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The story of Wi-Fi Presentation of the paper by W. Lemstra and V. Hayes (2008) Unexpected innovation: The case of Wi-Fi, Delft University of Technology.

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Presentation on theme: "The story of Wi-Fi Presentation of the paper by W. Lemstra and V. Hayes (2008) Unexpected innovation: The case of Wi-Fi, Delft University of Technology."— Presentation transcript:

1 The story of Wi-Fi Presentation of the paper by W. Lemstra and V. Hayes (2008) Unexpected innovation: The case of Wi-Fi, Delft University of Technology Forthcoming in Lemstra, W, Hayes, V. et.al. “Network modernisation in the telecom sector – The case of Wi-Fi”, in The Governance of network industries: redefining rules and responsibilities, Kunneke, R.W. (ed) Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

2 The paper stems from a research project executed within the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management at the Delft University of Technology (TUDelft) documenting the genesis of Wi-Fi. The authors argue that the success of Wi-Fi was triggered by policy, developed by industry and shaped by users Wi-Fi success emerged under a license-exempt regime as compared to other major radio frequency technologies (radio and television broadcasting) which emerged under a license regime.

3 Triggered by policy Spectrum as a natural and limited resource managed by State Agencies Political climate of Carter Administration to extent deregulation to the radio frequency spectrum. Dr Steve Lukasik, chief scientist at the FCC was requested to investigate new communication technologies being blocked by anachronistic regulation. Spread spectrum was brought forward as being one such a technology. Point of departure: FCC Report and Order of May 9, 1985 to “authorise spread spectrum and other wideband emissions not presently provided for in the FCC Rules and Regulations”. After the release of spread spectrum authorisation, the whole top leadership of FCC Office of Science and Technology was exiled, possibly as a result of actions by the industry being concerned that deregulation would make FCC less responsive to major manufacturers who wanted new technology only made available when it was convenient to them

4 Developed by industry The authorisation opened the way for innovation because with the regulation in place companies were more willing to allocate investment capital to R&D. NCR Corporation played the leading role in the development of WLANs. Following FCC Report and Order, NCR initiated a feasibility study into the use of wireless technology in local area networking A Dutch-based systems engineering centre was commissioned to start a feasibility study for NCR to assess whether a wireless device could be developed for case registers sold in the USA After completion of the feasibility study, the same team also undertook the development of the product. Summer of 1987: a project for the creation of a Wireless Network Interface Card to build a WLAN started with an over-the-air data rate of 1-2 Mbits/s The focus of product development effort was the creation of a new Medium Access Control (MAC) protocol. To limit costs and development time the team intended to use existing protocol standards where possible

5 It soon became clear that the standards body to focus on was IEEE and in particular the ‘802’ committee. NCR approached the Task Group Several alternatives were examined but either because of unsuitable solutions or because of the interest being shifted to the evolution of Ethernet standard, the ‘political stage’ within IEEE was set to start from scratch The working group was born: the MAC Task Group

6 1 st area of contention: how assignment of capacity to a terminal based on the shared use of radio- spectrum would take place –IBM: in favour of a centralised mechanism –NCR (and others): in favour of a decentralised mechanism After another four areas of contention were sorted out, the foundation technology of the MAC was selected. … now real products were required to attract potential customers NCR and its WaveLAN product ….and then Steve Jobs entered the picture, then Dell, then Microsoft…

7 Shaped by the users Hotspots Starbucks Alternative business models – FON Community initiatives Municipal networks Organisational and legal constraints

8 Source: Lemstra et.al. 2008


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