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Introduction of WiFi History and Standard (2024)

Introduction of WiFi History and Standard

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With technology advances, WiFi is widely used in more and more devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, wireless HDMI devices, wireless presentation systems, and smart home devices. However, you may be confused by the various WiFi standards, which change every few years. What’s the difference between those standards? Which one is better?  Here we look deep into the WiFi standard in this article.

The History of WiFi

WiFi is a wireless local area network (WLAN) technology that allows devices to connect to the Internet via radio waves. It was invented in the late 1980s by Dr. Raymond E. Newcomb and his colleagues at the University of Hawaii, who were working on developing a new kind of computer networking system for use with mobile computers.

U.S. federal regulators opened up part of the radio spectrum for unlicensed use for wireless communication in 1985. These frequency bands consist of the same 2.4GHz bands used by wireless devices.

The first version of Wi-Fi was introduced in 1997 and offered maximum link speeds of 2 Mbps, which was updated in 1999 and called 802.11b to a maximum of 11 Mbps speeds. Then the Wi-Fi Alliance was founded in 1999 to make the Wi-Fi trademark.

The major commercial breakthrough was made by Apple Inc. Apple adopted Wi-Fi technology for its iBooks line of laptop computers in 1999. It was the first wireless digital product to offer Wi-Fi networking capabilities.

In the early 2000s, the technology was adopted by consumers who wanted to connect their computers to the Internet without using a cable modem. The technology has since evolved into what is known as 802.11n Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi uses numerous patented technologies from various companies. On April 18th, 2009, 14 technology companies signed an agreement with the Australian government to pay them $1 billion for infringing on CSIRO’s intellectual property rights.

What is WiFi?

WiFi is a wireless networking technology that allows you to connect your computer, smart devices, and IOT devices to the internet using radio waves. It uses the same frequency range as FM radio and TV broadcasting but with a much higher bandwidth than either of these technologies. This means it can carry more data at faster speeds. 

What is a WiFi Network?

A Wi-Fi network is a type of internet connection that connects multiple devices using a wireless access point (router). Your router connects directly to your internet service provider (ISP) and broadcasts the internet signal to all of your wireless-enabled computers, tablets, smartphones, etc. It allows you to connect to the Internet when you’re within wireless coverage.

How does Wi-Fi Work?

To understand how Wi-Fi works we must start with electromagnetic waves. There are different types of electromagnetic waves like gamma rays, x-rays, microwaves, infrared light, visible light, ultraviolet light, radio waves, etc. Radio waves are the most common type of electromagnetic wave, which exist everywhere around us and carry information. They are invisible, but we use tools called antennas to detect them.

For example, mobile phones use frequencies ranging from 900 MHz to 2 GHz. This range includes both GSM 900 and DCS 1800 bands. So, what type of waves do Wi-Fi use? Wi-Fi uses radio waves within the range of 2.4G( Early of WiFi), 5G(WiFi 5) and 6Ghz( WiFi 6E and WiFi 7). The reason why we use radio waves for Wi-Fi is that they travel further, and therefore allow us to cover larger areas.

In WiFi, radio frequency is used to send data between devices. When you connect your laptop to router, it sends out radio signals to find the router. Router receives those signals and transmits it further to reach the device. This process continues till the device gets connected to the network.

Wi-Fi is a wireless network standard developed by IEEE 802.11 committee. In short, it is a set of rules for exchanging data over a wireless local area network (WLAN). To use a WLAN you must have a device called an access point (AP), which acts like a router and connects the devices together.

In addition to providing connectivity, Wi-Fi also provides security. Devices must authenticate themselves to one another, ensuring that no unauthorized person gains access. They do this by exchanging encryption keys, which makes sure that data traveling across the airwaves stays secure.

What is a Wireless Access Point (AP)?

Normally, A wireless access point (AP) is a networking hardware device that directly connects to a wired network through Ethernet, which allows the computer, mobile phone, tablet, or other WiFi devices to access the wired network through the AP. An AP allows multiple wireless devices to connect through one wired network at the same time. 

People often confuse AP and Hotspot. AP is a network hardware device to connect with the wired network through Ethernet; while a hotspot is created by an access point device, which provides internet to WiFi devices. 

