails after running the setup CD, try doing the setup manually by typing the address of the default gateway of your router in any browser and then hit enter. The default gateway for most routers is usually 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1. It is important to confirm the default gateway before entering it into the browser.
    • The setup page will open now. It will ask you for a username and a password. The username and password are both either “admin” or “administrator” in case of most routers. It is recommended that you change it after you are done with the setup of your router.
    • Next, follow the steps given in the user manual, for setting up the router manually. Do not forget to set up the security. Choose WPA2 or at least WPA network security standard, while setting up the security for your router.
    • With unsecured networks, it is possible for unauthorized people to access your network, use the internet and even cause damage to it. Note that this password is different from the one that you enter to open the setup page of the router. This password is for devices and users whom you allow a connection to your network.
    • Once you are done setting up the router, save these settings. Then try looking for the internet IP address tab on your setup page. If you see a number 0.0.0.0 beside it, something has gone wrong with the setup. If you see 4 different numbers separated by dots, your connection should be up and running.
    • After you are finished with the setup, you can disconnect the main computer (provided that it has wireless capability) from the router. It is recommended that you keep the main computer always connected to the router. With this, you can do the settings for your network at any time, without having to make the physical connections. Do not disconnect the router from the modem.
    • All other Wi-Fi capable devices such as iPads, tablets, smart-phones, laptops, gaming devices, etc. may connect to the router wirelessly now. Enjoy your favorite online games, music, movies, and the whole universe to explore on the internet!
    Note: These are approximate guidelines. For a detailed procedure to set up your network, read the user's manual carefully. You can always seek help from the technical support team of the manufacturer if you find it difficult setting it up yourself. Most manufacturers provide a first free technician's visit to set the router up for you.
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Difference Between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth can be used for sharing data (music, images, videos, etc.) between two Bluetooth enabled phones, laptops or even between phones and laptops. You can access a Bluetooth enabled printer and even speakers or headphones for your smartphone and laptop, in a wireless manner. Similarly, you can connect your Wi-Fi enabled phones and computers to the Wi-Fi network for sharing the internet connection and going online.
  • The standards and protocols used in the development of both these technologies vary entirely from one another.
  • Bluetooth can be used to share the data files between devices, whereas Wi-Fi is useful for sharing the internet connection between devices.
  • Bluetooth technology operates at an ISM frequency of 2.4 GHz, whereas Wi-Fi technology has three frequencies of operation: 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 60 GHz.
  • Bluetooth can support sharing only between two devices at any time, the sender and the receiver, whereas as many as 250 devices can be connected to the router. However, the actual number of devices that can be connected to a router varies with different models of routers available in the market.
  • The range of Bluetooth is approximately 10 to 240 meters, whereas that of routers is 45 to 100 meters (varies from device to device).
The concept of Tethering
Tethering, also called PAM (Phone As a Modem) is a technology which integrates the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies. In Tethering, the internet connection of a smartphone can be shared with computers and other smart-phones. Tethering is of three types:
  • Bluetooth tethering 
  • Wi-Fi tethering
  • USB tethering.
In Bluetooth tethering, the smartphone is paired with a laptop or another smartphone, using Bluetooth. The internet connection of the smartphone is then shared by another device.

In Wi-Fi tethering, a smartphone acts as a modem. The laptops or other smartphones, etc. can connect to it only for the purpose of getting internet access.

In USB tethering, drivers of the smartphone need to be installed on a laptop and then the laptop can be connected to the smartphone via USB. It can then share the phone's internet connection.

In other words, the smartphone sharing its internet connection acts as a portable hotspot for the devices connected to it in a wired or wireless fashion.
We have tried our best to elaborate the concepts of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies, and we hope that this article was helpful in gaining a better understanding of the two technologies. You can try sharing music, videos, e-books, etc. using Bluetooth technology or connect to your Wi-Fi, go online and download them. These technologies are very common and extremely easy to use. You simply need some basic practice and you can master these as you continue using them in your everyday life.
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