When Did WiFi Become Popular? A Brief History Lesson on WiFi

Marketing 14 minute read 16th April 2024

WiFi has become so integral to modern life that it’s hard to imagine living without it. From getting information to working from home, people use it every minute of every day. But this wasn’t always the case. Until the 90s, people had to wait in line to access the Internet. So, when did WiFi become popular?

The answer to this question isn’t the same as the release date of WiFi. Because even when the authorities released this wireless technology to the public, it didn’t become popular immediately. Besides, WiFi is constantly evolving, so enthusiasts are always curious about its past, present, and future.

If you’re one of those enthusiasts, this article will satisfy your curiosity. We’ll discuss when WiFi became popular before discussing what this technology is. You’ll also learn about the people who invented WiFi and its future.

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WiFi became popular in homes in the mid-2000s. The invention of WiFi happened before, but the earlier versions weren’t feasible for homes. The first routers were expensive, and only a few could afford them. Plus, there weren’t as many use cases for WiFi as there are now.

Therefore, operators started offering it as a service alongside the regular cable connection in 2002. By this time, prices became more competitive, speeds became faster, and new opportunities emerged. As more time passed, WiFi continued to gain popularity.

By 2019, the annual global shipment of WiFi-enabled devices surpassed 3.05 billionhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi. This shows the demand for WiFi is still increasing today.

So, that was the answer to the question, “When did WiFi become popular in homes?” Now that that’s out of the way, here are the popular connections people use in their homes.

The fastest option is fiber-optic Internet, which uses fiber cables and is generally more expensive than cable Internet. That brings us to the second type, the Internet connection with the standard cable connection. This type of connection is more popular in homes since it is less expensive.

However, it has slower speeds than fiber-optic Internet. Another type of connection is 5G mobile Internet, which is gaining popularity due to its convenience and practicality.

Satellite Internet is the most readily available, but people rarely use it for home connections. Higher latency and increased installation costs might be a reason since a mounted antenna connects to a satellite.

Lastly, fixed wireless Internet requires a direct line of sight to work, making it the least popular option. People only use it for homes in rural areas.

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What Does WiFi Stand For?

WiFi doesn’t stand for anything. Contrary to popular belief, WiFi is not an acronym, so it isn’t short for anything. In fact, it doesn’t mean anything at all. We’ll clear up this misunderstanding shortly.

You might have heard that wireless fidelity is what WiFi stands for. That’s because the Wi-Fi Alliance accidentally marketed it that way. To clear this up, here’s what happened.

In 1999, it was time to release the WiFi technology to the public. The Wi-Fi Alliance wanted to come up with a name to market it. After all, IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence is quite a mouthful. Plus, people wouldn’t have remembered or understood it. So, they hired Intraband to work on a name for the WiFi standard.

This company presented ten names to Wi-Fi Alliance, including “WiFi.” It quickly became famous due to its association with the company and Hi-Fi (high fidelity), which people already knew.

However, the company’s board members didn’t like that their name meant nothing. So, they released a tagline, “The Standard of Wireless Fidelity.” This is why people mistake the Wi-Fi trademark for wireless fidelity. Even though Wi-Fi Alliance removed this tagline later, there is still a misunderstanding.

What Exactly Is WiFi?

What is WiFi? Well, WiFi is a wireless networking technology that allows devices to connect to the Internet and even to each other. Back in the day, we had Ethernet for that. But while Ethernet cables provide a reliable wired connection, WiFi offers more convenience. That’s because it uses radio waves to transmit data, removing the hurdle of handling cables.

Besides, a single WiFi router can connect multiple devices. However, for Ethernet, you must buy a separate cable for each device.

If we talk about how WiFi works, setting up a WiFi network involves a router and a modem. The modem receives the internet signal from your ISP and converts it into a digital format. The router then broadcasts that digital signal wirelessly over the wireless spectrum.

Or, in some cases, it distributes the signal through wired Ethernet connections to your devices.

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Are WiFi and the Internet the Same Thing?

No, WiFi and the Internet are not the same thing. Where the Internet is a global network of connected devices and servers, WiFi is a way to access it.

If you use these two words interchangeably, it’s understandable. WiFi has become the most common way to connect to the Internet. Due to this widespread use, it’s easy to confuse the two.

However, WiFi only connects devices within a limited range, while the Internet connects devices worldwide. Moreover, WiFi isn’t the only way to connect to the Internet. You can do so through wired connections, cellular networks, etc. This means having access to the Internet isn’t always a guarantee of having WiFi.

Moreover, getting Internet access isn’t the only purpose of a WiFi router. If you use it for other purposes like connecting wireless devices, having WiFi won’t always mean having the Internet.

When Did WiFi Come Out?

WiFi came out in 1997 when Vic Hayes and his committee members created IEEE 802.11 standards. Due to this, the world sometimes refers to Vic as “the father of WiFi.”

However, looking at the history of WiFi, one can see that he wasn’t the only one who invented it. It was a collective effort of multiple people and teams that brought WiFi to the technology we know today.

So, now that we’ve answered, “When did WiFi come out?” let’s look at its history to learn who contributed to this technology. Nikola Tesla was the first to develop the hopping frequency concept in 1903. This concept played a role in the earliest Wi-Fi networks.

After that, Hedy Lemarr and George Antheil also created a communication system using the concept of hopping frequencies.

But the WiFi we know and use today was actually an accidental discovery. John O’Sullivan invented it when working on the concept of black holes. He caught some weak radio signals, which led to the invention of a special tool. This tool could filter out clear electromagnetic waves.

This is important to know because John and his team later had to develop a wireless communication system. The tool he developed earlier helped him fulfill his duty of creating WiFi. So, as you can see, multiple people made efforts before Vic Hayes, and even now, WiFi is constantly evolving.

Advancements of WiFi Technology After 1997

Until now, we only discussed “When was WiFi popularized?” But now that we know that, let’s discuss what happened after WiFi became available to the public. As mentioned, companies started offering WiFi as a service in 2002. But those standards were still not up to the mark. So, in 2003, authorities improved WiFi standards, increasing speed and reliability.

However, it wasn’t until 2004 that WiFi started gaining popularity, with almost everyone demanding WiFi-enabled smartphones.

In 2004, WiFi 4 became the first standard to use both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands.

By 2012, almost 25% of global households had WiFi. The public is constantly getting better WiFi standards, with WiFi 6 released in 2020. WiFi 7 has also come out, but it’s not popular yet.

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The Future of WiFi: Predictions and Insights

After going back in history, it’s time to return to the present and look at the future of WiFi. With WiFi 7 released in the first quarter of 2024, this standard will only gain popularity. By the end of 2024, authorities will also finalize the technical details of WiFi 8.

Apart from that, WiFi will integrate into other areas, such as smart cities. There will also be smart search engines to personalize searches and enhance user experience (UX).

Moreover, once WiFi 7 becomes popular enough, it will facilitate the development of innovative apps. In addition to these developments, the speed and range of WiFi will evolve constantly.

How WiFi Can Benefit Businesses

So, when did WiFi become popular? The mid-2000s. In 2007, the demand for WiFi increased so much that businesses found new opportunities to attract customers.

Nowadays, free WiFi has become a consistent customer demand. Businesses that fulfill this demand gain new customers. By offering free Internet, they can access valuable customer insights, including their names, preferences, and backgrounds.

However, security should be the priority when running a business and offering customers WiFi.

Beambox makes it easy to protect your connection with captive portals, rotating passwords, and bandwidth management.

With Beambox, you can also run marketing campaigns based on data collected through WiFi. Start your free trial today!

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