The ICT Lounge
 
Section 4.7:
Comparing Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
 

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are the two main ways that computers can communicate with each other wirelessly.

In this section we will discuss how each of these work as well as comparing them with each other.

Key Concepts of this section:
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Understand that both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth allow for the creation of wireless networks.
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Know how computers can use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to connect to a network.
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Be able to contrast and compare Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
Key Words:
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth.
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The two main technologies that computers can use to communicate wirelessly are listed below:
Examples:
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are the two main ways to connect to networks wirelessly.
Remember:
Wirelessly means to connect computers or devices together without using wires or cables.

 
We will look at how computers connect to networks using both bluetooth and Wi-Fi and compare the two.
Wi-Fi
 
What is Wi-Fi?
Examples:
Wi-Fi allows computers to communicate using radio waves.
Wi-Fi hotspots allow devices to share the same internet connection.
Wi-Fi signals have a range limit.
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Wi-Fi allows computers/devices to connect to each other wirelessly, without using cables or wires.

The computers communicate with each other by using signals that are broadcast using radio waves.

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In order to use Wi-Fi, you need to have access to the internet and a router.

Areas where computers/devices can access the internet using Wi-Fi are known as hotspots.

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Routers are commonly used to provide a hotspot for other computers to connect to the internet.

The router will be connected to the internet through an ISP (Internet Service Provider) and will transmit a wireless signal that wireless devices nearby can tap into.

This allows multiple devices to share the same internet connection.

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Routers can only broadcast the wireless signal over a limited distance. If a device is out of range, it will not be able to tap into the signal.

The range limit of a typical router is between 50m and 100m.

How do computers connect to a Wi-Fi network?
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In order to connect to a network using Wi-Fi you would need:
  • A computer or device
  • A wireless network interface card (Wi-Fi is built-in with many modern devices)
  • Access to a wireless hotspot (usually through a router).




Bluetooth
 
What is Bluetooth?
Examples:
Bluetooth networks are known as 'personal networks' because devices have to be close together in order to connect. (click to zoom)
 
When Bluetooth is switched on, your device will search for other Bluetooth devices to connect to.
Bluetooth hand-free headsets make driving much safer .
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Bluetooth is also known as a Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN).

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Bluetooth is a form of wireless technology that uses radio waves to transfer data over distances of between 1 and 100 metres.

Devices that have this technology contain one of three classes of Bluetooth:
  • Class 1 - Most powerful - can transmit data up to 100m
  • Class 2 - Most common - can transmit data up to 10m
  • Class 3 - Least powerful - can transmit data up to 1m.

How do computers connect to a Bluetooth network?
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In order to connect to a network using Bluetooth you would:
  • Need a computer or device with bluetooth technology
  • Turn bluetooth on using your device's settings
  • Let your device scan for other bluetooth devices in range
  • Send a request to the other bluetooth to 'pair' (join) with it
  • Once paired, you could share data between the devices (while in range).

Uses of Bluetooth:
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Bluetooth has a wide-range of uses. some of these are sumamrised in the table below:

Use input/output devices wirelessly
Devices like keyboards, mice, printers and speakers can be connected to a computer system without the need for messy wires.
(This can help prevent physical hazards like tripping and helps keep your workspace neat)

Sharing mobile phone data between devices
Data like contact numbers can easily be transfered from one phone to another.
(This is perfect if you get a new mobile phone and don't want to re-enter your contact information)

Connecting to hands-free headsets
Wireless headsets allow people to talk into their mobile phones whilst driving.
(This frees up their hands and allows them to concentrate on driving - much safer)
 

Comparing Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
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The table below compares and contrasts the similarities and differences between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth:

Examples:
Wi-Fi can transfer data much faster than Bluetooth.
 
Data sent over Wi-Fi is more secure than data sent over Bluetooth.
Bluetooth won't drain your device's battery as quickly as Wi-Fi will.
Bluetooth is not prone to signal interference.
Comparison
Wi-FI
Bluetooth
Data speeds
Data transfer speeds of up to 250Mpbs.
(Equivilant to downloading about six mp3 music tracks a second)
Data transfer speeds of up to 25Mpbs.
(Equivilant to downloading less than one mp3 music track a second)
Winner = Wi-Fi
Signal range
Range limit of up to 100m.
Most Bluetooth devices have a range limit of up to 10m.
Winner = Wi-Fi
Security
256-bit encryption used to protect transmitted data.
128-bit encryption used to protect transmitted data.
Winner = Wi-Fi
Power usage
Uses more power.
Uses less power.
Winner = Bluetooth
Signal reliabilty
Wi-Fi signal can be interupted by electrical equipment.
Bluetooth signal is not as prone to interuption.
Winner = Bluetooth
Max number of connected devices
Up to 255 devices per router. Up to 7 devices.
Winner = Wi-Fi

Activity!

Click the above task and answer the questions about
the differences between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

 

Please add your questions/comments below:
 

 

Links to Theory Units:
 
Links to Practical Units:
Section 11: File Management
Section 12: Images
Section 13: layout
Section 14: Styles
Section 15: Proofing
Section 16: Graphs and Charts
Section 17: Document Production
Section 18: Data Manipulation
Section 19: Presentations
Section 20: Data Analysis
Section 21: Website Authoring