Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Wi-Fi and Hotspot

Both Wi-Fi and hotspot are the general terms often used in synonymous with access to the internet, but they are very different. Wi-Fi is a wireless network technology that uses radio frequency waves to connect mobile devices to the internet without any actual cables, whereas hotspot refers to physical location typically public places served by an access point used to connect devices to one another using Wi-Fi. Let’s take a look at some basic differences between the two in detail.

What is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi is a wireless communication technology that uses radio frequency waves to connect mobile devices to the internet and to allow communication between them without using actual cables. It’s like a wireless local area network that transmits and receives radio waves within devices based on IEEE 802.11 network standards. Wi-Fi operates on the traditional 2.4 GHz radio frequency band to connect devices within a fixed range. It is one of the most popular means of wireless communication and the best example of Wi-Fi is your home network. The router receives the signal coming from outside the network like your ISP and transmits it back to your mobile devices such as mobile or laptop.

What is Hotspot?

Hotspot is nothing but a physical location like a wireless access point that provides internet access to mobile devices typically using Wi-Fi. It allows devices to communicate with each other via a wireless local area network that creates a portable hotspot using a modem or wireless router that is connected to an ISP. The term hotspot is synonymous with wireless internet access. An access point is nothing but a networking device that obtains internet access via Wi-Fi. In simple terms, hotspots refer to physical locations typically public places like cafes, hotels, or airports where users can access internet wirelessly.

Difference between Wi-Fi and Hotspot


Both Wi-Fi and hotspot are general terms used in conjunction with wireless internet access meaning they are the means of providing internet wirelessly, but they do it very differently. Wi-Fi is a wireless communication technology that allows you to build a wireless network based on Wi-Fi specifications and principles to gain seamless internet access. Hotspot, on the other hand, is a wireless access point, sort of like a physical location that provides internet access via wireless local area networks (WLAN).


Wi-Fi is a wireless networking protocol that uses radio waves to provide network access to mobile devices based on the IEEE 802.11 standards. Like network cables, Wi-Fi is a wireless means to connect devices on a local area network. It’s more like a wireless local area network used to connect devices together without the cables. Hotspot refers to wireless access points that provides internet access from a physical location typically using the Wi-Fi.


Wi-Fi is like a closed access network where the owner of the network is in total control meaning he or she can choose who can or cannot access his or her Wi-Fi network. The owner can either change the Wi-Fi network or the password or even limit access to the network by controlling the number of clients that are connected to the network. They can even choose to turn the Wi-Fi router off to close access to the network. Hotspot venues are mostly airports, hotels, cafes, or streets, which are mostly free courtesy of the service providers.


Wi-Fi routers operate on the traditional 2.4 GHz radio frequency band to connect devices that usually have a limited range. The range is limited by the transmission antennae, or the location it’s in or the environment. A typical indoor Wi-Fi setup can reach up to 32 meters, whereas outdoor point-to-point system can be extended up to a few kilometers within stations. Wi-Fi signals can also be extended with the help of Wi-Fi range extender, which is just another device with an IP address. Hotspot signals can be accessed in the range of 33 ft.


Wireless networks, especially public Wi-Fi networks are more vulnerable to hacking because you’re not the only one connected to the network. Generally, the breach is highly unlikely to affect the security of the ones connected to the network that is protected with the WPA2 encryption. As much convenient as public Wi-Fi is, yet there are risks. Hotspots are physical locations and almost anybody can access the internet making it a great spot for potential cyber attacks. Using a VPN might be a great way to stay safe when using a hotspot.

Wi-Fi vs. Hotspot: Comparison Chart

Summary of difference between Wi-Fi and Hotspot

Wi-Fi is a wireless networking technology used to connect devices on a local area network but without using any actual cables. Rather than using network cables, Wi-Fi uses radio frequency waves to connect to the internet or to facilitate wireless communication between devices within a particular area. It’s a general term used to describe a set of networking protocols based on the IEEE 802.11 standards to provide high-speed internet access. Hotspots, on the other hand, are access points typically in public places that provide wireless internet access to mobile devices typically using Wi-Fi technology. Both are the means of wireless communication but they do it very differently.

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  1. Hello,

    I tried to mirror my tablet on the fire tv stick via the hotspot activated on my mobile phone linked to the mobile net. That doesn’t work. Is this normal / is there a solution?

    Many thanks and best regards,


  2. If that’s the case then why do apps (HP printer app) not recognize my Hotspot as WiFi when bluetooth can see the devices? I suggest that your article doesn’t go far enough. In this instance, the difference is so huge that I cannot agree with your assessment of these two terms being synonymous with each other. One starts out as an airwave frequency (2.5 GHz) and is transmitted to ISP, typically a cable company, along a physical cable (“analog”), while the other signal hits a celltower and gets converted at the telephony ISP (telco) digitally. So when I try to connect my printer to my phone, its looking for an IP address and not an RF. I guess, I’m not even sure. Maybe the app developers need to fix the app. I don’t know. Can you help me understand?

  3. If a internet plan says that its hotspot is limited to 3gb, does it means the same amount of data (3gb) also applies to wifi modem ?

  4. Thanks for your description of WiFi Vs. Hotspot. I know what a WiFi router modem looks like, I think. What does a hotshot device look like? Thanks

    • A hot-spot is not a device like a router. You don’t buy it or install it. It is just aa public area like a playing field or public garden where everyone with a smartphone can access internet without needing any password.

  5. From technial point of view the two methodes seems to be identical and only differency might be security depending of provider’s implementation.

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References :

[0]Davis, Harold. Absolute Beginner's Guide to Wi-Fi Wireless Networking. London: Que Publishing, 2004. Print

[1]Bornstein, Michelle. Wifi Hotspot: Advantages and Disadvantages of Wifi Hotspots. Morrisville: Lulu.com, 2015. Print

[2]Habraken, Joseph. Home Wireless Networking in a Snap. Indianapolis: Sams Publishing, 2006. Print

[3]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/wifi-hotspot-icon-3188384/

[4]Image credit: https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2017/03/05/17/39/wi-fi-2119225_960_720.png

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