Types of Wireless Connections

Types of Wireless Connections

A wireless connection is a transfer of data that does not use an electrical conductor to transmit information. Wireless connections typically use air as the medium for transmission between two or more points. Wireless connections can be achieved through the use of radio waves, infrared, or microwaves. The most common types of wireless connections use radio waves for signal transmission.


Wi-Fi is a radio wave data transfer connection that uses wireless network protocols based on the group of standards set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE. IEEE outlines technical standards for Wi-Fi communications in the IEEE 802.11. These technical standards include data rates, data rate configurations, range, modulation technology, radiofrequency, spatial streams, channel width, and the number of channels. The technical standards are further broken down into 802.11a, b, g, n, and ac divisions, which specify the specific protocols each one uses for communication. Devices such as wireless routers and wireless access points use these protocols to communicate with compatible receiving devices like laptops and tablets.


Bluetooth is a wireless connection designed for short-range connections, typically up to 30 feet, directly between two devices without the need for an intermediary such as a router. This direct connection is achieved through the use of low-power radio waves at the 2.4 GHz frequency. Bluetooth devices are directly paired, or connected, to one or more compatible devices. This pairing creates a trust relationship between the two devices that allows for the sharing of data such as audio. Bluetooth technology is available in numerous devices, including phones, computers, speakers, keyboards, and cars.


RFID, or radio frequency identification, uses radio waves to transmit information through electromagnetic induction from a static tag, such as a chip, to a reader. The reader is able to decipher the radio frequency emitted by the chip for identification. RFID is commonly used in inventory control, equipment tracking, and pet tagging.


Near field communication, or NFC, is an expansion of RFID technology. NFC, like the name suggests, relies on very close proximity to initiate a connection, typically under 10 centimeters. At least one NFC transmitter must be active for the connection to occur. An active device must have a power source and be capable of sending and receiving data. The second device can be active or passive. A passive device is only capable of transmitting data to an active device when it enters the electromagnetic field created by the active device. NFC technology is used in devices such as smartphones for touch-free payments and access cards for entry.

Zigbee and Z-Wave

Zigbee and Z-Wave are short-range wireless technologies designed for home area networks. Zigbee is an open-source wireless standard designed to work in a mesh wireless network for communication between connections, or nodes, and the main hub, or master node. Z-Wave functions much like Zigbee, but it is proprietary rather than open-source. Zigbee and Z-Wave are commonly used in IoT devices and smart homes to monitor and transmit data for collection analysis by the master node.

The Future of Wireless Connections

Wireless connections continue to develop and evolve as new technologies arise. IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standards will evolve as the demand for faster transmission of data increases. Bluetooth, NFC, and mesh networks will also continue to develop and refine with the increasing demand for convenience and connectivity. To learn more about wireless networking protocols, check out our CompTIA A+ study guides. If you’re ready to test your knowledge, try our practice tests and flashcards.

Types of Wireless Connections

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