History of Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN)

Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) technology has a rich history that spans several decades. Here's an overview of the key milestones in the history of WLAN:

  1. 1970s and 1980s: The foundations of WLAN were laid during these decades with early experiments in wireless communication. However, the technology was largely limited to research institutions and government organizations.

  2. 1990s: First WLAN Standards Emerge

    • 1991: NCR Corporation/AT&T developed a precursor to modern WLAN technology called "WaveLAN" that operated in the 900 MHz band.
    • 1997: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) formed the 802.11 working group to establish standards for wireless networking. The first standard, 802.11, was released with a data rate of 2 Mbps using frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) or direct-sequence spread spectrum (DSSS).
    • 1999: The 802.11b standard was ratified, offering data rates of up to 11 Mbps using DSSS in the 2.4 GHz frequency band. This standard marked a significant advancement and gained widespread adoption.
  3. Early 2000s: Rapid Advancements

    • 2003: The 802.11g standard was introduced, providing compatibility with 802.11b networks but offering higher speeds of up to 54 Mbps by using OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing).
    • 2004: The Wi-Fi Alliance was founded to promote interoperability between different WLAN devices and to ensure compliance with IEEE 802.11 standards.
  4. Mid to Late 2000s: Further Improvements

    • 2006: The 802.11n standard was introduced, significantly improving WLAN performance with multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) technology. This standard offered higher speeds and better coverage compared to previous standards.
    • 2009: The 802.11ac standard was introduced, providing even higher speeds and better performance by utilizing wider frequency bands and advanced modulation techniques.
  5. 2010s: Wi-Fi Becomes Ubiquitous

    • 2013: The 802.11ac standard was updated (802.11ac Wave 2) to further enhance performance, allowing for multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) and wider channel bonding.
    • 2019: The 802.11ax standard, also known as Wi-Fi 6, was introduced. This standard aimed to improve efficiency in high-density environments, increase data rates, and provide better performance for both individual devices and multiple devices simultaneously.
  6. 2020s and Beyond: Ongoing Developments

    • The Wi-Fi Alliance continues to certify devices for compliance with the latest WLAN standards, ensuring interoperability and performance across different manufacturers.
    • Research and development efforts are ongoing to explore higher frequency bands, advanced modulation techniques, and improved security measures for WLAN technology.

Throughout its history, WLAN technology has transformed the way people connect to the internet and communicate wirelessly. It has enabled the proliferation of mobile devices, smart homes, IoT devices, and more, contributing significantly to the digital revolution.