Wireless Router

A wireless router is a device that allows you to connect your computer, laptop or tablet wirelessly to the internet. It does this by connecting to an existing network using Wi-Fi technology. This type of connection is different from traditional wired connections, which means there’s no need for cables running through walls or across floors.

Wireless routers are usually built into your home network, and they’re designed to help you connect all of the devices in your house. They can also be used as a wireless bridge between two different networks.

The most common type of router is called an access point (AP). It connects directly to your modem or cable box and provides Internet access for computers, tablets, smartphones, printers, and other Wi-Fi–enabled devices on the network.

Wi-Fi Hotspots

You can find the hotspot on your smartphones; when you turn on the hotspot function on your mobile phone, it will generate an AP access point, then other WiFi devices can connect to this AP to access the internet. 

You can also buy a portable Wi-Fi hotspot device that uses 3G/4G/5G cellar signal to generate a WiFi AP, it also allows multiple devices to connect wirelessly to the internet. 

Wi-Fi Mode

Infrastructure Mode

Most networks use infrastructure mode for their connections. Communication between devices goes through a central device called a “base station,” which may be a wireless router or wireless network adapter.

Ad hoc and Wi-Fi Direct Mode

Wi-Fi also allows direct communication between two computers without intermediate access points. This is called ad hoc Wi-Fi connection.
Some devices can also use Wi-Fi Direct to connect to each other, turning them into hotspots or “virtual routers” for nearby devices.
Similarly, the Wi-Fi Alliance promotes the specification Wi-Fi Direct for file transfers and multimedia streaming through a discovery and authentication methodology. Wi-Fi Direct was released in October 2010.

WiFi Versions

The original version of the standard was released in 1997 and specified two bitrates: one of 1 Mbit/s and another of 2 Mbits/s. The latter was later changed to 3 Mbits/s. A few years later, it was revised again, specifying four different alternatives for the physical layer technology: diffuse infrared operating at 1 Mbit/, frequency hopping spreading spectrum operating at 1 Mbits/s or 2 Mbits/s, and direct sequence spread spectrum operating at 1 Mb/s or 2 Mb/s. Direct sequence spread spectrum uses the same channel bandwidth as frequency hopping spread spectrum but does not use the same modulation technique.

802.11b (1999)

The 802.11b standard defines the physical layer of wireless local area networks (WLAN). This includes the use of orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), channel coding, and interleaving techniques. The IEEE 802.11b standard specifies a transmission mode called “Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum”, or DSSS. In this mode, each symbol transmitted consists of a sequence of bits, where the number of bits per symbol varies according to the modulation scheme used. Each symbol is spread over a larger bandwidth than the information it carries. For example, a 64-QAM symbol takes up 8 times the amount of spectrum required for a binary phase shift keying (BPSK) symbol.

802.11a (2002, OFDM waveform)

In 2002, the wireless LAN industry adopted the IEEE 802.11a amendment to the standard, which introduced orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) to wireless networking. OFDM allows data to be transmitted faster because it spreads out the data across many channels rather than sending each bit separately. This makes the signal harder for eavesdroppers to intercept.

The IEEE 802.11a amendment defines the physical layer parameters of the 5.9–6.0 GHz frequency range. This amendment specifies orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), which is a multi-carrier modulation scheme where each subchannel carries one signal per carrier. In addition, it specifies how to transmit and receive frames over such a channel.

Originally described as clause 17 of document D1.0 published in 1999, the OFDM waveforms at 5.8 GHz are now defined in clause 18.

This amendment describes the use of OFDM in the 5.8–6.0 GHz band. It specifies the use of OFDM waveforms for transmitting and receiving data at rates up to 54 Mbps. It also specifies the use of short preamble transmissions, which allows for faster acquisition of signals during initial association.

While the original amendment is no long valid, the term 802 11a is still used by many manufacturers to refer to the ability of their products to operate in the 5 GHz band.

Since the 2.4 GHz ISM band is heavily used, 802.11a offers a significant advantage over competing technologies.

802.11g (2003)

In June 2003, a third modulator standard was ratified: 802 11 g.

