[opendtv] A brief history of Wi-Fi

  • From: Monty Solomon <monty@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 10 Jul 2004 01:49:36 -0400

A brief history of Wi-Fi

Jun 10th 2004
From The Economist print edition

Wireless networking: Few people have a kind word to say about 
telecoms regulators. But the success of Wi-Fi shows what can be 
achieved when regulators and technologists work together

IT STANDS as perhaps the signal success of the computer industry in 
the last few years, a rare bright spot in a bubble-battered market: 
Wi-Fi, the short-range wireless broadband technology. Among geeks, it 
has inspired a mania unseen since the days of the internet boom. Tens 
of millions of Wi-Fi devices will be sold this year, including the 
majority of laptop computers. Analysts predict that 100m people will 
be using Wi-Fi by 2006. Homes, offices, colleges and schools around 
the world have installed Wi-Fi equipment to blanket their premises 
with wireless access to the internet. Wi-Fi access is available in a 
growing number of coffee-shops, airports and hotels too. Yet merely 
five years ago wireless networking was a niche technology. How did 
Wi-Fi get started, and become so successful, in the depths of a 

Wi-Fi seems even more remarkable when you look at its provenance: it 
was, in effect, spawned by an American government agency from an area 
of radio spectrum widely referred to as "the garbage bands". 
Technology entrepreneurs generally prefer governments to stay out of 
their way: funding basic research, perhaps, and then buying finished 
products when they emerge on the market. But in the case of Wi-Fi, 
the government seems actively to have guided innovation. "Wi-Fi is a 
creature of regulation, created more by lawyers than by engineers," 
asserts Mitchell Lazarus, an expert in telecoms regulation at 
Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, a law firm based in Arlington, Virginia. 
As a lawyer, Mr Lazarus might be expected to say that. But he was 
also educated as an electrical engineer-and besides, the facts seem 
to bear him out.


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