eWEEK at 30: WiFi Fills Insatiable Demand for Fast Wireless Web Links

By Sean Michael Kerner

January 27, 2014

eWEEK 30: When PC Week started publishing 30 years ago, it was a wired world and wireless connectivity was in its early stages. But by 2001, that dream started to become a reality, and now in 2014 it's the norm.

Even while 802.11b's merits and its rapid adoption were being reported by eWEEK, efforts were already under way to make WiFi faster. In 2002, the early promise of 802.11a was made apparent, with speeds up to five times faster than 802.11b. For most consumers and enterprises though, it was 802.11g that was the preferred successor to 802.11b. Both 802.11a and 802.11g offered the promise of up to 54M bps with 802.11a working in the 5GHz spectrum and 802.11g working in the 2.4GHz spectrum.

"In 2002, security continued to be the most talked about issue on the business side, while the Achilles heel of the home market remained multimedia support," eWEEK reported. "In the year ahead, the continued growth and evolution of dual-mode 2.4/5GHz capable equipment, Intel's ability to push out its Centrino mobile technology, the shift toward 802.11g as the preferred 2.4GHz WLAN technology, and the advent of new enterprise infrastructure technology, will all shape the development of this market."

The next big jump for WiFi after 802.11a and 802.11g was the 802.11n standard, though its adoption and rollout were not entirely seamless. In 2005, eWEEK reported, that "the forthcoming 802.11n wireless standard and the rash of new products that manufacturers say use 802.11n technology are sowing confusion among many IT professionals."

In a rush to instantly fill consumer and enterprise demand for high-speed wireless connectivity, wireless product vendors released all manner of pre-standard implementations. Standards efforts were also fractured with multiple groups pursuing different approaches.

By August 2005, the rival proposals for 802.11n joined together. In January 2006, eWEEK reported on the release of the first draft of the 802.11n standard. The initial goal of 802.11n was to provide wireless connectivity of 100M bps or more; the final amendment to 802.11n published in 2009 raised the speed to 600M bps.

Today, Cisco's Chris Spain, vice president of product management for enterprise networking, sees 802.11n as being the most widely deployed and used WiFi specification.

"Each subsequent generation of WiFi technology has been adopted faster than its predecessor— largely due to the increase in mobile device use," Spain said. "Additionally, the tasks previously performed over a wired connection can now be performed over wireless and on mobile devices."

The availability of WiFi, in turn, has fueled the capabilities and growth in the use of mobile devices. Spain noted that the proliferation of mobile devices has been one of the main drivers contributing to WiFi growth.

"Another key growth factor is the productivity gained from being able to work or access wireless from anywhere, any time," Spain said.

One of the key organizations that helped push WiFi adoption forward since 1999 has been the Wi-Fi Alliance.


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Originally published on eWeek.

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