This works in the 2. 4 GHz band (like 802 11 b), but uses the same orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) based transmission scheme as 802 11 a.

It operates at a maximum physical level bit rate of 54 Mbits per second exclusive of forwarding the 802.11n amendment that was ratified in September 2010. With that approval came the addition of five new channels, including four high throughput spatial streams (HTSS), which are used to transmit video. In 2012, the IEEE ratified the amendment, making it error correction (FEC) codes, or about 22M bits per second average throughput.

802.11g hardware is completely backward compatible with 802. 11 b hardware and therefore is burdened with legacy issues that reduce performance by ~ 21 % when compared to 802. 11 a.

The proposed 802.11g standard was rapidly adopted in the market beginning in January 2003, well before ratification, because of the desire for a higher data rate and reductions in manufacturing costs.

By summer 2003, most dual-band 802.11a/ b products became dual-band / tri-mode, supporting a and b / g in a single mobile adapter chip or access point.

802.11 (2007)

In 2003, task group TGmj was authorized to “Roll Up” many of the changes to the 1999 version of 802.11. This included merging eight amendments into one document, creating the current 802.11-2007 standard. On March 8, 2007, the amendment became the 802.11-2007 base standard.

802.11n (2009) Wi-Fi 4

The IEEE ratified the 802.11n wireless networking standard in December 2009. It was designed to provide high throughput over short distances, such as within a home network. In addition to increasing speed and reliability, it enabled devices to use less power.

With the 802.11n specification, Wi-Fi became much faster and more reliable. It supported a maximum theoretical transmission rate of 300Mbps (up to 450Mbps when using three antennas) and could achieve speeds of up to 150Mbps in actual practice.

MIMO (multiple input multiple outputs) technologies allowed multiple transmitters/receiver pairs to operate simultaneously at one end of the connection, thereby providing a significant improvement in performance. A typical example is the use of four transmitters and four receivers operating simultaneously.

In addition to supporting the 2.4GHz band, 802.11n also worked in the 5GHz band. However, because of interference issues, it was generally recommended that 802.11n networks only be employed in the 2.4GHz range.

802.11 ac Wi-Fi 5GHz (2011)

In 2011, Wi-Fi Alliance introduced the 802.11ac standard, which promised promises much faster data transfer rates and lower latency than previous versions. In fact, it’s capable of delivering download speeds of up to 433 megabits per second (Mbps), while upload speeds are rated at up to 150 Mbps. 

In 2013 Intel announced that its next-generation processors would support 802.11ac. And now, just over three years later, we’re finally getting our first taste of what 802.11ac really looks like. On Thursday, Broadcom announced that its latest generation of wireless chips supports 802.11ac.

Broadcom’s BCM4360 chip offers up to 433 Mbps speeds in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. This is about twice the speed of the fastest current 802.11n device, according to Broadcom, and about 10 times faster than the average consumer router.

Achieving this kind of performance requires some pretty impressive hardware. For one thing, 802.11ac works exclusively in the 5 GHz range, where there are fewer signals competing for bandwidth. This allows the device to use multiple antennas to focus energy toward a specific area — something that becomes even more important when you consider how far away many devices are from each other.

In addition, 802.11ac uses a technology known as beamforming, which directs radio waves in a particular direction. Beamforming also helps reduce interference by directing energy toward areas where no one else is transmitting. Finally, 802.11ac doubles the channel width up to about 80 megahertz (MHz). This gives the router enough room to send and receive information without interfering with nearby networks.

But even though 802.11ac promises blazing-fast speeds, there are some caveats. For one thing, 802.11ac works best in open spaces, such as parks, cafes, and airports where there aren’t many obstacles between you and your network. Also, 802.11ac requires a lot of bandwidth, so don’t expect to connect to multiple devices simultaneously unless you’ve got an extensive home network

WiFi 6/802.11ax (2019)

Wi-Fi 6 (also called 802.11ax) is the newest and most advanced version of the Wi-Fi standards. It was introduced in 2018. Before the release of Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi was identified by version numbers starting at 802.11b and ending at 802.11 Ac. Wi-Fi 6 (or Wi-Fi 6) is an IEEE standard for wireless local area networks (WLANs) and the successor of IEEE 802.11 AC. It is also known as high-performance wireless networking because it improves network performance in crowded spaces. It works at frequencies between 1 and 7.125 GHz, including the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency ranges currently in use by most wireless devices.

