Who Created Wi-Fi, the Wireless Internet Connection?

Everything You Need to Know About the History of Wireless Internet

Who invented WiFi, and what made it possible?

ThoughtCo / Grace Kim

You may have presumed that the terms "Wi-Fi" and "the internet" meant the same thing. They are connected, but they are not interchangeable.

What Is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi is short for wireless fidelity. Wi-Fi is a wireless networking technology that allows computers, some smartphones, iPads, game consoles, and other devices to communicate over a wireless signal. Much the same way a radio can tune into a radio station signal over the airwaves, your device can pick up a signal that connects it to the internet through the air. Indeed, a Wi-Fi signal is a high-frequency radio signal.

And the same way that the frequency of a radio station is regulated, the standards for Wi-Fi are as well. All the electronic components that make up a wireless network—your device or the router, for example—are based on one of the 802.11 standards that were set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Wi-Fi Alliance. The Wi-Fi alliance trademarked the name Wi-Fi and promoted the technology. The technology is also referred to as WLAN, which is short for wireless local area network. However, Wi-Fi has definitely become the more popular expression used by most people.

How Wi-Fi Works

The router is the key piece of equipment in a wireless network. Only the router is physically connected to the internet by an ethernet cable. The router then broadcasts the high-frequency radio signal, which carries data to and from the internet. The adapter in whichever device you are using picks up and reads the signal from the router and also sends data back to your router and onto the internet. These transmissions are called upstream and downstream activity.

The Inventor of Wi-Fi

After understanding how there are several components that make Wi-Fi, you can see how naming a single inventor would be difficult.

First, you need to examine the history of the 802.11 standards (radio frequency) used for broadcasting a Wi-Fi signal. Second, you need to look at the electronic equipment involved in sending and receiving a Wi-Fi signal. Not surprisingly, there are many patents connected with Wi-Fi technology, though one important patent stands out.

Vic Hayes has been called the "father of Wi-Fi" because he chaired the IEEE committee that created the 802.11 standards in 1997. Before the public even heard of Wi-Fi, Hayes established the standards that would make Wi-Fi feasible. The 802.11 standard was established in 1997. Subsequently, improvements to the network bandwidth were added to the 802.11 standards. These include 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and more. That's what the appended letters represent. As a consumer, the most important thing you should know is that the latest version is the best version in terms of performance. Therefore, this is the version you would want all of your new equipment to be compatible with.

The Owner of the WLAN Patent

One key patent for Wi-Fi technology that has won patent litigation lawsuits and does deserve recognition belongs to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of Australia. CSIRO invented a chip that greatly improved the signal quality of Wi-Fi.

According to the tech news site PhysOrg:

"The invention came out of CSIRO's pioneering work in radio astronomy, with a team of its scientists cracking the problem of radio waves bouncing off surfaces indoors, causing an echo that distorts the signal. They overcame it by building a fast chip that could transmit a signal while reducing the echo, beating many of the major communications companies around the world that were trying to solve the same issue."

CSIRO credits the following inventors for creating this technology: Dr. John O’Sullivan, Dr. Terry Percival, Diet Ostry, Graham Daniels, and John Deane.  

Sources

  • "Australian WiFi inventors win US legal battle." Phys.org, 1April 2012.
  • "Vic Hayes." Engineering and Technology History Wiki, 1 March 2016.
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Bellis, Mary. "Who Created Wi-Fi, the Wireless Internet Connection?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 21, 2021, thoughtco.com/who-invented-wifi-1992663. Bellis, Mary. (2021, February 21). Who Created Wi-Fi, the Wireless Internet Connection? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/who-invented-wifi-1992663 Bellis, Mary. "Who Created Wi-Fi, the Wireless Internet Connection?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/who-invented-wifi-1992663 (accessed September 22, 2021).

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