When the hippie movement was at its best in the 1970s and the Vietnam War was coming to an end, the ALOHAnet networking system was being developed at the University of Hawaii – a network that was to be the first wireless communication between computers. It was inspired by information transmitted by radio waves by the US Army in military conflicts (by the way, many boons used by people are based on technologies that were created for the military).
After many years of testing various concepts, Wi-Fi as we know it today began to be developed. The genesis can be traced back to a ruling by the U.S. FCC that made the ISM band available without a license in 1985. Through the work of NCR/AT&T, who wanted to use the technology for cashier systems, the precursor to Wi-Fi, namely WaveLAN, was developed.
In 1997, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) released the 802.11 standard for use. This standard allowed speeds of up to 2 Mbit/s in the 2.4 GHz band. The range? Approximately – 20 meters inside a building and up to 100 meters outside.
Of course, after such a success the company did not stop and immediately began working on improving the existing technology. In 1999, the Wi-Fi Alliance was formed – an organization of companies that not only patented the Wi-Fi trademark, but also further developed this technology together with the IEEE. The “alliance” included, among others, Aironet (now part of Cisco) and Nokia. Additionally, companies such as Apple, Samsung, Sony, LG, Intel, Dell, Microsoft, T-Mobile, among others, made their financial contributions. Wi-Fi Alliance supported IEEE 802.11b specification, which extended the range by about 50% and at the same time increased the transmission speed to 11 Mbit/s. For many, this was the true beginning of wireless networking in the world.
The world breathed a sigh of relief because the millennium bug apocalypse had not occurred. Business was becoming simpler and customers were using laptops even more efficiently for entertainment. Naturally, while some rejoiced, others worked hard to use wireless technology even more effectively. New standards emerged, new frequencies were used, and effective range was increased. The breakthrough year seems to be 2013, when the currently most widely used standard, popularly known as Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), was introduced. It allowed to cross the 1Gbit/s barrier. In 2019, the Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) standard was introduced, which further increases the possibilities of using a wireless network, so from our consumer point of view, it is already worth stocking up on devices bearing this mark.
Did you know that…?
There are about 200 million active public hotspots in the world. Surprisingly, it is not in Asia or America but in Europe that the largest number of them exists. What’s interesting – it’s not Great Britain, Scandinavian countries or Benelux that have the fastest public Wi-Fi, but Baltic countries, led by Lithuania. The speed is not stunning – 15 Mbps download and 14 Mbps upload, but let’s remember that we’re talking about a public hotspot, not a private access to the network.
The above speeds do not look bad, as the average speed of Wi-Fi connections is 7.2 Mbps. It is inflated by South Korea, where wireless network is used not only in almost every household, but also in public institutions.
According to Ericsson forecasts, in 2022 there will be 29 billion devices using Wi-Fi networks! This is almost four times more than the population on Earth. Currently, there are on average 3 devices with wireless connectivity per person. Assuming the current growth, by 2025 the number of devices may already be 50 billion.
According to various reports, Wi-Fi for up to 20% of people is the most important thing they cannot imagine living without. Yes, for 20% of people, Wi-Fi is more important than food in their first thought.
While most of us moved our computers from one apartment to another so that we could connect through cables and play games together, in 2004 Lufthansa launched the possibility of wireless access to the Internet in its Boeing aircraft. The first such flight took place between Munich and Los Angeles. To take advantage of the offer, you had to pay for network access at $30 for the entire trip, $10 for 30 minutes or 25 cents per minute. This was more expensive than phone cards, the pulses of which we used in phone booths at the time.
Did Wi-Fi revolutionize the world? YES.
Will anything ever replace wireless internet? It’s hard to imagine, but maybe so. Although we’ll sooner live to see no wiring and powering devices wirelessly.
Although Wi-Fi is quite convenient, don’t forget about the network cable – I have a feeling it will save you more than once 😉
This post is also available in: Polski (Polish)