A Wi-Fi enabled laptop can access the Internet in public places that are so equipped. It allows wireless networking through microwave transmission. Since its inception in 1997, Wi-Fi has offered many options and amenities to users. It was originally introduced in the form of 802.11, which is referred to as the 802.11 legacy due to multiple upgrades and revisions. 802.11 defined three layers in the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz frequency band: direct sequence spread spectrum or DSSS at 1 Mbps, frequency hopping spread spectrum or FHSS at 2 Mbps, and infrared or IR. In 1999, the IEEE revised the protocol to create two new standards: 802.11a and 802.11b. 802.11a added orthogonal frequency division multiplexing or OFDM to the 5 GHz spectrum allowing transmission speeds of up to 54 Mbps. 802.11b added 5.5 and 11 Mbps support using DSSS in the 2.4 GHz spectrum to make it backwards compatible with the original 802.11 protocol equipment. In 2003, the IEEE introduced a new protocol: 802.11g, which allowed high speed transmission up to 54 Mbps by applying OFDM in the 2.4 GHz spectrum. It was backward compatible with 802.11b by integrating DSSS modulation.
Wireless networks can be installed literally anywhere using 802.11 technology. The hotspot is the beginning of the Wi-Fi network. Without it, one can’t sync up to the network regardless if their device is wireless equipped or not. The more hotspots there are, the more Internet Access. This is why hotspot installers and operators are crucial to the industry. In 2002, the U.S. had only 4,000 hotspots. By 2003, more than 11,000 had been established. By 2005, over 45,000 hotspots were available with approximately 28 million consumers equipped to use them. According to market research, there are two million potential hotspot locations in America including: 212 conference centers, 3,032 train stations, 5,352 airports, 53,500 hotels, 72,720 business centers, 202,600 gas stations, 480,298 restaurants, and 1,111,300 retail stores.
802.11 operates through the transmission of radio waves. A DSL line is connected to a server and distribution antennas on top of a building. The antennas transmit a directional signal to multiple hosts around the city. The device accessing these locations must contain a special radio chip that can exchange info through microwave transmission with the wireless host.
There are four primary layers in the Wi-Fi network. Venues are locations where people will be demanding access to Internet services, such as restaurants, airports, or hotels. Venues represent the first layer. The second layer is hotspot operators or HSOs, which is anyone who buys the equipment, sets it up, and sells services to any venue. The third layer is the aggregator, which supplies roaming and software equipment. The aggregator streamlines the market at this layer by providing roaming services to many hotspot operators, allowing customers easy access to multiple locations. The last layer is the brand layer comprised of wireless and wire line companies, ISPs, cable companies, PC manufacturers, and enterprise remote access providers. These companies offer seamless wireless service to their customers or employees through wholesale agreements with aggregators. Wi-Fi would not work with any layer missing.
One limitation of emerging technologies is their use with other vendors’ and suppliers’ equipment. 802.11 has been strictly adhered to so that any wireless device can be used at any hotspot regardless of the company that provides it. The Wi-Fi Alliance, an org. made up of leading wireless equipment and software providers, makes this possible. The Wi-Fi Alliance was founded by tech leaders such as Nortel. It now includes all firms who wish to market Wi-Fi products. It is required that an organization become a member of the Alliance before selling Wi-Fi products. This Alliance was originally called the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance or WECA. They changed their name in 2002 to promote standardized Wi-Fi brand technology. Any new Wi-Fi product must pass stringent testing administered by the Wi-Fi Alliance before being marketed as Wi-Fi certified.
A limitation of any new technology is cost. Wi-Fi’s cost factor had dwindled rapidly. In 2000, a Wi-Fi radio chip cost approximately $100. The price for the radio chip is now under $2. Between 2002 and 2003, equipment sales revenue decreased eight percent, while shipment increased by a staggering 80 percent. This demonstrates the huge growth in demand for Wi-Fi products.
Small business enterprises, including coffee shops and bars, hold the majority of the Wi-Fi market with 50 percent. Virtually all markets have a demand for Wi-Fi. This demand is only expected to increase. According to a Travel Industry of America survey, there are 36 million travelers in the U.S. and 27 million of them carry laptops. Business folk represent a huge market for the Wi-Fi industry. Boingo, one of the leading Wi-Fi distributors, conducted a study finding that 97 percent of business travelers planned their trip according to the availability of high speed wireless Internet. Businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and airports will lose business without the use of Wi-Fi capabilities. Wi-Fi is unarguably one of the most fascinating and beneficial technologies to be introduced since the Internet.
Wi-Fi, Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, the Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. Mod 15 Jan. 2011.