Timeline of Wi-Fi

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This is a timeline of Wi-Fi, attempting to describe important events in the development of the technology.

Big picture

Time period Development summary
<1997 Pre-Wi-Fi era
1997 Wi-Fi is introduced when a committee called IEEE 802.11 is set up.[1][2]
1999 1st generation: The 802.11a standard is released.[3][4] The release of routers sparks the beginning of the wide use of Wi-Fi in homes.
1999 2nd generation: The 802.11b standard is released, facilitating the first widespread implementation of WLAN technology.[5][6] 802.11b features wireless speeds of 11 Mbps.[7]
2003 3rd generation: Faster speeds and distance coverage of earlier versions combine to make the 802.11g standard. Routers get better, with higher power and further coverage.[2][8] 802.11g lets consumers stream music at 54 Mbps.[7]
2009 4th generation: The 802.11n standard is released.[5][9] Faster and more reliable than before, it is built with more antennas and multiple streams of data.[2]
2013 Wi-Fi significantly improves with the emergence of the 802.11ac standard, which packs almost triple the speed of its predecessor, 802.11n. 802.11ac breaks the gigabit per second barrier.[7][10]
2015 Wi-Fi accelerates once again with the MU-MIMO standard.[7]

Full timeline

Year Month and date Event type Details
1941 Technology A spread spectrum technology is patented by composer George Antheil and actress Hedy Lamarr for use in guiding naval torpedoes. It consists in a signal which is spread over multiple frequencies in order to reduce interference. Spread spectrum improves wireless signals, however it does not resolve all interference.[11]
1971 Technology The University of Hawaii, led by engineer and computer scientist Norman Abramson, completes the first wireless data packet transfer ever attempted without a satellite or connected cables, using a new technology called Ultra High Frequency radio waves (UHF) to successfully connect seven computers, spread across different Hawaiian islands.[12]
1985 October 15 Technology IBM introduces Token Ring LAN, running at 4 Mbps.[13][14]
1985 Network The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the telecoms regulator in the United States, opens the wireless frequencies 900Mhz, 2.4Ghz, and 5.8Ghz to be used without the need for a government license. These radio bands are used by household appliances such as microwaves, and are assumed to have no practical application in communications due to interference.[15][11][12]
1987 Security American cryptographer Ron Rivest working at RSA Security develops the RC4 Cipher, a security cipher (Key size: 40-2048 bits).[16]
1988 The NCR Corporation, in hopes of adopting a wireless local area network (WLAN) standard for use in their wireless cash registers, turns to Victor Hayes, author of many of their data transfer standards, who, along with Bell Labs engineer Bruce Tuch, ask the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) for assistance in utilizing these frequencies for a WLAN standard. A committee is created with the catchy title “802.11”. The standard would be published nine years later, named after the committee, and Victor Hayes would be called the "father of Wi-Fi".[11][14]
1989 The NCR Corporation submits the WaveLAN design (a brand name for a family of wireless networking technology) to the IEEE (​Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)​ 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee.[14]
1990 Network The NCR Corporation introduces its wireless computing network, WaveLAN, to the public.[12]
1993 ​Henrik Sjödin proposes the creation of publicly accessible local area networks (LANs) at the NetWorld+Interop conference in The Moscone Center in San Francisco. While Sjödin does not use the term “hotspot”, this is considered the first mention of the concept.[14][17]
1994 Carnegie Mellon University begins installing the first campus-wide wireless network.[12] The largescale installation is completed by AT&T.[14]
1994 Carnegie Mellon University builds the first campus-wide wireless Internet network, "Wireless Andrew" (named for university benefactors Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon).[14] Started as a National Science Foundation-funded research network to support Carnegie Mellon's wireless research initiative, Wireless Andrew originally provides coverage in seven campus buildings. In 1999, it would expand to serve all 65 residential, academic and administrative buildings on the campus — covering approximately 3 million square feet as well as outside areas.[18]
1996 Technology Australian electrical engineer John O'Sullivan, working at the Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), develops a technique for reducing multipath interference of radio signals transmitted for computer networking. This technique would eventually find its way into the 802.11a (and later) standards.[14][19][20]
1997 Wi-Fi is first released for consumers.[21] The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, chaired by Victor Hayes, releases the first wireless local area network (WLAN) standard, the IEEE 802.11, only supporting a maximum network bandwidth of 2 Mbps – too slow for most applications.[22][23]
