World Wi-Fi Day Highlights the Digital Divide

Wi-Fi technology supports the economy and social mobility
World Wi-Fi Day showed how mobile technology fuels economic growth. David Coleman, Extreme Networks, says we must bridge the digital divide

There are more than 4bn people around the world with no internet access. Access to the internet provides those in developed and developing countries with the ability to increase their economic growth, improve their social mobility and computer literacy. 

World Wi-Fi Day takes place on June 20th each year and is a global initiative to help bridge the digital divide.

The role of mobile technology in WiFi development

The introduction of personal mobile Wi-Fi devices, such as smartphones and tablets, sparked a new wave of Wi-Fi consumerisation in IT. Devices like the Apple iPhone (2007), iPad (2010) and HTC's first Android smartphone (2008) were initially designed for personal use, but employees soon sought to use them on company networks. As enterprise mobile applications emerged, businesses deployed these devices to capitalise on their mobility, leading to a surge in mobile device connections on corporate wireless networks, surpassing laptops as the primary means of Wi-Fi access.

Organisations swiftly adapted by deploying corporate mobile devices equipped with custom software and implementing BYOD policies to manage personal device usage. Employees desired the convenience of connecting their personal mobile devices to corporate networks, prompting companies to accommodate this demand. Consequently, consumers played a pivotal role in driving broader Wi-Fi adoption within enterprises, illustrating the powerful influence of personal technology in business environments.

In 2021, Wi-Fi added US$995bn to the US economy. With new devices, services, and more that utilise the power of unlicensed spectrum, Wi-Fi is a powerful driver of the world economy.

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The boundless possibilities of Wi-Fi technology

In light of World Wi-Fi Day, it's a perfect time to celebrate the remarkable evolution of Wi-Fi over the past 25 years. 

“Since its inception, Wi-Fi has transformed from a developing technology to an indispensable part of our daily lives,” says David Coleman, Director of Wireless Networking at the Office of CTO at Extreme Networks. “The journey began in the late 1990s when wireless Internet was just an emerging concept. A pivotal moment came in 1999 when Steve Jobs demonstrated the iBook's wireless capabilities using a Hula Hoop, captivating audiences and showcasing the potential of Wi-Fi. Soon after, Wi-Fi routers became common in households and the workplace, revolutionising how we access the Internet and connect devices. From working remotely and streaming entertainment to smart home devices and online education, Wi-Fi has become the backbone of modern connectivity.

“Security advancements were crucial in Wi-Fi's development and remain important in today’s high risk cyber landscape. Early vulnerabilities were addressed with robust security protocols, making Wi-Fi a trusted technology for both personal and professional use. The introduction of the 802.11n standard in 2009 was another significant milestone, offering higher speeds and greater reliability, which propelled Wi-Fi's integration into enterprise environments.

“Looking ahead, the arrival of Wi-Fi 6E marks a new era of connectivity. By accessing the 6 GHz spectrum, Wi-Fi 6E offers unprecedented speeds and reduced latency, meeting the growing demands of IoT devices and high-bandwidth applications. This sets the stage for Wi-Fi 7, which promises even faster and more reliable connections.

“The future of Wi-Fi lies in its ability to converge with other wireless technologies, enhance user experiences, and integrate with edge computing and AI. For example, we're seeing sports teams utilising additional bandwidth to embrace emerging, bandwidth-heavy technology such as automated machinery and AI software to enhance player strategy without impacting current operations. As more spectrum becomes available, Wi-Fi will continue to evolve, driving innovation and connecting us in ways we can only begin to imagine.

“As we celebrate World Wi-Fi Day, we honour the past achievements and look forward to the boundless possibilities that the future holds for this transformative technology.”

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