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.

In a 2003 interview with eWEEK, Dennis Eaton, chairman of the Wi-Fi Alliance at the time, emphasized that the core mission of the Wi-Fi Alliance is to certify the interoperability of products based on the IEEE 802.11 standards. It's a mission that the WiFi Alliance still performs in 2014.

"Users' appetite for connectivity, paired with the explosion in mobile and portable gadgets, has propelled WiFi into its current position as must-have technology for everything, from notebooks and phones to TVs and tablets," Kelly Davis-Felner, vice president of marketing at the Wi-Fi Alliance, told eWEEK.

Davis-Felner noted that in addition to interoperability and certification efforts, backward compatibility is a key goal for the Wi-Fi Alliance and for WiFi's growth.

"We have had a longstanding commitment to never leaving users behind. A device that is WiFi-certified today can connect to one we certified back in 2000 when our program began, even though the technology has made quantum leaps in performance," Davis-Felner, said.

The latest generation of WiFi is arriving now with the 802.11ac specification, which was amended at the beginning of 2014 to deliver up to 7G bps of wireless bandwidth.

Delivering the fastest possible speed while securing data transmissions was the core challenge during the first 14 years of WiFi evolution. However, new challenges are emerging as WiFi continues to mature.

"As more and more devices leverage WiFi as the primary mode of connectivity, and the apps running over the WiFi become more demanding and bandwidth-hungry, two challenges exist," Spain said. "The first is owning the rights to the radio frequency environment, and the second is having the ability to support many clients with a single access point and with fast speeds."

From the Wi-Fi Alliance's perspective, the biggest challenge for WiFi has been about "keeping it simple" while still pushing the technology forward.

"WiFi is capable of so many exciting things today—both from a performance standpoint and an applications standpoint—but none of this matters if we fail to deliver on the user experience," Davis-Felner said.

The user experience is one that is continually being addressed and advanced as WiFi's pervasiveness across all types of technologies grows. While it wasn't until 2001, when eWEEK first declared 802.11b wireless technology ready to deploy, in 2014, WiFi is a mature technology that is everywhere.

"There is a massive installed base; our attach rate is very high across a broad range of devices; and a very significant proportion of the world's data traffic travels over WiFi networks in homes, enterprises and public places," Davis-Felner said. "That said, we still have a very exciting future that will be marked by continued innovation and proliferation into new market segments such as the Internet of things and automotive.

"Wi-Fi Alliance currently has more active work areas than ever before in our history. We are just getting started," Davis-Felner continued.


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Originally published on eWeek.

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