1997 June 26 Wi-Fi security The Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) is introduced as a security algorithm for IEEE 802.11 wireless networks.[16]
1998 Organization Wireless Internet Service Provider MobileStar is founded by Mark Goode and Greg Jackson. MobileStar becomes the first company to provide Wi­Fi hotspots (Mark Goode coined the term “hotspot”) in airports, hotels, or coffee shops, signing contracts with American Airlines, Hilton Hotels, and Starbucks.[14][24]
1999 July Service Apple Corporation introduces Wi-Fi as an option on its new iBook computers, under the brand name AirPort.[15]
1999 August Six companies—Intersil, 3Com, Nokia, Aironet, Symbol and Lucent — jointly create the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA), with the idea of certifying that products from different vendors be truly compatible with each other.[15]
1999 September 16 Network standard The 802.11b protocol is released, expanding the original 802.11 standard, and supporting bandwidth up to 11 Mbps, comparable to traditional Ethernet.[23][25]
1999 Terminology The term "Internet of things" is coined.[12]
1999 WiFi is introduced for home use.[21]
1999 Router American company Linksys releases the WRT54G router, pioneering Wi-Fi technology.[7]
2000 Network standard The IEEE 802.11a-1999 standard is approved a month after 802.11b, offering faster speeds than 802.11b (up​to 54 Mbps) and using the 5Ghz frequency. The standard falls behind in popularity b​ecause the necessary hardware is more expensive and the signal range is weaker.[14]
2000 By the time, digital wireless users outnumber analogue subscribers.[1]
2001 June Security Port based Network Access Control IEEE 802.1X-2001 Standard is released.[26][16]
2002 The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance coins the term Wi-Fi, a portmanteau of Wireless and Hi-Fi, a term used in the music industry as an abbreviation of High Fidelity. The WECA rename themselves Wi-Fi Alliance.[11]
2002 October Security The Wi-Fi Alliance and IEEE release the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP), an encryprion protocol using RC4 Cipher.[16]
2002–2005 Over 100 million internet connected devices are sold each year in this period, marking a big shift in consumers’ reliance on Wi-Fi in their day-to-day lives.[12]
2003 Faster speeds and distance coverage of the earlier WiFi versions combine to make the 802.11g standard.[21]
2003 June Network standard The 802.11g protocol is released, combining the faster speeds and distance coverage of the earlier versions, offering up to 54 Mbps.[25][14]
2003 September Network standard Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA; sometimes referred to as the draft IEEE 802.11i standard) is released by the Wi-Fi Alliance.[16]
2003 The United States, Europe, and other delegations at the International Telecommunications Union World Radio Conference (WRC-03) agree to globally allocate 5.15–5.35 GHz and 5.47–5.725 GHz for a total of 455 MHz for WLAN devices globally.[27][14]
2003–2007 Expansion Mobile phone users surpass those using landline telephone in the United States.[28]
2004 The First Wi-Fi devices, such as personal digital assistants, mobile phones and TVs, hit the market.[29]
2004 June Encryption protocol The Counter Mode with Cipher-Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol (CCMP) is released by IEEE.[16]
2004 June 24 Network standard The IEEE 802.11i (an amendment to the original IEEE 802.11 protocol) is released, specifying security mechanisms for wireless networks.[16][14]
2004 September Security protocol The WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) Certification is introduced by the Wifi Alliance.[16][30][31]
2005 Terminology The term “WiFi” is added to the Merriam-Webster English Dictionary.[29][12]
2005 Network standard The IEEE 802.11e-2005 is released as an approved amendment to the IEEE 802.11 standard.[14]
2006 Organization Fon is established by Argentinean entrepreneur Martín Varsavsky. It is considered the first WiFi community, with members sharing a bit of WiFi at home and in return they get free connectivity on the go.[29]
2006 Late Network standard The Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS; originally, Wi-Fi Simple Config) is introduced to the market by the Wi-Fi Alliance, as a wireless network security standard that tries to make connections between a router and wireless devices faster and easier.[16][32]
2007 March 8 Network standard The IEEE 802.11-2007 Standard is approved.[16]
2007 September 5 Product Apple Inc. releases the iPod touch, which connects to the internet only through Wi-Wi.[12]
2007 Router Routers using the 802.11n standard are released, transmitting about 450 megabits per second (Mbps).[7]
2008 July Network standard The IEEE 802.11r-2008 or fast BSS transition (FT) (also called fast roaming) is published as an amendment to the IEEE 802.11 standard to permit continuous connectivity aboard wireless devices in motion, with fast and secure handoffs from one base station to another managed in a seamless manner.[16][33]
