The Upside Down Under
WiFi is claimed to be an Australian Invention


The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is widely credited with the invention of wi-fi - albeit by accident!

The Australian radio-astronomer Dr John O'Sullivan with his colleagues Terence Percival, Graham Daniels, Diet Ostry, John Deane developed a key patent used in Wi-Fi as a by-product of a CSIRO research project which was referred to as

"a failed experiment to detect exploding mini black holes the size of an atomic particle".

Wi-Fi invented by Aussies
CSIRO's WLAN patent team, from left, Terry Percival, John Deane, Diet Ostry, John O'Sullivan and Graham Daniels.

Dr O'Sullivan and his colleagues are credited with inventing Wi-Fi. In 1992 and 1996, CSIRO obtained patents for a method later used in Wi-Fi to "unsmear" the signal.

Because the CSIRO invented it. US courts agree, too, ruling in 2012 that companies which produce wi-fi devices were to pay our sciencetific research body a royalty for each one they sold. Up to the point when the patent ran out the CSIRO has hauled in some $430m from its discovery, with more likely to come after restrospective cases are settled.

Dilbert talks wifi

Wi-Fi uses a large number of patents held by many different organizations.  In April 2009, 14 technology companies agreed to pay CSIRO $1 billion for infringements on CSIRO patents. This led to Australia labeling Wi-Fi as an Australian invention, though this has been the subject of some controversy. 

The CSIRO won a further $220 million settlement for Wi-Fi patent-infringements in 2012 with global firms in the United States required to pay the CSIRO licensing rights estimated to be worth an additional $1 billion in royalties. 

In 1999, the Wi-Fi Alliance formed as a trade association to hold the Wi-Fi trademark under which most products are sold.

1999 Wi-Fi Alliance Logo
In 1999, the Wi-Fi Alliance formed as a trade association to hold the Wi-Fi trademark under which most products are sold.

Nowadays wi-fi has become so ubiquitous that for the first time ever there are more wi-fi gadgets in the world than there are people, including a growing number that only communicate with other machines, according to data from digital analysts at GSMA Intelligence.

Gadgets like tablets, smartphones and not-so-smart phones are multiplying five times faster than we are, with our population growing at a rate of about two people per second, or 1.2% annually.

Kevin Kimberlin, Chairman of Spencer Trask & Co states...

"No other technology has impacted us like the mobile phone. It's the fastest growing man-made phenomenon ever -- from zero to 7.2 billion in three decades"

Watch how a team of Australian radio astronomers solved the problem of high speed wireless internet .
This story was first screened on ABC-TV’s Catalyst program in 2009.
(c) Australian Broadcasting Corporation




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