What’s the difference between WiFi and Data?

In today’s world, staying connected is more important than ever. We rely on technology to connect us with our loved ones, do our jobs, and find the information we need. Most people need daily access to the internet to function normally in their day to day lives. Wireless connection is a necessity, and it’s important to understand the basics. So, what’s the difference between WiFi and data?

Woman using WiFi in cafe.

Ways to Access the Internet:


There are two main ways devices (like phones, tablets, and computers) allow access to internet services – WiFi and Cellular data. WiFi is a name for wireless networks, and many homes and businesses use WiFi to facilitate internet access. Wireless networks use radio waves to translate data and transfer that information through a wireless router. If you have wireless connection in your home, you’re likely familiar with routers. They are integral to bringing WiFi to you. 

Another component you need to make WiFi functional is wireless transmitters. Most laptops and new desktop computers already have wireless transmitters built in. If you have an older model, you can buy a wireless adapter to plug into a USB port. Almost every mobile device will already be equipped with what you need. Enable WiFi to search for nearby networks and join them to access the internet. Some networks require passwords, while other networks in public places may be free for anyone to use. 

Cellular Data

Cellular data is similar to WiFi in how it allows you to connect your devices to the internet, but the method in doing so differs. Data does not require a router like WiFi does. WiFi limits your ability to use it by needing to be close by to the router. Cellular data allows you to access the internet almost anywhere without the need to be in range of a router or connect to a specific network. Instead of using a router, cellular data connects to the internet using a cell phone signal. You need to have a cell phone plan that includes data and be in the range of a cell phone tower to use it. 

Depending on your cell phone plan, consider that you may only have a limited amount you can use each month. There are plans in which you can get unlimited data, but those tend to cost a little more. If you have a monthly limit, it is wise to connect to WiFi when you can in your home, at work, or in public spaces to maximize the data you can use when you need it on the go. 

WiFi vs Cellular Data

Internet Speed

Using WiFi versus cellular data can affect the speed of your internet connection. Places with a strong WiFi connection can get faster speeds than if you were using data. However, places with weaker WiFi connection may find you wanting to use data instead. If you are using something that requires a lot of data, like streaming or downloading videos, it is better for your data usage to be connected to WiFi.


Another difference between the two is security. The WiFi in your home or business will most likely be a secure network and password protected. However, you need to be cautious when you connect to free public WiFi, because it can be easier for others to access the information on your device without you knowing. Hackers know how to set up their own hotspot, gaining access to information on any device that is connected. When in public places that don’t have a password protected network, it is best to use data if you have the option. 

Some devices only allow you to use WiFi, while others can be used with WiFi or cellular data. Most cell phones use both, and it enables you to have the best of both worlds when it comes to choosing between the two. For devices that can only use WiFi, you may find yourself in a situation where the connection is bad or there are no networks nearby. In this case, you may be able to turn your phone into a WiFi hotspot. A hotspot allows you to connect your computer or other device to the network your phone creates. 

Both WiFi and cellular data have pros and cons, but ultimately allow you to enjoy access to the internet wherever you go. Knowing when to use which one can help maximize your internet speed, money, security, and connection accessibility.