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history of wifi

These days, most every notebook computer and smartphone comes with Wi-Fi wireless networking technology built in and these devices can connect to Wi-Fi networks in offices, supermarkets, malls, airports … most everywhere.  People and organizations use Wi-Fi wireless networks for video chats, helping people work wherever they are, watch movies and television, and most anything else that requires high-speed Internet access.  And in the 15 years since the creation and commercialization of this wireless networking standard, it has given businesses a wide variety of new services they can offer customers.

  Prior to 1999, there were several different wireless technologies used to connect devices.  The different technologies were incompatible so the benefits were limited.  The development of an industry recognized technical standard (IEEE 802.11), along with an industry-wide alliance organization (the Wi-Fi Alliance), created a technology platform and business market the same way the development of Ethernet wired networking did in 1985.  Almost immediately following ratification of IEEE 802.11 and the founding of the Wi-Fi Alliance, every major networking company and computer hardware manufacturer developed and brought to market Wi-Fi products.

The first generation of Wi-Fi products (802.11b) have a maximum data rate of 11 Mbit/s and operate in the 2.4 GHz band.  They reached the market in 2000.  This is comparable to the speed most computers at the time were connected over wired networks.  Now, the most advanced of the 802.11 standards is 802.11n.  These devices, brought to market in 2009, have a maximum connect rate of 600 Mbit/s and are able to use both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.    Besides creating a common, compatible, interoperable standard, each new generation of products are compatible with previous generations.  According to research from the Dell’Oro Group, the market is growing from 20% to 40% per quarter thanks to standards and compatibility.

Just like most any other technology, Wi-Fi networking will become faster, more reliable, easier to use and less expensive.  Right now, a barber shop, for example, can offer wireless connectivity to its customers for less than a $100 investment and $10 per month recurring charges.  The benefit is that multiple points of sale and scheduling can be deployed in the store so customers to reduce the time customers wait and customers waiting for their appointment can fill their time.   It’s clear than a minimal investment in Wi-Fi today can offer high returns.

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