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Who invented Wi-Fi?

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Quick Answer

While there is debate about who actually invented the wireless LAN, Wi-Fi was invented by a group of Australian scientists working for a government research agency known as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization or CSIRO. Astrophysicists Dr. John O'Sullivan was the head of the team who worked on the project.

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The CSIRO team was formed with the intention of producing a wireless network, although the members only began work in the early 1990s, at which point some of the key technologies already existed. The claim to have invented Wi-Fi has been supported by the American court system which has granted CSIRO the right to hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from companies, such as T-Mobile and AT&T which manufacture Wi-Fi enabled devices. The court decisions center around United States Patent Number 5,487.069, which was granted to CSIRO in 1996.

The groundwork for Wi-Fi was laid much earlier by inventions, such as one made by Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr. She co-developed an early version of spectrum spread technology, a necessary precursor to wireless, during World War II as a way of preventing the hijacking of remote controlled torpedoes.

Wireless LANs became possible after a 1985 ruling by the U.S. Federal Communication Commission, which made certain frequencies available for use without a license. Early LANs could not communicate with each other until Ethernet standards were established under the 802.11 committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers beginning in 1988.

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