The annual Viasat Community Internet World Wi-Fi Day Celebration of Connecting the Unconnected Dovetails, celebrating the impact of Wi-Fi on connecting the unconnected, is celebrated on June 20th. For most of us, Wi-Fi is the technology that freed us from Ethernet: cables, desks and offices, and opened the door to the Internet of Things, a connected technology that is rapidly changing our daily lives.
But for those who live in underserved areas, it may have had an even greater impact. For people who have never had a reliable internet connection, Wi-Fi connections can be a lifeline. While Wi-Fi may seem like a relatively new term, the technology was born 80 years ago - the brainchild of a Hollywood movie star. In 1940, actress Hedy Lamarr came up with the idea of a radio signal that constantly jumps in frequency. The use of several varying frequencies would make it difficult for enemies to sabotage the Navy torpedo signals. She filed a patent for a secret communication system with the composer, but the Navy did not accept the proposed technology. Thirty years later, based on Lamarrs idea, a computer network called ALOHANET was created at the University of Hawaii. In 1971, he used microwave radio signals to connect seven computers in the Hawaiian Islands, the first wireless transmission of data. It took nearly 15 more years for the FCC to open the bands to unlicensed use to clear the way for today Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi Alliance, created in 1999, has ensured uniform standards throughout the world.
Expanding Wi-Fi Usage
While all of these historic achievements are impressive, the biggest changes to Wi-Fi are yet to come. In April 2020, the Federal Communications Commission voted to increase the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi by nearly five times. This means more space and less interference for routers and additional devices, paving the way for the Internet of Things.
The new spectrum in the 6GHz band not only offers much more bandwidth, but should also have much lower latency, the amount of time it takes for a signal to travel from a sender to a receiver. It will function as an online fast lane for new devices that will use Wi-Fi 6, the latest and most efficient version of Wi-Fi. The average consumer will most likely not see any change in how their devices work. Wi-Fi 6 devices are also backwards compatible, which means that if you buy a new Wi-Fi 6-branded router, your phones, smart speakers, and other devices will work just fine with it. Wi-Fi 6 simply allows more devices to work efficiently on the same Wi-Fi channel at the same time, and this will become important very soon. But as new devices control the climate in our homes, lighting, security and many other aspects of our daily lives, by some estimates, the average number of devices in our homes will reach 50 by 2024.