Compared With Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6 have below advantages: 

  • High Speed

Wi-Fi 6 provides faster connection speed than Wi-Fi 5 even when there are lots of people connected to the network. It uses 1024QAM modulation and provides a theoretical maximum speed of 9.5 Gbps (bits per second). There isn’t a big difference between WiFi 5 and WiFI 6 speeds per connected device. 

  • Longer Battery Life

With Wi-Fi 6, there’s a new feature called the Target Wake Timer (TWT), which allows devices to turn themselves off if they aren’t used for a certain period of time, which will greatly extend the battery life.

  • Low Delay

Compared to WiFi 5, WiFi 6 provides lower latency, making it ideal for business and office environments. With WiFi 6, the average latency has been reduced to 20 milliseconds, and with WiFi 5, the average latency is 30 milliseconds.

Compared to WiFi 5, WiFi 6 provides lower latency, making it ideal for business and office environments. With WiFi 6, the average latency has been reduced to 20 milliseconds, and with WiFi 5, the average latency is 30 milliseconds.

The difference between WiFi 6 and previous wireless standards lies in the introduction or upgrade of four major technologies as below

  • Beamforming
  • Security Protocols

Wi-Fi 6E (2020)

Wi-Fi 6E, which was introduced 2021, has been updated to include a new 6GHz wireless band. It’s called Wi-Fi 6 Extended (Wi-Fi 6 E). This new band also offers an extra 1,200MHz of wireless spectrum.

The 6 GHz radio frequency (RF) spectrum supports up to 14 x80 MHz channels or 7 x 160 MHz channels. It provides up to twice the number of high-speed (80 GHz, 160 MHz) channels than 5 GHz; thus offering more bandwidth for 4K/8K streaming, VR games, and HD videoconferencing.

Because 6 GHz band hasn’t been used before, Wi‑Fi 6E devices can continue using larger transmission bandwidths and more concurrent antennas, which would result in significant improvements in the speeds of connections.

Wi-Fi 6E is also more secure than its predecessor because of the mandatory inclusion of the latest Wi-Fi security protocol – WPA3 (Wi‑Fi Protected Access 3).

  • Adding the Latest 6 GHz wireless frequency
  • Congestion-Free and Less Interference
  • Lower Latency
  • New 160 MHz Channels for high speed

WiFi 7 (2022)

WiFi 7 is the next generation of wireless networking technology, also known as IEEE802.11be Extremely high throughput (EHT). It supports all three frequency bands (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz) to fully utilize spectrum resources. WiFi 6 was designed to address the increasing number of wireless networks in the world. However, WiFi 7 aims to provide blazing-fast speeds for every device with new technologies.

  • Working at 6GHz Frequency
  • Support new 320MHz Bandwidth
  • Multi-RU mechanism features
  • New 4K Modulation Technology
  • Multi-Link Mechanism
  • Enhanced MIMO
  • Coordinated Among Multiple APs

Wi‑Fi 7 brings 320 MHz UWB, 4096-QAM, Multi-Radio Units (MRUs), and Multi-Link Operation to provide speeds up to four times faster than Wi-Fi 6, which is excellent when it comes to applications that need high throughput and low latencies.

The standard will be available in two phases. The TGbe has stated its intentions to launch one by the end of 2022. Release 2 is expected to be released by early 2024.

WiFi Display

Normally we use HDMI interface to connect the laptop or other video source devices to TV for video sharing, while Wireless Display is a technology that allows you to connect your laptop, tablet or smartphone wirelessly to an HDTV wirelessly, the advantage of this technology is that it doesn’t require additional cables or adapters between video source to display. 

The wireless display feature works by using Wi-Fi Direct (also known as Wi-Fi peer-to-peer). This means that two devices are able to communicate directly without requiring an access point or router. It also means that there is no need for an internet connection.

There are different types of WiFi display as below:


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