WiFi Direct: WiFi Without the Internet

You may not even realize it, but your phone can most likely communicate with many other electronic devices over WiFi without a wireless router thanks to a little-known technology called WiFi Direct. In this article, we describe what WiFi Direct is and what you can do with it, and we also introduce NetSpot, a professional app for wireless site surveys that can help you optimize your wireless connections.

headAllAboutWiFi

What Is WiFi Direct?


Over the past decade or so, even the smallest electronic devices gained WiFi connectivity. This increased the need for ad hoc networking and the ability to connect two devices to each other without a wireless router and at speeds fast enough to transmit multimedia files.

The need for faster data transfer speeds meant that existing wireless technology standards such as Bluetooth were insufficient. A new wireless technology standard had to be developed, one that would provide simple connections for simple tasks such as sending a file from a smartphone to a computer or printer.

To give the world the wireless technology standard it so desperately needed, the Wi-Fi Alliance, a non-profit organization that promotes Wi-Fi technology and certifies Wi-Fi products if they conform to certain standards of interoperability, developed the WiFi Direct standard, enabling devices to easily connect with each other without requiring a wireless router.

How WiFi Direct Works?


WiFi Direct is built upon the same WiFi technology used by most modern consumer electronic devices to communicate with wireless routers. It allows two devices to communicate with each other, provided that at least one of them is compliant with the standard to establish a peer-to-peer connection.

Before WiFi Direct, it was possible to establish a similar connection with ad-hoc networking, a decentralized type of wireless network that doesn’t rely on pre-existing infrastructure, but WiFi Direct makes decentralized wireless networking accessible even to people who are not technically inclined.

The standard gives compatible devices a way how to discover each other and securely connect using Wi-Fi Protected Setup and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). Wi-Fi Protected Setup is a network security standard created by the Wi-Fi Alliance to allow home users who know little of wireless security and may be intimidated by the available security options to set up WPA, a protocol and security certification program developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance to secure wireless computer networks.

How to Use WiFi Direct?


WiFi Direct is supported by more devices than most people realize. The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) included WiFi Direct in its interoperability guidelines in November 2011, and Google has been supporting the standard in all versions of its Android operating system since Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Samsung has been taking advantage of the WiFi Direct support in Android since Android 2.3 on the Galaxy S2, while the users of Apple devices have been enjoying WiFi Direct since iOS 7 in the form of Air Drop. Even BlackBerry had supported the standard before the company faded into irrelevance.

Besides Android WiFi Direct-enabled devices, the standard can also be found on gaming consoles, such as the new Xbox, or WiFi Direct Windows 10 computers. Many hardware devices and peripherals, such as portable media players, wireless headsets, computer mice and keyboards, or printers, use WiFi direct to connect with other devices instead of Bluetooth.

That’s great news for end users because WiFi Direct is straightforward to use as there are no unwieldy set-up procedures to go through. For example, to connect two WiFi Direct Android smartphones together, all you have to do is activate WiFi Direct on both devices, wait a short while for the two devices to find each other and then start the automated pairing process. The smartphones will automatically negotiate the security key, and you may only be asked to press a button or scan a QR code to confirm that you indeed want the devices to connect to each other.

The pairing of other WiFi Direct devices works similarly, but it should be stressed that network created by a WiFi Direct device doesn’t behave as a standard wireless network does. A WiFi Direct remote control of a streaming player such as Roku will most likely be able to connect only to the corresponding Roku player, a digital picture frame with WiFi Direct connectivity might provide only the most basic services needed to allow digital cameras to connect and upload images, and smartphones might have data tethering functionality and other advanced features.

How to Troubleshoot WiFi Direct Connectivity Issues?


Because WiFi Direct relies on the same underlying technology that allows modern laptops, smartphones, TVs, or even appliances to wirelessly connect to the internet, devices with WiFi Direct also suffer from the same connectivity issues as wireless routers do.

NetSpot is the easiest way how to diagnose and solve any WiFi-related problems. This professional app for wireless site surveys, WiFi analysis, and troubleshooting runs on macOS and Windows operating systems, and it works with any 802.11 network.

With NetSpot, you can visualize, manage, and troubleshoot wireless networks with a click of a button and understanding the cause of your wireless woes right at the spot. It doesn’t matter if a neighborhood kid is learning how to hack wireless networks and using your router for practice or if data packets have trouble making it to their destination because of excessive interference — NetSpot can reveal the problem and give you the information you need to solve it.

To see how NetSpot works, you don’t even need to pay any money as this professional WiFi troubleshooting app for macOS and Windows can be downloaded for free.

Conclusion


WiFi Direct is a greatly underappreciated technology that allows many WiFi-enabled devices to seamlessly connect to each other and exchange data without the need for a central wireless router to organize the traffic and relay data packets. Especially when optimized using NetSpot, the easiest native wireless site survey software for Mac and Windows, WiFi Direct can make many tasks that would otherwise be complicated simple.


Have more questions? Submit a request.

Windows version is here!

NetSpot is an easy-to-use wireless network detector for in-depth surveying of WiFi networks around you.
Get the free WiFi scanner app

Next in All about Wi-Fi


Other Articles

Start now with NetSpot
Runs on a MacBook (macOS 10.10+) or any laptop (Windows 7/8/10)
with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless network adapter.