Wireless routers are commonly found in homes -- they're the hardware devices that Internet service providers use to connect you to their cable or xDSL Internet network. A wireless router, also called a Wi-Fi router, combines the networking functions of a wireless access point and a router.
A router connects local networks to other local networks or to the Internet. A wireless access point connects devices to the network wirelessly, using radio frequencies in the 900 MHz and 2.4, 3.6, 5, and 60 GHz frequency bands. The latest wireless routers are based on the IEEE 802.11ac Wave 2 standard, often shortened to Wave 2.
A wireless router is sometimes referred to as a WLAN (wireless local area network) device. A wireless network is also called a Wi-Fi network.
Wi-Fi has become synonymous with wireless connectivity. A Wi-Fi hotspot is a location where you can use your Wi-Fi compatible devices to connect to the Internet.
But despite endless speculation, the term itself is meaningless. It's not an abbreviation or a standard.
Wi-Fi is a brand name created by marketing firm Interbrand for the founding member of the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (now called the Wi-Fi Alliance). The name was meant for use as an interoperability seal and for marketing efforts.
The IEEE 802.11 standard defines the protocols that enable communications with current wireless devices, including wireless routers and wireless access points.
The most common way for users to connect to the Internet wirelessly is with a desktop wireless (Wi-Fi) router. Usually these routers look like small boxes with several short antennas to help broadcast signal throughout a home or an office. The farther a user is from the Wi-Fi router, the weaker the signal is. So there are usually multiple wireless routers placed throughout the workspace, in an array allowing for extended Internet coverage.
Mobile hotspot is a common feature on smartphones with both tethered and untethered connections. When you make your phone a mobile hotspot, you share your wireless network connection with other devices so that they can access the Internet too.
A portable Wi-Fi hotspot is a type of mobile hotspot. It's a small device supported by cellular carriers that broadcast a 3G or 4G signal that multiple devices can share wirelessly. Similar to a cell phone, the portable hotspot's monthly cost is based on the data plan you select. A portable Wi-Fi hotspot is a more reliable way to access the Internet than public Wi-Fi hotspots.