2009 Network standard The final version of the 802.11n is released, which is even faster and more reliable than its predecessor. "This increase in efficiency is attributed to ‘Multiple input multiple output’ data (MIMOs), which uses multiple antennas to enhance communication of both the transmitter and receiver. This allowed for significant increases in data without the need for higher bandwidth or transmit power".[21][14]
2009 Expansion WiFi device sales surpass 600 million globally.[29]
2009 May 21 Service Virgin America becomes the first U.S. domestic airline to offer Wi-Fi across its fleet.[12]
2009 September 11 The IEEE 802.11w-2009 Draft is introduced, featuring protected management frames.[16]
2009 Expansion ​The 1 billionth Wi­-Fi chipset is sold.[14][1]
2009 ​Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) wins a $200 million settlement from major companies including Nintendo, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft, in a lawsuit based on its 1996 patent.[14]
2010 February Network standard The IEEE 802.1X-2010 Standard is introduced, featuring Port Based Security Framework (3rd Standard).[16]
2010 Expansion ​The number of Wi­Fi hotspots around the world reaches 1 million.[14][1]
2010 ​United States P​resident Barack Obama, in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed National Broadband Plan, signs a memorandum committing to freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum for the wireless industry.[14][34][35]
2011 Expansion The number of Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide is estimated at 1,3 million.[36]
2012 Terminology The beamforming concept is introduced. It consists in focusing signals and concentrating data transmission so that more data reaches the target device.[21][37]
2012 March 1 Network standard The IEEE 802.11-2012 Standard is published, with the purpose of providing wireless connectivity for fixed, portable, and moving stations within a local area. This standard also offers regulatory bodies a means of standardizing access to one or more frequency bands for the purpose of local area communication.[16][38]
2012 March Public wi-Fi The government of the United Kingdom selects 14 cities eligible for funding under the Superconnected Cities scheme, aimed at offering free public Wi-Fi. The citiers include Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Bradford, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, Nottingham, Manchester, Sheffield and the four UK capitals – London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. All now offer free public wi-fi in their city centers.[39]
2012 June Public Wi-Fi Free Wi-Fi is launched at a number of subway stations in Paris.[36]
2012 Legal ​Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) receives a further $229 million settlement in its patent cases, with estimated total settlements of over $1 billion expected in the following years.[14]
2013 March Organization The Wireless Gigabit Alliance (WiGig) is incorporated by the Wi-Fi Alliance as a trade association. WiGig would develop and promote the adoption of multi-gigabit per second speed wireless communications technology operating over the unlicensed 60 GHz frequency band.[40]
2013 December Network standard IEEE 802.11ac (Wireless AC) is released as the new Wi-Fi standard, operating on the 5Ghz band, and offering potential speeds of 1733 Mbps.[11][41] The 802.11ac standard is the first to break the gigabit per second barrier.[29][14]
2014 Network standard The 802.11 standard is updated to 802.11ac, which provides better wireless speed and coverage to help support changing Wi-Fi needs.[12]
2014 Product Taiwanese multinational ​D-­Link releases the first portable 802.11ac router.[14]
2015 Technology The Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) standard technology is released. Available in 802.11ac Wi-Fi, it can broadcast a signal from a number of sources to multiple systems simultaneously.[7][42]
2015 Expansion Nearly 70 million Wi­Fi hotspots are estimated worldwide.[14]
2015 Public Wi-Fi Lithuania ranks first for best public Wi-Fi, followed by Estonia and Singapur.[43][44]
2017 May Network standard The IEEE 802.11ah wireless networking protocol (Wi-Fi HaLow) is published,[25] with the purpose of enabling a variety of new power-efficient use cases in the Smart Home, connected car, and digital healthcare, as well as industrial, retail, agriculture, and Smart City environments. Wi-Fi HaLow extends Wi-Fi into the 900 MHz band.[45]
2019 Cisco Systems predicts 53 percent of monthly IP traffic will come from Wi-Fi connections worldwide, up from 42 percent in 2014.[46]
2020 July Network standard The 802.11ba standard is expected to be approved around this time.[25]
2020 Public Wi-Fi Public Wi-Fi hotspots are estimated to grow to 432 million globally by that time.[47]

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How the timeline was built

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See also

External links

References

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